Okay, now that that's over, allow me to try, probably somewhat ineffectually toOriginally posted on my blog.
*cries buckets of tears because it's over*
Okay, now that that's over, allow me to try, probably somewhat ineffectually to explain how I feel about this book specifically, and the series as a whole. I'm going to start with the series, because I can do that without spoilers. Then I'll warn you part way through that you should stop reading if you don't want spoilers for the other books.
The Newsflesh Trilogy is nothing short of epic. The idea of zombies, some Cracked articles aside, is pretty much absurd, at least so far as I understand it. Despite their vast appeal, zombies do not make sense, so you're taking a serious leap of faith every time you crack one open, or, at least, that's how I feel. I know that some people don't read zombie books for this very reason. If you're going to choose one to read, I would recommend this series. Grant does the best job of making zombies sound possible and scientific than any other author that I've read, and, through some magic all her own, she manages to do this without going too far over my head with science or boring me. She deserves applause for this.
Her whole cast of characters is amazing. They're sarcastic, brilliant, and human, even the ones who might not be. Ahem. The humor, the characterization, the epicness, and the darkness reminds me so much of Joss Whedon's work. If you're a Whedon fan, you really should be reading these. I mean, heck, one of the characters is even named after Buffy.
So yeah, if you have not read these yet, go buy all of them right now or get them all from your library (and buy them later, which you'll probably want to do). They are amazing. You can check out my rave reviews of Feed and Deadline as well. Another option is to go enter my 300 followers giveaway, since you could possibly win the whole series.
WARNING: SPOILERS FOR FEED AND DEADLINE AHEAD. ALSO ZOMBIES.
(view spoiler)[Mira Grant seriously rocks cliffhangers like nobody's business. At the end of Feed and Deadline, she totally left me positively reeling. Each time, I'm like "Wait, what?" and "Waaaaahhhhh!" and "How do you come back from this?" and then she totally makes the story even more epic. It's so intense. At the end of Deadline, we find out that Georgia's still alive. Holy bejeezus, what the what, right?
The CDC is perhaps the most epically terrifying enemy. They have weaponized viruses, crazy smarts, endless resources, and people trust them automatically because they're doctors. Reading Blackout was almost painful, because it was even more obvious how weak After the End Times is compared to the CDC. The Masons' crew has been in deep shit before, but they were always able to keep blogging. Seeing every chapter opening's quotes say 'Unpublished' was endlessly sad. Their word's not getting out, guys!
Speaking of those quotes at the beginning of the chapters, I love them with every fiber of my being. Usually, I think quotes that open chapters are lame. I often skip them. In these books, though, I looked forward to them. They may even have been my favorite parts. Each one is a freaking truth bomb. Plus, it's awesome to be able to get a sense of what their individual blogs are like (such as that Maggie's is crazy).
I think Blackout may have been my least favorite in the series, which is not to say that it's not amazing or anything. Partly, I can't help but be upset that everything was not wrapped up in a neat little bow for me. I want to know EXACTLY what happened to every single character because I love them so much, and I don't know which sucks. Stylistically, though, I totally know why she didn't do that.
The real issue that I had with Blackout was the weird formatting. For obvious reasons, Blackout switches between the perspectives of Shaun and Georgia. There was nothing to let you know whose perspective you were reading but the voice and the location. That was fine. The annoying thing was that beginning with Chapter 23, the chapters are labeled as to whose mind you're in. This drove me crazy! I feel like the audience is smart enough and knows the characters well enough to figure out who we're reading. OR put the headings on EVERY chapter. I know why the labeling changed there, but the inconsistency really bothers me.
The first few chapters also moved quite a bit slower than they did in the other books. I suspect this was due partly to George being stuck in a room and not able to do much. Another factor is the info dump at the beginning to remind readers what happened previously. Since I just read Deadline a few days ago, all of that was unnecessary repetition. Deadline likely had the same thing, but it wasn't unnecessary, as I read Feed a year before. (hide spoiler)]
Blackout has the humor and intelligence of the prior books (plus a ZOMBIE GRIZZLY), making a pretty satisfying conclusion to the series. I say 'pretty' satisfying because I really want more. Like right now BUT IT'S OVER. Well, except for some novellas, Fed and Countdown.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Do you ever read a book and think: "I just want to be best friends with the author. Can we just hang out and I can soak up her/his brillance? Pretty pDo you ever read a book and think: "I just want to be best friends with the author. Can we just hang out and I can soak up her/his brillance? Pretty please?" Other people think this way, right? This is how I feel about Mira Grant. I declare myself a fan girl with pride.
Feed was one of my very favorite books that I read in 2011. I loved it, and it caught me largely by surprise, because anything with a designation of horror makes me skeptical, since I'm the biggest wimp ever. However, I was immediately charmed by Georgia's intelligence, sarcasm, and hatred of people. Whenever I love the first book in a series that much, I worry that the next one will be a disappointment. I mean, how can it be as good? Well, just let me say that literally from the quotes before the first chapter, my worries vanished. I knew from the beauty of the writing that I would love this one just as much...and I did.
These books are pretty massive, roughly 600 pages each, so they take some reading, even for a speed demon like myself. The world building in this series is freaking mind-blowing. I cannot even put into words how good it is. Grant has so many details, all intricately woven so it never feels like you're sitting back for fifty years of exposition. Well, at least, that's how I feel. I know some readers have been turned off by all of the focus on politics and science, but I loved that, even though science and politics are pretty much at the top of the list of things I hate.
Despite the length, I really never felt like the plot of Deadline dragged. I was constantly eager to keep moving and find out what was going to happen next. This book made me cry, made me laugh, made me seriously concerned for the state of humanity, and made me go WTF just happened (Ending, you were cray...why do I not have Blackout now?). You should definitely watch out for Grant's humor, which can be found throughout. She has this great, dark sense of humor that just kills me. For example, she describes grocery shopping in the post-Rising world as "not an activity for the faint of heart" (345). Yes, you do learn about grocery shopping in a zombie-afflicted world. The characters are all vibrant and feel so real. In a lot of ways, her style reminds me of Joss Whedon. Just saying.
At this point, I'm going tell all you peeps who haven't read Feed to bounce. Either go read my review for that book or, even better, GO BUY FEED AND READ IT RIGHT NOW. The rest of this review will have crazy insane SPOILERS for Feed, so I really don't want anyone without any knowledge of book one continuing on. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
(view spoiler)[Now, folks who read Feed, that ending was insane, right? Talk about a book that stayed with me. I usually forget endings but I did not forget that for sure. WAAAAHHHHH! I love that Grant wasn't afraid to kill off the MC. I mean, that's just badass, but it's also difficult to recover from, which is why you don't often see it. This, too, explains my initial fear of this book; a narrator switch was compulsory and I adored George. Well, thankfully, Shaun totally works as a narrator. You even get some George, because, check it, all those happenings have officially pushed Shaun over the edge of sanity into crazy town. He's now hearing George in his mind, and not just through memories.
Usually, this is not a plot line I would be able to handle, but Grant has done it so well. See, the thing is that George and Shaun had only each other for so many years. They are more closely bound to one another than Heathcliff and Catherine, on top of being a million times less obnoxious. Because of this, it makes sense that he can't let her go completely. In fact, the only thing keeping him going is his need for revenge on whoever orchestrated her death, because Shaun's not buying Tate as a mastermind. Where Feed delved into corruption in politics, Deadline focuses on the medical profession, and the truths of Kellis-Amberlee. I don't want to go into any more detail than that, because that might detract from your joy on the journey. Just know that it's amazing. (hide spoiler)]
Mira Grant's Newsflesh Trilogy is, without a doubt, my favorite zombie fiction. With complete honesty, I can think of NOTHING that I would like to change about them. I could open the book up at random to any page, any of them, and find a quote I love. For me, the writing, tone, pacing, humor, world and characters are all absolutely perfect.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Getting through this book took me a while, only because of the life stuff. I could have read this in one intense sitThe review's up on the blog here.
Getting through this book took me a while, only because of the life stuff. I could have read this in one intense sitting, although I would definitely have sobbed had that been the case. I was definitely fighting off tears while I was riding on MARTA. Anyway, I totally adored this book and I am so thrilled that I was chosen to be an Ambuzzador for something I truly appreciate so much. Even better, I have a copy to give away to one of you, so that I can share the magic with others, which I really love to do.
I have to start by talking about the dragons, because, ummm, dragons are freaking cool. Seraphina is pretty much what I was dreaming the book Firelight would be...only better. This one, too, has dragon shifters, but these are so much better thought out and so much more serious than Sophie Jordan's. This isn't about dragons just because paranormal's in; Seraphina focuses more on social tensions, bigotry, and prejudice.
The dragons here remind me most of Vulcans. They live their lives based on logic and find emotions to be in bad taste. However, one of the most fascinating aspects is how shifting to human form can affect their brains, breeding improper emotions like love and hatred. There was also a scary aspect, since any dragon found guilty of undue emotion was likely to get his/her dragon brain wiped of all memories, so that the human taint could be removed.
As may be obvious, there is a lot of tension between humans and dragons (whether in human form or not), despite the treaty that has created a tentative alliance between the two species. These tensions are seriously close to erupting after the murder (possibly by a dragon) of one of the countries princes. An anti-dragon group , the Sons of Ogdo, is constantly gaining in adherents. Meanwhile, the dragons obviously view humans with some amount of contempt, both for their emotions and their brief lifespans.
In this world, humans and dragons (while in human form...there is no bestiality up in here) are forbidden from forming romantic attachments and, most especially, from procreating. Well, as with rules, this one has been broken. Seraphina discovers in her youth that she is half-dragon. Her father did not know, in fact, that his wife was a dragon until she died in childbirth, her silver blood spilling from her body. Seraphina has red blood, but she also has scales along her stomach, back and arms. She leaves her life trying to avoid notice, a lonely life with only her tutor and uncle, Orma, for a friend.
Despite her need for anonymity, she cannot keep quiet when she begins to suspect she knows the answers to some of the mystery surrounding the prince's death. She finds herself having to choose between her country's best interests and her own, between loneliness and love. Seraphina is an amazingly strong, wonderful heroine. I loved her for her faults as well as her skills and cleverness; she lies constantly, even when the truth might be better, and she has serious trust issues. She is, however, braver than just about anyone.
Seraphina was DAMN close to being a perfect five star read for me. The only aspect that I continually found jarring, even though Hartman did explain it and it did work, was Seraphina's mental garden. This won't really make sense if you haven't read the book, but you'll get it when you do. I personify things, including my brain, picturing it filled with disordered shelves covered in dust, often locked with now wayward keys. That's probably a little weird, or even a lot. Seraphina's relationship with her mind, though, makes mine pale in comparison. It was just a bit too weird for me, and the descriptions perhaps ran a bit long. It was the only part of the book that dragged at all for me.
This book seems to me like Firelight (for the dragon shifters) + Cinder (girl who has to hide what she is, affecting her relationships) + a whole lot more awesomeness that is all Rachel Hartman's. The writing and the world building are both completely exceptional. I am already salivating for the sequel and the title hasn't even been released yet. I declare myself to be, based on just this novel, a firm Hartman fan....more
Shaun and Georgia Mason are adopted siblings and well-respected bloggers. Georgia's a newsie, meaning that she tells the truth without bias, only the facts. Shaun's an Irwin (as in Steve), which means he likes to poke zombies with sticks. Oh right, did I not mention the zombies? There are zombies. And they do want to eat your brains or any other part of you they can get a hold of. Anyway, back to Shaun and Georgia. They, along with their fictional/techno-genius friend Buffy get selected to follow along on Senator Ryman's presidential campaign, which is super amazing, because the government has never taken bloggers seriously before. They're thrilled, until mysterious and awful things start happening around them.
My description of Feed kind of sucks, but I can't really think of how to improve it. Suffice it to say that there are zombies, mayhem, politics and sarcasm. What more does one need? It really is harder sometimes to summarize a really good book, because they tend to be a little deeper, making it hard to put all of the awesomeness into a summary. Thankfully, I can mention all of that in my review.
Zombies are ridiculous. We all know this, even those of us who rather like to read about them. There's not really any scientific reason to believe zombies possible; personally, I would more readily believe in pretty much any paranormal creature before I would believe in zombies. Unicorns? Sure, my young self is delighted and says they exist! Vampires? Why not? People can be cannabalistic, besides Catholics already drink their saviors blood. Back to pseudo-seriousness, though, Feed has the best explanation of zombie-fication that I have seen thus far. Grant also does a good job of giving a description and then doing the authorial equivalent of shrugging her shoulders and telling the audience to suspend disbelief, but in a good way.
I absolutely loved Feed from the first page. Why? Georgia/George. She is fantastically snarky and grumpy and sarcastic. She's like me, only with worse eyes (mine suck, but at least I can go out on a sunny day). Not every other character feels fully dimensional, but they are all built out in a believable way, to the degree that George understands/cares about them. George is standoffish and only bothers to learn about certain people, so everyone wouldn't be distinct in her world.
The writing is pretty fantastic. I always know an author has talent when he/she can write distinct voices and you can tell who's who without necessarily needing to be told. Grant achieved this. The little snippets from the various characters' blogs so obviously correspond to one or the other, even before you reach the part telling the author's name.
The format was pretty great, too. The bulk of the story was told from George's perspective, with only well-integrated background. The quotes from blogs enabled Grant to put in some more back story, which might not have fit in the flow of a characters every day thoughts without making the novel feel forced.
One thing that really amazed me about Feed was that it wasn't a dystopia the way you would expect. You would generally think that the zombies were the problem, right? Not really. I mean, they are a concern, but society has figured out how to live with the problem. The United States really is much the same as it has ever been, which is why the fact that it's a dystopia is even more of a creepy reflection on our current lifestyle.
In some ways, the society in Feed is the one I would least be willing to live in of all of the dystopias I've read. Okay, only in one way. But still. What's my problem with this rather-better-than-most vision of the near future (2040)? Needles. These people get blood tests approximately 85,000 times every day, to ensure that they are not in the process of becoming zombies. As a person who refuses to get the flu shot every year because I'd rather take my chances, this is not a future I want to be a part of. Needles are the worst.
Oh, and, less seriously, you may have noticed in my less-than-inspired description that there's a character called Buffy. She's actually named Georgette, but she figured, hey, I'm short and blond and cute...what else would my name be? Loving the reference so hard. And I'm fairly certain that Joss Whedon would appreciate it and the book as well. (I could be wrong, but this is my guess.)
To conclude a final iteration of how much I enjoyed this book (which I totally need to add to my personal collection and NEED the sequel to) and a quote in honor of my friends Heather and Nori, both awesome bloggers: "No levels, no van. No van, no coffee. No coffee, no joy." Seriously, go read this one! ...more
I hereby decree 2015 the year of series binging. Sure, this series iFor more reviews, gifs, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.
I hereby decree 2015 the year of series binging. Sure, this series isn’t finished, but I got through the audiobooks of the first two installments in about a week, which, I flatter myself, isn’t too shabby. People have told me great things of Stroud’s Bartimaeus books, but I wasn’t sure if they were my thing. The Lockwood and Co. books, however, are a delight and, yes, I do actually intend to get to Bartimaeus at some point as a result. The Whispering Skull wasn’t quite as compelling for me as The Screaming Staircase, but that could be due to the narrator change.
Narrator swaps are one of the frustrating things about being an audiobook listener. Sure, I knew ahead of time that there was a change in narrator between books one and two, so I thought I was prepared. The thing is that I ended up really loving Miranda Raison’s narration. Katie Lyons does her best, keeping her accents and such well-aligned with Raison’s. However, Raison did a really nice job distinguishing between the characters, whereas I had trouble knowing who was speaking in The Whispering Skull sometimes. Schedules being what they are, it’s not always possible to get the same narrator, but it can be really sad.
Coming along with a step down in my affection for the narration was a decrease in my attachment. Since I didn’t always know who was talking and the narration wasn’t as lively, the characters didn’t feel as real to me as they did in book one. They are, largely, unchanged. One of the things that tends to lose me in middle grade series is the lack of development that the kids go through, because, if they grow too fast, they’ll suddenly be young adults. The Whispering Skull avoids this with some nice arcs for George and Lockwood, which come up at the very end of the novel.
The mystery also didn’t catch my fancy quite as much. It’s a bit more of a typical investigation with murders and clue-hunting, with less of the ghost hunting. The Whispering Skull has less of a paranormal horror vibe and is more of a straight up mystery. I actually didn’t realize until this moment that I prefer horror to mysteries apparently, which I don’t think I would have guessed.
I think my favorite aspect of the book is the titular whispering skull. It begins talking to Lucy at the end of the previous book. First off, I’m all for Lucy’s new talent, and I want to know what she can do with it. Perhaps more importantly, I love what a gray area the skull is. It’s unclear whether it’s a malevolent force or an ally. So far, it sort of seems like both. Also, the skull totally finds undead pleasure in messing with Lockwood and Co., which amuses me very much.
This all sounds quite negative, but The Whispering Skull IS a satisfactory follow up to The Screaming Staircase. I’d say that its main fault is really in following after such an excellent book that was narrated so well. My eagerness for the third book in the series is in no way diminished, though I hope Miranda Raison returns....more
When I got a review request for Love by the Book, I couldn’t resist the compaFor more reviews, gifs, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.
When I got a review request for Love by the Book, I couldn’t resist the comparison marketing of Bridget Jones’ Diary meets Girls, despite the unenthused most-liked reviews. Sure, I’ve been tricked by comparison marketing, but this sounded too awesome to pass up. And it was. The comparison marketing was no lie in this case. For those like me who are predominantly reading YA these days, I’d also say it has quite a lot in common with The DUFF. Love by the Book is funny, sex-positive, and delightful.
The title Love by the Book is a bit misleading. Lauren isn’t looking for love when she takes to a new dating guide every month; she’s looking for a casual sex partner. Lauren left a serious relationship when she moved to London from her hometown in Maine, and she’s not looking for another. However, none of the men she finds to sleep with believe that she’s not trying to entrap them into matrimony. Out of a combination of curiosity and why-the-fuck-not, Lauren decides to try a different dating guide every month to see if any of them can get her what she wants.
While I was prepared for this to be completely silly, awkward, and over-the-top, much like Bridget Jones, it’s actually pretty low key. Yes, she gets into some ludicrous scenarios, but it’s not absurd. Though Lauren doesn’t have high expectations for the dating guides, she’s also not close-minded. She approaches the whole thing with a spirit of scientific inquiry. Even when she thinks it’s bullshit, she gives each one her all, refusing to dismiss them out of hand. I think the lack of judgment that she brings to the table from the outset is really refreshing and makes the book work. It’s also cool that she tries a book aimed at a male audience as well.
As expected, there’s a bit of romance in Love by the Book, but that’s really not what the book is about at all. It’s more about dating and finding what’s right for you. There’s so little judgment in this book. When a friend confesses that she’s been getting into BDSM, Lauren doesn’t want to do it herself, but she’s totally supportive. The attitude in Pimentel’s debut novel is very much that anything is fine as long as you’re comfortable with it and it’s making you happy. The attitude is so very healthy, and it’s not the sort of book where all that matters is that she finds a guy at the end.
Lauren, no matter what guide she’s using, manages to remain very much herself. She’s always in control and making her own choices. She doesn’t blame mistakes on others, nor does she allow anything she doesn’t want to happen just because a book says so. It’s also nice that, since she’s not looking for a lasting connection, she’s not too upset when things go awry. Basically, any month in which she finds someone good to have sex with she chalks up as a win.
There’s one month where Lauren goes back to the US to visit family. This adds a lot of depth. Lauren’s family had been quite distant in the book, for reasons you find out shortly before the trip. The non-spoilery version is that there’s stuff she’s not ready to deal with. When her sister’s marriage to Sue hits a rough patch, Lauren hurries home, even though she’s not ready to face the music. I wasn’t sure at first how I felt about the break from the rest of the novel, but it ended up being very emotionally gratifying.
I had only two relatively minor qualms. Though my sophisticated research on Goodreads indicates that the author lived in the US for longer than she’s lived in the UK, Lauren occasionally drops slang that’s very much not American. She might just be blending, but she also sometimes complains about how hard it is to be understood, which I didn’t really see backed up by the text.
The ending is rushed. Though I was totally on board for that ship to set sail at the end, it was half-assed. I do think they’re a good match, but I also don’t know why he was into her to that degree at that point. I’m totally willing to roll with it, though, since they were cute in my headcanon and because I liked the book so much. The romance did, however, feel very tacked onto the end.
Love by the Book was fantastic and took me totally by surprise. I hope to see more contemporary novels like this and Radhika Sanghani’s Virgin, which I read last year....more
Take that, Seven Realms! I have defeated you! I’m shocked how quicklFor more reviews, gifs, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.
Take that, Seven Realms! I have defeated you! I’m shocked how quickly I managed to binge this series. I finished The Demon King on January 4, and I’m writing this review, having just finished The Crimson Crown on January 19. Binging series is really the best. I highly recommend it. Also, I highly recommend binging this particular series, since it’s all complete and such a good read. The Crimson Crown is one of the best series enders, bringing good and bad ends right where they were needed.
I’m going to start this out with some general, non-spoilery comments, and then I’m going to go inside the spoiler tags and talk about the nitty gritty details.
I’ve got this series spreadsheet in which I rate how good the ending of a series is. It’s not that complicated, just three levels: excellent, okay, and terribad. Very few earn a rating of excellent. To do that, I feel like the series ender needs to tie up most of the dangling threads, leave characters in an emotionally satisfying place, and match or exceed the proceeding books in quality. That’s hard to find.
Speaking of girls like that, Raisa’s such a boss. She always has been, but she’s continually impressive, both because of her heart and her practicality. Its these two qualities that make her such a wonderful queen. She loves her subjects, but she can also make tough calls when she has to do so. It helps too that Raisa doesn’t get a swelled head and will listen to wiser council when the situation calls for it. Though she’s also prepared to throw down and override everyone, because she’s the queen. Chima managed to very convincingly create a teen character who seems ready to rule a kingdom.
The plot is on point in The Crimson Crown. Like all the books but the first, I pretty much saw nothing coming ever, except for some very minor things. The big reveal at the end totally shocked me. In fact, in all of the chaos, I’d forgotten that point was still to be officially resolved. Though I’d never really considered that outcome, it fits really well and ties everything together in an important way.
My reservations in the series have been pretty consistent. The fact that Chima uses food words to describe diverse characters and that there could be more LGBT+ representation has consistently been a small disappointment. More upsetting, I think, is that I still don’t care about any of the romances outside of Han and Raisa. I really should, even without third person POVs that follow them, but I don’t. As a result, I don’t get feels of the epic level I did with the Lumatere Chronicles, to which I can’t help comparing this series.
Now to the spoilery things I want to talk about:
(view spoiler)[Part of me feels like I should be unhappy with the somewhat cheesy ending, but also I’m just not. I’m very glad that Han and Raisa get to be together, and even that Hanalea and Alger do in some limited fashion. I think the sweetness is tempered nicely by the deaths (BIRDDDDDDDD!) and by the threat of more war with Arden.
Speaking of deaths, I think that Bird’s death was tragic but perfect. She had been moving towards making a choice between Demonai/Nightwalker and what she felt was right throughout the whole series, and this ending fits. Gavan Bayar’s death was also beyond perfect. Fiona’s leaves me really sad, though it is fitting that it occurred at the hands of her father, essentially, since he didn’t deem the time it would take to save her worth possibly losing the armory. Still, I feel like Fiona perhaps deserved more of a shot at redemption. That’s life, though, I guess.
I’m also super grateful there are going to be more books in this realm, because there are things I want to know. Did Mellony manage to convince Micah that he should be with her? Does Micah manage to become a true good guy, despite his romantic disappointment? Even if it’s years down the line, it would be cool to see how they’re remembered by history, since the rewriting of history by the victors element was one of my favorite things in the entire series. (hide spoiler)]
Seven Realms didn’t immediately become a tippy top favorite series, but it was wonderful. No doubt it will be reread many a time down the road, and it might achieve favorite status then.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Continuing a streak of good middle grade novels, I picked up MonstroFor more reviews, gifs, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.
Continuing a streak of good middle grade novels, I picked up Monstrous, because I’d heard good things from Dahlia (author of Behind the Scenes/Last Will and Testament/Under the Lights). In a lot of ways, it’s a strange book. It’s surprisingly dark for a middle grade novel, which okay yes I do see that about most of the ones that I read, but those are the ones I like. Monstrous will appeal to those who love fairy tales and who love eerie middle grades.
The opening of Monstrous is great. Kymera wakes up, a patchwork creature. This story is essentially a Frankenstein retelling that’s been combined with fairy tales. Her father tells her of her creation; using science, he’s put his daughter back together after many failed attempts, following her death at the hands of the evil wizard. Unfortunately, he could not save her memories. As a bonus, though, she’s now better than human; she’s part cat, part bird, and part snake too.
What I love is that Kym is partly a monster. She’s not a sweet human girl trapped in the guise of a monster, at least not entirely. Kym is sweet, but she’s also got animal instincts coming from her animal parts. She’s a predator, and can consume raw rabbit flesh. Annoyed by the family pet, a sparrow-dog combo, she considers eating it. Kym can kill and she’s willing to, despite being a little girl.
Connolly also does a really good job with the balance between Kym being a child and being almost a newborn. Kym has instincts and reasoning from her brain’s previous learning, but, without her memories, she’s also a babe in the woods. Everything she knows comes from reading fairy tales and from her what her father tells her. It’s no wonder that, when she meets a cute boy, she immediately decides she’s in love with him, since that’s how fairy tales go, right?
Monster did drag for me in the middle couple hundred pages. There’s a very long stretch of time where I knew what the twist was, and I was just waiting for Kymera to figure it out. On the one hand, I think it was pretty realistic, because again she’s days old on some levels, so it would be hard on her. Even so, this period lasted long enough that my attention began to wander. It felt like no narrative progress was really being made.
The ending picked back up again, however, getting back to the dark roots. I didn’t expect such a death toll from a middle grade. Connolly was not playing around. I think Kym is an interesting ethical figure, both lovable and, indeed, monstrous. I wish the ending had been less abrupt, because I would have liked to know more of what came after. (view spoiler)[Why put in all the middle grade romance only to not let the reader know the outcome? How dare. (hide spoiler)]
I’m really impressed with Connolly’s debut and will be curious to try whatever she writes next. Dark fairy tales are pretty much always Christina bait, and Monstrous is no exception.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I am laughing at my predictions that I wouldn’t readFor more reviews, gifs, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.
Actual rating: 4.5 stars
I am laughing at my predictions that I wouldn’t read much middle grade this year. Last year, a lot of it disappointed me, and certainly a lot of middle grade books are not Christina books. So far, though, I’ve been reading really great middle grade in 2015. The Screaming Staircase may just be my favorite one of late. I wasn’t expecting such fantastic world building, lively characters, and twisty mystery, but that’s what I got. The buzz on this one was not wrong.
Seriously, I’m just so in love with this world building. It’s set in a variant London, one where ghosts have afflicted the country for fifty years. Yeah, ghosts don’t sound so bad, right? I mean, they’re creepy, but what’s a cold spot or two? These ghosts, though, can really mess you up. In fact, if a ghost touches you, it can kill you, if not treated quickly enough. The threat is real. That’s why Psychic Investigations Agencies have been created: to battle the spirits. Adults generally cannot see ghosts, so children tend to do most of the hard work. YES, THIS IS MIDDLE GRADE BRITISH GHOSTBUSTERS.
The ghosts get surprisingly intense. I wasn’t expecting too much outright horror from a middle grade, but there’s this one apparition that I will not so easily forget. I wouldn’t say I was scared precisely, but, if it had been a movie, I would have been TERRIFIED. Everything about the varieties of ghosts and what they can do is such a far cry from anything ghosty I’ve read before. I love it so much.
Lucy Carlyle, sick of working for the jerk who ran the rural agency she worked for, travels to London to search for new employment. After being rejected by agency after agency, she finally goes to the smallest one: Lockwood and Co. This agency doesn’t have an adult supervisor, as is the standard. Unlike the rest, Lockwood’s impressed with Lucy’s talents and hires her right off. She makes the third employee, along with dashing, daring Lockwood and prickly, bookish George.
I came to care for all three of them, and I’m actually having trouble deciding which middle grade ship I want to sale on. Sure, Lockwood’s more attractive and has a delightful amount of swagger, but George and Lucy have an annoyed banter that’s also really tempting. Since I could go with either, I’ll get to sit back and watch the chaste middle grade romance that is hopefully eventually coming play out without fear that I’ll hate the ship.
Oh right, that’s not important at all (because seriously there has been zero romance but this is what my brain does). What IS important is that the three make an excellent ghost-fighting team. Lockwood supplies the bravado and determination. He has a real passion for ghost fighting, and he’s the one who made the only child-run business for a reason. George is the brains of the operation. He researches cases and handles infrastructure duties. Lucy supplies the heart. More than the other two, she can connect with ghosts and figure out which ones are dangerous and which might not be.
The Screaming Staircase might seem, at times, to be a bit scattered. It opens, for example, on the kids messing up a case, and then flashes back for quite a while to Lucy’s past leading up to her time at Lockwood. Obviously, starting with a hook is good, but that could be hard for some readers. Then, when the ball really starts rolling on the mystery that started it all, the kids take a different case. I thought these things were strange, but I rolled with it, and, as hoped, everything tied together beautifully in the end.
Miranda Raison’s narration only made the audiobook that much better. She reads with excellent emotion, and her voices for the characters were good, rather than distracting. I flew through the audiobook, finishing it hours before I meant to, because I didn’t want to stop, which is a sign of a high quality audiobook.
Whether you’re typically a middle grade reader or not, if you enjoy rag tag teams, ghosts, or intricate paranormal settings, I highly urge you to try The Screaming Staircase. I really want to start on The Whispering Skull straight away, but, since there’s a narrator change, I think I’ll swap to something else before starting that one in an attempt to make the switch less jarring....more
Upon finishing The Shadow on the Crown, I had but one wish: a sequel. I lovedFor more reviews, gifs, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.
Upon finishing The Shadow on the Crown, I had but one wish: a sequel. I loved that book entirely, but it didn’t feel complete. There were rumors of a sequel, but nothing definitive. Two years later, the sequel finally has come out. The usual questions drifted through my mind about whether it would live up to its predecessor and whether I would still remember enough to care, which, with me, is a real consideration. If, like me, you’ve been eagerly awaiting a sequel to The Shadow on the Crown, The Price of Blood was well worth the wait.
After two years, I’m amazed at how much I remembered from The Shadow on the Crown, particularly when most of the names are so strange and similar to one another. Yet, even just flipping through the dramatis personae at the start of the book, it came rushing back. The credit goes to Bracewell for her realistic characters and her skillful reminders of crucial plot points and relationships from the prior book.
Though I didn’t get the feels from The Price of Blood the way I did from The Shadow on the Crown, it’s no less brilliant of a book for that. My emotional response came from a romance, doomed by history not to last. Also, I sort of spoiled myself on the outcome of that with a little history googling. Oops. Still, I care very much about Emma. Many of the characters are vile and hateful, but they remain oh so interesting.
Æthelred, for example, is a fascinating case. He’s the king, as he wished to be, but, because he killed to attain the position he coveted, he trusts no one. Most especially, he fears Athelstan and his other adult sons. At the same time, guilt over his brother’s death is driving him mad; he’s seeing his brother’s apparition much like Lady Macbeth saw the blood on her hands. Because he doesn’t trust his sons, he ends up allying with men who flatter him, but end up leeching more of his power than his sons likely would have.
Emma and Elgiva, though worlds apart in temperament, are both powerful women, as much as they could be in eleventh century England. To have even the influence they do, they have to rely on marriage and babies. Though Elgiva’s a villain and Emma’s the heroine, I have a sort of respect for both, so clearly chafing against the mores of the time. I also find Emma’s choice between truly raising her children and being able to impact politics surprisingly touching.
The history I find endlessly compelling. This is a period of history I know nothing about, so I’m learning a lot. I love that the epigraphs at the start of the sections contain snippets of the history she was drawing from in writing the novel. I’ve no doubt that much of the novel is fictionalized, but that also lets me know how close she’s following the texts that remain for the big stuff. The early eleventh century was a complete mess. Bracewell does an amazing job making the politics interesting. Her writing is engaging and explains the various forces involved very clearly.
Patricia Bracewell’s trilogy is wonderful historical fiction. I hope it won’t be two years or more for the final installment, but you can bet I’ll be reading it, however long I must wait....more
Things just keep getting more epic. It’s funny how thFor more reviews, gifs, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.
Actual Rating: 4.5 stars
Things just keep getting more epic. It’s funny how this book covers the shortest span of time but the most stuff happens. In The Gray Wolf Throne, Raisa levels up to a new degree of bossness. Han gets to use all his fancy blueblood training. And, oh yeah, shit goes down.
Perhaps because of the accelerated time frame, The Gray Wolf Throne goes really fast. The pace just rockets, despite the book being long. It feels like hurtling toward an ending that could be roses and could be a brick wall against which our cast will smash and die. Personally, I’m hoping only a few of them die, but Chima does seem to enjoy character death, so it’s really hard to say.
One thing I find really interesting about Chima is how she does the deaths. She’s resisted a lot of death tropes common to fantasy fiction. Generally, I’m used to being able to assume that if a remotely important character dies off screen, they’re totally going to be alive through some complicated series of events. Unless someone confirms that a character is dead, they’re not going to be dead. Not so with Chima. She’s done the bulk of her killing off screen, which makes it even more shocking when it goes down.
Basically, Chima resists death fake outs, which is really awesome, since I don’t like that trope in most cases. Early on, both Han and Raisa are in serious danger of dying. She could easily have done a fakeout with a POV swap (it’s third person, so why not, right?), but she didn’t. And, you know what? I was still concerned for them. You don’t have to try to fool me into thinking they’re dead to make me worry that they might die. Besides, even if they survive that, which, I mean, they probably would anyway, since there’s another book left and only a few authors kill the MCs before the end of the series, there’s still a fuckton of danger ahead of them.
Never have political maneuverings been more fascinating than in The Gray Wolf Throne. Raisa has to come back to her queendom and become the queen. Obviously, she’s going to be the best at it, but there are wars outside the queendom and tensions inside. The list of people she can trust is short, and people keep trying to kill her. Also, for all that I thought Gavan Bayar was a giant dickface, he’s got nothing on Gerard Montaigne, who makes my skin crawl.
Raisa has always been a strong heroine, in pretty much every possible definition of the word. That doesn’t mean she’s the strongest person physically or that she doesn’t cry. She’s not, and she does. Raisa’s biggest strength is that she loves hard work. Not only will she do it, but she enjoys it, a barb her sister throws at her. In The Gray Wolf Throne, she really reaches new heights of badassery. Her training at Oden’s Ford has made her stronger physically and given her an adeptness with weapons. Though she does get saved a lot by others, it’s not because she’s a damsel in distress; it’s because there are so many people trying to bring her down. Good luck, guys. Raisa doesn’t go down without one hell of a fight.
The Han/Raisa romance is giving so many feels. They break my heart with all the things keeping them apart. The fact that they can’t fight their feelings only makes them that much more shippable. On top of that, both of them are so practical and wise, always putting their heads over their hearts, which I admire even as it stabs my shippy heart. The other ships continue to be…there. I like Cat and Dancer sort of in theory, but I also never get to see them be TOGETHER really so I have no idea what their private dynamic is. Then there’s what happens to the only actual instance of LGBT+ romance in the series thus far: Yeah, Talia didn’t die, but I’m still pissed that of all the couples to almost break in half by death, the lesbian one? No. Do not approve.
Just when I’m feeling pretty hopeful, Chima hits me with that ending. GAH. Must read final book now....more
As of this writing, I was chatting with Debby (Snuggly Oranges) about this seFor more reviews, gifs, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.
As of this writing, I was chatting with Debby (Snuggly Oranges) about this series very recently. That made me reflect on how much my attitude on this series has changed. Though I read the first book twice, I still can’t say I liked it, and, even now that I know how good the series gets, I still highly doubt I’d like the first book. Yet, here I am now, enough of a fan to read accompanying novellas that aren’t essential to the overall story, something I rarely bother to do.
The short stories themselves remind me mostly of all the things that I ended up loving about the Fire and Thorns series. I love how brutal Carson can be to her characters. Pretty much every story is one of some level of despair. The story about Mara is deeply sad. Hector’s story has a scene that will probably haunt me forever it was so disgusting.
I also think that Carson’s genius is inherent in the way she can make you reevaluate a character, just like she took me from loathing Elisa to respecting her. That’s not an easy thing to do. I love that there’s a story from Alodia’s point of view. Elisa spends a lot of time hating on Alodia, her all too perfect sister. It’s nice that she gets a chance to speak for herself, and I also like getting to see Elisa through her eyes.
Mara’s story, “The Shattered Mountain”, ended up being my favorite one. Mara isn’t a character I really remembered too much about from the series. Yeah, I remember her romance and that she was part of the group, but that’s about it. I recall her as being somewhat prickly. If I’m right about that, then I can see why. She’s been through so much tough shit, because of family and the war. I would like to give her massive hugs.
Hector’s story was probably the most fascinating in terms of relating to the plot of the overall series. You learn things both about Alejandro’s previous marriage and about how Hector ended up being made the head guard at such a young age. Sure, I would have preferred some extra adult Hector time, since I can’t swoon over fifteen-year-old Hector, but it was good.
The stories also reminded me how badly I loathe the words “rear” and “belly,” of which Carson is overfond. You know how most people feel about the word “moist”? That’s how I’ve come to feel about those two words. Partly, it’s because they feel like words someone might say to a child and partly because I can’t imagine men really using them to describe their bodies. Sure, the feel isn’t modern, but also it’s a fantasy and there has to be some other word for it. If I ever read part of this series again, I’m taking a shot every time I hit one of those words and reporting back how drunk I get, because that will be more fun than wincing every time.
The rest of my problems all stem from the audiobook, which is a shame because I loved the audiobooks for the series. First off, they used the same narrators from the rest of the series. Using the same Hector narrator makes perfect sense, but I’m not sure why Jennifer Ikeda is reading for Alodia and Mara. I like her narration, but I associate her voice with Elisa. Yes, those two POVs are third person, but I still don’t like that they don’t get their own voices. I had to keep reminding myself, especially with Alodia, that I wasn’t listening to an Elisa story.
More problematic is Hector’s story. For some reason, the production on “The King’s Guard” was terrible. If it had been the first story, I would have DNFed the audiobook immediately, but, since it was last, I was stuck. It’s not Luis Moreno’s fault. It’s like they forgot to edit his section. His breaths have been left in, from deep gasps to little pants. It’s deeply unpleasant to listen to. Every so often, I could even here some background noises. I’m hoping that I somehow got an early version from Harper, but I couldn’t verify that since the Audible sample only has Jennifer Ikeda’s narration.
Rarely, in my audiobook reviews, am I going to tell you to go with the print over the audio (assuming you’re an audiobook fan). I try not to listen to the audiobook version if I feel like it’s negatively impacting my experience. However, this one snuck up on me, and I’ve got to say I don’t personally recommend this format, unless someone can tell me Hector’s section is fine in the purchased version....more