This book. THIS BOOK. I'm sitting here, totally unsure how I'm going to review it because I want you all to understand just how good it is, but I don'This book. THIS BOOK. I'm sitting here, totally unsure how I'm going to review it because I want you all to understand just how good it is, but I don't want to give away anything that will take away from the reading experience, and frankly, I'm not sure I can do both. Wein is an incredible writer, and even if you're like me and rarely step outside of genre fiction, this book is worth the detour. Look, it's seriously not often that I gush about books. I have a number of them that I love deeply, but I will be the first to admit their flaws. Don't care, love them anyway. But... THIS BOOK.
Ok, you know how after you read something that is both good and affecting, and you have to sit for awhile and stare into space, just processing it? You can't do anything else, because your brain is still caught in the world of the book, and it hasn't caught up to the fact that you finished, and by the way all these amazing things happened, and now we have to, like, get back to reality. Yeah, that was me at the end of this book.
I loved our two protagonists. Both Queenie and Maddie are amazing ladies, people who feel far more real than fictional characters have any right to. Each has her own sort of strength (and neither gives herself enough credit for the strength she does have), and both ladies are the best at what they do. Never in a showy way. This is not a book that screams girl power, trying too desperately to convince the world that girls can roar, too. These are just competent ladies going on doing their own thing in desperate circumstances and living, loving, and laughing through it.
Ugh, there are so many things I want to say about this book, but at least half of them involve spoilers.
It's not often you get a book about girl friendship, especially not one as strong as the bond between Queenie and Maddie. While there's mention of various men "fancying" one or the other, there's no romance. The core of the story is the relationship between the two girls. Their (platonic) chemistry is better than most romances can boast, and when they talk about what a formidable team they make together, the book more than backs it up.
There's an incredible depth of character in here. Not only is "Queenie's" voice strong enough to reach out and smack you from between the pages, but she manages to draw nuanced depictions of everyone around her: Maddie, her brother Jamie, even the nazis holding her in prison. They aren't just stock characters, "these are nazis so they're bad people." They're complex characters in their own right, their idiosyncracies divulged in the pages. I was particularly interested in von Loewe, the man responsible for extracting information from Queenie, who was quietly complex. I feel like there are some unanswered questions surrounding him, but I'm not entirely sure how any of those questions could be answered, even if Wein was so inclined to give them to us.
Out of all the books I've ever read, Code Name Verity is by far the best use of unreliable narrator. Certainly the reader is aware there's some degree of Queenie having to be careful with her wording, knowing full well her captors are reading everything she writes. It is, after all, in her best interest not to say anything too horrible about von Loewe. The deeper you get into the book, though, the more complex the unreliable narrator aspect becomes, and eventually later revelations in the book completely change the way you'll look at some of the things Queenie confesses to earlier on.
When you hear that torture is going on, don't let it deter you from trying the book. There are no "torture scenes," and it's not nearly as dark as Wein could have gone with it. Queenie retains her sense of humour, and her tone retains the brightness that makes her an instantly endearing character. This is not an easy read, but it doesn't paint in dark and dreary colours, either. There are sad parts, and there are parts that are difficult to read because Wein never takes the easy way out, and the book on a whole is an emotional journey. But there are good emotions, too, and the book captures joy and love and humour and loyalty just as much as the darker emotions.
Look, without going into plot details and absolutely ruining the reading experience for everyone, I can't talk about all the things that make this book so amazingly well written. It's just impeccably put together and not a word is wasted. Frankly, after I'd finished with my staring into space and processing, I wanted to flip right back to page one and start reading all over again. It's that kind of book, the kind you want to read over and over and the kind that will wear well with re-readings. Which is for the best, because right now I just want to delve back into the book and spend some more time with Queenie and Maddie in their world....more
Fear the power of this book's awesomeness. It will kick you in the head with its greatness, and you will be grateful it did.
Jess is exactly the kind oFear the power of this book's awesomeness. It will kick you in the head with its greatness, and you will be grateful it did.
Jess is exactly the kind of heroine I like best. She's strong-willed with a sense of humour, clever and resourceful. While other heroines sit and smile prettily at the men who describe them as feisty, Jess is busy climbing on roofs and defying authority figures. She never counts on having someone rescue her, instead relying on her own wits to come up with a solution to her problems. She's a colourful character with a chameleon-like ability to fit in with both high and low class society, thanks to her unique background. Both the street urchin she once was and the wealthy member of the gentry she's become are evident in her speech and thoughts, making Jess a terrifically fun character to read about.
I think I may have a fictional character crush on Sebastian. He's strong without being flashy, protective without growing overbearing. He thinks Jess is pretty, but it's her inner strength, her courage and wit that really draw him to her. Every bit as clever as Jess, but with a better understanding of people and how they work, Sebastian is the perfect counterpoint to Jess's antics. He's also not the dashing rogue I expected when I cracked the book open; Sebastian has morals and standards, some of which he may be willing to bend for a good enough reason but he won't break them. As someone who's tired of the "bad boy" always getting the girl (I have no patience for them in real life, and not much more in fiction), this was a welcome change for me.
What shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who's read this far into the review is that I looooved the interaction between Jess and Sebastian. I just could not get enough of it. Nearly every conversation is a power struggle, and with the two of them fairly evenly matched, it's just too much fun to witness. They tease, they argue, they push each others' buttons, and I found myself going back to favourite passages just to re-read a particular conversation between the two of them.
The secondary characters are just as well-drawn as Jess and Sebastian, in particular Sebastian's aunt Eunice, whose doors are always open to young women in unfortunate circumstances, and Adrian, Sebastian's friend and a spy of many secrets. I also fell madly in love with Kedger, Jess's larcenous pet ferret who seems to hate everyone except her, but has a particular avarice for Sebastian.
My plot summary above? Does not do justice. There are twists and turns galore, and anyone who is into spy novels or mysteries will find this a fully satisfying read, regardless of whether or not they're fond of romance novels. By the end of the story, I only had the mystery half solved, which makes me ridiculously happy. I always love it when an author can keep a surprise for me at the end of the story, because it so rarely happens.
Something else worth mentioning is Bourne's prose. It's beautiful, with a touch of poetry. The woman knows how to turn a phrase, and not a word is wasted. If more romance novels were written like this, people would stop thinking of them as trashy.
So yes, I think it's fair to say I loved My Lord and Spymaster and highly recommend it to anyone who likes spies or mysteries or romance. Or ferrets. Or, y'know, just anyone who can read. If you'll excuse me, now, I have to go accost some random strangers and force them to read this book....more
If this book was a young, unmarried man, he'd be the type to dress head-to-toe in leather to meet your parents but would wind up charming them anyway.If this book was a young, unmarried man, he'd be the type to dress head-to-toe in leather to meet your parents but would wind up charming them anyway. Thoroughly unpredictable, and perhaps not the type of guy you'd end up marrying, but you'd stick with him as long as humanly possible, because all that mad passion and unpredictability is impossible to resist.
Is my enthusiasm showing yet?
This book was so wonderful, I absolutely devoured it. It's a deliciously dark, swirling world with characters who are easy to believe in and so many plot twists I found it impossible to predict what was coming next. In reading, I was absolutely certain I knew who the "double agent" was, and I was delighted to find out I was wrong. I wasn't reading about blind characters who couldn't see the obvious clues in front of their faces, which was unbelievably refreshing.
The paranormal underworld Pettersson has set up is a wonderfully original place, it's well thought-out and I love the way the zodiac is integrated. Her characters are thoroughly believable and in spite of their special powers, they're entirely human. Their motivations are recognizable, and even the Light characters aren't paragons of goodness. I found myself really liking Joanna, who was in fact as smart and strong as a "superhero" should be.
As always, what separates a good book from a great book are the details, and all the little things in The Scent of Shadows had me flipping pages obsessively. My favourite touch was perhaps that the histories of the Zodiac troop are kept in comic book form, available at the nearest geek shop. There's a set for the Light and the Shadow, and they all have their own collectible card. Joanna remains conscious of this, even picking her battle outfit as something she'd like to see representing her between the pages.
As per most dark fantasy/horror stories, the fight scenes are sprinkled liberally, and they are fairly brutal. Anyone squeamish about reading a scene wherein a man's head is removed from his body without the help of weapons should be wary in picking this book up. Anyone who doesn't find themselves deterred by a gritty battle should run as fast as they can to the bookstore.
Why are you still reading? You should be running! To the bookstore with you!...more
When last we saw the saga of Jax, she had agreed to act as Ambassador to the Ithtorians ("bugs") with the assistance of Vel the bounty hunter. If sheWhen last we saw the saga of Jax, she had agreed to act as Ambassador to the Ithtorians ("bugs") with the assistance of Vel the bounty hunter. If she can't convince the Ithtorians to join with the Conglomerate, humankind will be crushed by the ever-increasing attacks of the Morgut, vicious killers with a fondness for human flesh. Jax is possibly the least diplomatic ambassador ever, but considering what's at stake, she's determined to do everything in her power to make this work. Which would be a lot easier if the Ithtorians didn't think of humans as a stupid, violent, and inferior race.
Meanwhile, her lover March has returned from war broken beyond what Jax knows to deal with. An empath surrounded by so much bloodshed, he's come back cold and detached, having necessarily cut off his sympathy and psi abilities to handle the violence of the war. Now he has the memories of having cared about Jax, but none of the accompanying emotions, and he's suffering from post-war trauma. Jax has always relied on March's strength to get her through tough situations, but now he has nothing to give her and couldn't care less about it. She's determined to find the man she loves and haul him out of the cold shell he's buried in, but first she'll have to figure out how to go about it.
Every time I review one of these books, I go on and on about the narration style and Jax as protagonist. There's a reason for that: both are phenomenal. As the series progresses, we get to watch Jax grow and change, but shades of her former, more selfish self poke through often enough to highlight how difficult the progression is for her. She's still a wonderful combination of tough but broken, and her voice is inarguably what makes this series so addictive to me. The first person perspective is urgent and powerful, and I'm pretty sure if Jax were telling me in great detail about her efforts doing the laundry, I would be fascinated. The voice and narration style just suck me in at page one and don't let go until I've finished the book, at which point I turn the page, realize there's no more writing, and glare at the back cover for awhile, sulking that I don't have the next installment right now.
Readers intrigued by Vel or Jael will have lots to appreciate in Doubleblind, which delves a little deeper into both gentlemen. (If, by the way, anyone finds a Vel around, please send him my way. I'm up for adopting one.) Some of the secrets hinted at in previous books are explored, and Vel in particular becomes an increasingly major presence in Jax's life.
The book isn't as action-packed as its predecessors, but since Jax is currently acting as a diplomat, that's probably a good thing. The pace doesn't suffer for the lack of fight scenes, though, and since the character driven nature of the books has always been primarily what's drawn me to them, I was just as delighted to read about their political and social struggles as see them get into a knife fight. Since Jax is pretty far out of her element here, it's a lot of fun to watch the inner struggle as well as the political outer conflict. It's more personal in a lot of ways, and I felt like I'd run through the emotional gamut every bit as much as the characters had by the time I'd finished the book, which in my mind is the mark of effective storytelling.
And now for the million dollar question: does the book hold up to Wanderlust? Is it as good as its predecessor? Actually, it's not. It's even better. How is this possible? Well, you'd better get yourself a copy to find out!...more
This is absolutely one of the darkest books I've read. Descriptions call it "gory," which it is, but not for the reasons I was expecting. In this caseThis is absolutely one of the darkest books I've read. Descriptions call it "gory," which it is, but not for the reasons I was expecting. In this case, gory is not akin to splatterpunk; the gore is more like insects and maggots eating people from the inside out or a man's foot rotting to liquefication inside his boot. (Eating while reading this book is not recommended, by the way.) The monsters are honestly horrifying, the visit to the sanitorium has the gothic eerieness you'd expect from the time period, and the secret histories revealed are every bit as disturbing as the rest of the book. A comparison to Pan's Labyrinth would not be entirely out of place (although William's world is not something he'd create, nor would he want to).
All this, and it's marketed as YA. I'm not convinced it was written as a YA, but the protagonist is a twelve-year-old boy, and that combined with the current explosion of popularity in the YA section of the bookstore ensured the marketing folks figured The Monstrumologist would do well with the younger folks. It's a book for older teens and adult, though, due to language (advanced vocabulary, that is, not cursing) and themes and concepts that'll be a little above younger teens' heads. As for the darkness, well, I read horror and dark fantasy on a regular basis and I was surprised at how dark this went, so take that as you will. Some younger readers will be fine with it and some won't; some adults will be fine with it and some won't.
The majority of the book is written as William Henry's journal, an older man recalling his youth in vivid detail. It's mostly told in the moment, with occasional insights added from the perspective of age, and it works very well. The innocence and naïveté of the young William is a beautiful contrast to the darkness and the fluctuating morals around him, and presents a remarkably sympathetic character. The story is a delicious combination of mystery and adventure, so tightly wound together it's impossible not to keep turning pages. The end of the book implies there are more books to come, in which case I will be first in line to read book 2. An excellent story if you're willing to peek into the dark....more
In the world of Feed, bloggers have essentially become the media. They've become the news, the entertainment, just about everything. I have no problemIn the world of Feed, bloggers have essentially become the media. They've become the news, the entertainment, just about everything. I have no problems believing in this, considering it's already started happening. Blog ratings? Sure, why not? We already have superstar blogs and professional bloggers. People get competitive over their blog traffic, and I can absolutely see that progressing as blogs continue to evolve. It's a direction I don't think I've seen anyone go with futuristic media, but the fact that it comes from Seanan McGuire (yes, Mira Grant is a pen name for fantasy author Seanan McGuire) isn't a surprise, considering her excellent use of her own blog.
As far as characters go... I loved Georgia. Utterly, unabashedly fell in love with her early in the story and stayed that way to the bitter end. She's prickly and stubborn and a bit misanthropic and frankly those are the reasons I loved her. I absolutely believed in her as both a writer and as a person. And, well, I do prefer my heroines a bit on the difficult side, and it's pretty fair to say Georgia qualifies for that. I also loved her brother, Shaun, and found the relationship between them really well done. The nature of their relationship has been discussed and dissected in many places, but for myself, there was nothing in there to make me uncomfortable. Their banter actually sounds the way one of my brothers and I talk to each other. As for the rest of their relationship... yes, they're unusually close, enough to make other characters take note and occasionally raise eyebrows, but there didn't ever seem to be any sexual tension between the two of them. Yes, they were very codependent, and Georgia openly admits that, but given the home they grew up in and the world they're forced to survive in, it seemed pretty natural and I really enjoyed the way their two very different personalities mingled, each picking up for the other's weaknesses. I also really liked the lack of romance. There really wasn't time or space to work a love interest in there, and it's frankly refreshing to come across a book that doesn't feel the need to wedge one in there.
Most of the time, when someone says they couldn't put a book down, it's a compliment. In this case, I did put the book down. Frequently. Not because I lost interest, or because I wasn't invested enough in the plot or the characters, but because I often needed a chance to process what I'd just read. It's not a particularly complex book on the surface, but there are layers in here that make the story really pop, and I'm sure on a second read I'll pick up even more things. Take this passage, talking about the way she feels about Senator Ryman: "We're twice as critical as anyone else when the candidate screws up because, quite frankly, we expect better of him. He's ours. Win or lose, he belongs to us. And just like any proud parent or greedy shareholder, we want to see our investment make it to the finish line." Initally, when I read that line, I thought "uh, no. No parent worth their while feels that way about their kid." And then I realized the statement actually does fit Georgia's parents very well, which influences her views on parents and families enough to influence her thoughts, even for a throwaway analogy. That, my friends, is attention to detail.
There are a million other things I could go into that I loved about this book (some of which give out major spoilers because unexpected plot twists, this book has them). For now, though, I think I'll just point at the 5-pint rating and let that speak for me....more
One thing I love about Dahl's heroines is that they're unapologetically sexual critters. They have sexual histories and they enjoy getting down and diOne thing I love about Dahl's heroines is that they're unapologetically sexual critters. They have sexual histories and they enjoy getting down and dirty without feeling guilty about it. Lori is no exception, and in fact we meet one of her ex-boyfriends in the story. She reads like an adult woman with a past, with enough life experience to actually carry on an adult relationship. Although her life has been in stasis for years, she doesn't sulk around about it; she carries on as best she can and cultivates dreams for the future.
Quinn is freaking adorable. Beta heroes are rare in romance land, so if you're like me and have a distinct fondness for them, Quinn is a fantastic speciman. Smart and slightly dorky with a sense of humour, he's very much the absent-minded professor who's finally found something to make him sit up and pay attention to what's going on around him.
My one issue came near the end, and might be more of my freaky brain issues than an actual flaw. Without going into spoiler territory, suffice it to say I struggle to believe the antagonist would come out and offer a full confession the way he did. Under the circumstances, it does make a certain sort of sense, but it was one of those things that just niggled at me. Your mileage may vary.
The dialogue shines and the sex scenes sizzle, particularly when Quinn and Lori are acting out one of her naughty fantasies. (Nothing too hardcore here, just frisky fun, so the BDSM wary can rest easy.) It's easy to believe these two honestly enjoy each others' company, in spite of the jealousy and arguments that keep popping up between them. They're the kind of couple for which arguing is a form of foreplay, which means there's as much fighting as there is banter, but either way, the dialogue flows naturally and with a kick.
Ultimately, when I pick up something written by Victoria Dahl, I expect a lot of fun. Between the mockery of punishing kisses and the sex ninja, there was much giggling to be had, and you'd better believe I'll be harrassing Dahl next year when her next contemporary comes out....more
The story is told entirely from Alfeo's perspective, which provides plenty of action, since he does most of the actual detective work. His voice givesThe story is told entirely from Alfeo's perspective, which provides plenty of action, since he does most of the actual detective work. His voice gives a lovely cynical tone to everything and brings a dry wit to even the darker scenes, where the very real possibility of torture is hanging over his head. He's a delightfully human protagonist, distracted by women even when he knows better, annoyed to find virtues in men he dislikes, and as motivated by personal gain as anyone else. For all this, though, he's clever and never quite lets his biases get the better of him, even when he'd really like to.
Duncan's old Italy is a richly detailed place, full of politics and subtle magics. The political hierarchy, the modes of transportation, the manner of dress and common pastimes all come into play without relying on long descriptive passages, making the story's backdrop as lively as any of the characters. Which is not to say the characters are lacking; I loved the quirks of the secondary characters, particularly Violetta, the ever-changing courtesan Alfeo fancies, Giorgio, the gondolier with more children than the old woman in the shoe, and Nostrodamus himself, portrayed here as an irritable but hyper intelligent gnome-like person (and incidentally, nephew to the legendary figure we think of when the name Nostrodamus is brought up).
Basically, The Alchemist's Apprentice was a very memorable read, the type of story where all the subtleties in prose and character development come together to create the sort of world you can lose yourself in. It's not going to hit you over the head (although there is a nifty plot twist near the end); it's the sort of thing that needs a bit of deliberation, and in fact the more I think about the story, the better I think I liked it....more
Neither Amanda or William struck me as particularly nerdy. Amanda was rather single-minded about her schooling and career, and Will wears glasses, a hNeither Amanda or William struck me as particularly nerdy. Amanda was rather single-minded about her schooling and career, and Will wears glasses, a hat with ear flaps, and has a good memory for trivia. In spite of this, I found it very hard to be disappointed with the book. Will makes for the sort of romantic hero I enjoy reading about: intelligent, confident without being arrogant, and a great sense of humour. He's the type of guy who's willing to put his desires aside in order to do what's best for the woman he's interested in, and if you ask me, that's hot.
Amanda was interesting too, a woman who consciously cuts herself off from everything that might distract her from her end goals. Watching her slowly admit her attraction to William in spite of her determination to avoid a romantic entanglement was a lot of fun. In spite of her fairly conservative nature, she found herself in a number of ludicrous situations but always managed to land on her feet. She was just overall a really fun protagonist to follow. Amanda and Will seemed very well suited for each other, and it was easy to believe in a happy ending for the two of them.
The secondary characters were colourful and brilliant and constantly threatening to overshadow the heroes. Gloria was hilarious, her overbearing manner constantly embarrassing either Amanda or William (or both), but she really was a decent person underneath it all. Amanda's two elderly neighbours cracked me up, too. Mavis is a retired third-grade teacher who tries to create a sense of community in the apartment complex, and Chester is a crusty bachelor who resists every one of Mavis's attempts to get him to show some community spirit. They're both quite protective of Amanda, and go out of their way to annoy each other. I'm not even kidding when I say I wanted these two to get together more than I wanted Amanda and Will to.
I only had a couple of minor quibbles with the story. First, I kept waiting for Amanda to hit number recall after her stalker phone her or to invest in some caller ID. She was trying desperately to figure out who it was, going through all the files at work for suspects and talking to the people at Geekland, but never once did she think that the phone number could be a significant clue. I had a creepy phone call once, and the very next day I ran out and invested in caller ID so I'd never be caught unaware like that again. Evidently Amanda's intelligence only goes so far.
My other nitpick is that everything wrapped up too nicely at the end, with a big red bow on it. Not only is everyone and their dog happily in a relationship, they're all talking marriage, even the most unlikely candidates. And I dunno, maybe it's just me, but I like to date someone for awhile before I start thinking about exchanging vows. This didn't seem to be a problem for any of these characters, though.
Those few things aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It was really a lot of fun, and the characters were more vibrant than even the yellows and reds on the cover. (Which, let me assure you, is saying something.) My Nerdy Valentine had me on page one, when Amanda's bag of sex toys and porn broke and scattered all across the floor. It really was the perfect way to open this funny and irreverant book....more
That the main driving force behind most of Julie's choices is her relationship with her mother is a breath of fresh air in YA. There is a bit of romanThat the main driving force behind most of Julie's choices is her relationship with her mother is a breath of fresh air in YA. There is a bit of romance, but her world doesn't revolve around it, and in fact she pushes things aside to deal with when she has more pressing matters sorted out. She's a rare teen girl protagonist, someone pro-active who makes her own decisions and faces the consequences, who spends more time kicking evil's butt than mooning after boys but isn't too damaged by a traumatic past to make human connections. She's loyal to her friends and fights with her mom and is basically a much more teenage girl than most of the young ladies you'll meet in the other books on the shelves.
For the most part, whether you'll enjoy Poltergeeks depends on how much you enjoy this sort of story. While the heroine stands out, and the worldbuilding has potential (I look forward to seeing it explored more in future volumes), the plot itself covers most of the standards and there aren't really any surprises here. The plot twists will likely feel like familiar ground to anyone who's been reading any contemporary fantasy in the past several years, and while mother as motivation instead of love interest is a change, and some of the secondary characters are a lot of fun, if you're not already keen on the lighter side of YA urban fantasy, you're not going to find anything here to change your mind. This isn't the book that'll stay with you twenty years from now, but it just might be the right one to hand to the young teen girl in your life. Certainly she'll find more here to relate to than nearly anything else out there will give her....more
Forever Material is a quick read, just under 50 000 words, but for such a light read, there's actually quite a lot packed in there. It's also solidlyForever Material is a quick read, just under 50 000 words, but for such a light read, there's actually quite a lot packed in there. It's also solidly put together, something you can read in an afternoon but can then later reflect on it without having to keep your brain turned off.
Barbara's workshops about dating had some great material in there, realistically presented, and I found myself wishing she'd come around to my town so I could send a friend or two in her direction. Boiled down to its essence, Barbara tells women that it's ok to have a fling, and it's ok to want forever, but they're not going to happen with the same man, and that's where the heartbreak comes in. She maintains that while a man can change from one category to the other, he's not going to do it for the sake of a woman; he has to make that change himself, and expecting forever from a man who's only interested in a fling will end disastrously for everyone. I loved that her material was so practical, that she wasn't relegated to trying to warn women of the evils of men or insisting everyone need to save themselves for Mr Right. As a character, Barbara was very likeable, a woman desperately trying to navigate the world by placing everything in neat categories and discovering all the shades of gray that fall between black and white.
For his part, Jake is a pretty complex person, which is why he dislikes being compartmentalized so neatly. He doesn't want to be dismissed as being good for nothing but a fling, although he doesn't have commitment on the brain right now. He's quite busy enough running his karate school and dealing with troubled family members. He can at times be chauvinistic, but someone (usually Barbara) always calls him on it.
One of the themes that fascinated me most was that of family, loyalty, and commitment. Barbara tells people that when a man can commit to things outside of a relationship, it's a good sign in the love department. A man who takes care of parents and siblings will carry that devotion into a relationship. Naturally, Jake spends a considerable amount of time cleaning up after his extended family, but the interesting part is that in spite of her opinions about families and loyalty, Barbara has cut herself off from her own family. I'm sure there are readers who will see this as a hideous double standard, but I actually really liked it. From what Barbara said about her family, it sounded like she'd removed herself from a toxic situation, letting the book (and hopefully the reader) take into account that while family is important, loyalty should only ever go so far.
So while it might sound contradictory, Forever Material is a light, fun read, and more than occasionally funny, but it's also got a lot of depth to it, and some ideas worth pondering long after the book has been set down....more
The Janus Affair takes a bit longer to get rolling than the first book does, as Eliza and Wellington first have to decide if they're going to get themThe Janus Affair takes a bit longer to get rolling than the first book does, as Eliza and Wellington first have to decide if they're going to get themselves involved when it means not only going against what their roles in the Ministry are supposed to be, but pointing out that a fellow agent is deliberately not doing their duty. Once the debate is resolved, the story begins to pick up, treating the reader to all the action, banter, and mystery of the first book, and a deeper look into the developping sexual tension when Eliza's ex-boyfriend shows up on the scene.
I found it really interesting that a book about suffragists had them disappearing without a trace, effectively silencing women who were fighting to be heard. The discovery of the villain created a sharp twist. I'm not sure how much of that twist was earned, since some of it came out of left field, but at least half of it had been set up previously.
Like its predecessor, The Janus Affair has a lot going on and a large cast of characters, several of whom carry the narration at various times. The series is building a larger arc, and so some of the secondary characters we check in with don't actually accomplish much in this particular book. They're mostly around to let us know they're still there and still scheming behind the scenes. A number of those parts aren't at all necessary for this book, at least not as a stand-alone, but whether they're necessary for the series at large remains to be seen.
There were some editing issues here, and if you're a stickler for correct use of homophones or if the occasional dropped word in a sentence aggravates you, you might have to work at enjoying your read. This isn't an e-book issue, either, as I had the mass market paperback, so you can't even blame it on formatting (not that formatting should ever be considered an acceptable excuse).
Even flawed as it was, though, I had a good time reading. The thing is, I love Eliza Braun and Wellington Books. These are the type of characters I want to spend time with. An impulsive, quick-witted adventure girl who tries (rather unsuccessfully) to hide her empathy for the people around her paired up with a bookish, clever-bordering-on-genius gentleman with a quiet strength that often gets overlooked? I'm not sure these two could cater more to my tastes if I'd special ordered them.
If you enjoyed the first book, you'll probably have no problems at all getting into this one. It probably could work as a standalone, if you were so inclined, although a newcomer to the series might be turned off by the slower start....more
The steampunk elements of the novel are really little more than window dressing, and a sparse window dressing at that, but science versus the supernatThe steampunk elements of the novel are really little more than window dressing, and a sparse window dressing at that, but science versus the supernatural is a running theme. It's possible the steampunk will come into play more in future books, since in all fairness the events of Dead Reckoning take place in the immediate area surrounding one small frontier town.
Wait, what? Future books? Yes, I'd guess the authors have at least one more planned, since this reads as the beginning of a series instead of as a stand-alone. The main plot wraps itself up, but there are a few loose threads dangling, which leaves a convenient place to pick up the next volume. No word on a publication date for a sequel yet, though, or at least none that I could find.
The plot itself is fairly predictable. There are no surprises to be found here, no twists to catch you and grab you. This isn't that kind of book. It's very much driven by the three protagonists, and this is where the strength lies. The short description tells you each of them could be stock characters, but it's what the authors do with them that makes them stand out.
Most of the story centres around Jett, who dresses and passes for a man not so much because she enjoys it but out of necessity. A young woman would not be safe or welcomed in most of the places she travels on her search to find her brother, but a young man mostly goes unnoted. What's really nice about this is that it isn't just a case of Jett putting on a pair of pants and suddenly everyone assumes she's a boy; she has to work at it, and is constantly conscious of her act. She binds her chest, checks out girls, and backs up her act with some impressive gun skills. Occasionally she has wistful thoughts of the corsets and dresses she left at home, but she's been passing for a man long enough they no longer feel natural to her.
In contrast, Gibbons is feminine and curvy and effortlessly pretty, but has very little interest in dressing or acting like a woman is expected to. She's driven by logic and science, so if something doesn't make sense, it either needs to be proved or be rejected. One thing that really struck me about Dead Reckoning is that the primary relationship is the one between Jett and Gibbons. That the two of them learn to set aside their considerable differences to work together and eventually become friends isn't surprising, but it is surprising that more attention is paid to the friendship between the two girls instead of giving priority to the dude and any romantic possibilities he could provide. In this book, though, there's no more romance than the occasional line where someone realizes (usually in an idle way) another character is attractive. There's no flirting or pining in sight.
While the lack of romance is refreshing, and I do love to see a healthy depiction of two ladies becoming friends, White Fox is left with very little to do and as a result, is given very little character development. His backstory is interesting enough, but he's mostly extraneous here. He's also a white boy brought up in a native tribe, and I can't help but wonder why the authors went in that particular direction. Why not just make him native? He doesn't have much to offer to the story that wasn't already brought in by the two ladies, and while I liked him well enough (what little I saw of him), I don't think I would have missed him if he'd been cut from the pages.
Ok, outside of character stuff, what have we got? Well, if you're looking for a horror story about zombies, this is probably not your book. It's more of a western adventure story where the zombies wind up the bad cowboys in the black hats, and then someone glued a few steampunk gears on. Fun romp? Yes, definitely. Going to keep you up at night? Not even if you're a 12-year-old girl....more