This is not a novel. It's barely a novella. There's no completed story arc once the beginning and conflict is set up; the story is lacking a proper clThis is not a novel. It's barely a novella. There's no completed story arc once the beginning and conflict is set up; the story is lacking a proper climax (well, there are climaxes, but of a different sort; more on that later). The story began, set up a mystery, then set up another mystery, began to explore them, then the book ended with no clear resolution. Even if you set up an over-arcing storyline to a series of books, in each individual book there's always a smaller mystery that gets explored and resolved by the end of each book. That didn't happen here. The book didn't end on a cliffhanger, the book ended on action which should've been picked up in the next chapter. On the next page. At least one of the mysteries Peitsche set up in her story should've been resolved, possibly the one about Koenraad's son, something that could've been done in about four more chapters to judge by her pacing.
The overall story idea is interesting, the sex scenes... okay, they were hot. And probably the most well-done parts of the story; how Koenraad responds to women in general and Monroe in particular, the way they made love, the way Koenraad feels the need to bite Monroe during sex (which mimics exactly the mating habits of sharks, especially Great Whites), and even the details of his, um, dingle-dangle, they were all extremely creative. Not to mention the writing itself - the technique, grammar, spelling, dialogue - was pretty good. It's a shame that kind of creativity was let down by a lackluster plot and poor story planning.
As far as reading the second "novel" I sincerely doubt I will. Frankly, the only reason I picked up this title was because it was free. If I'd paid money for what I'd received, I'd have been mightily pissed off. And while it was fun to read the sex scenes, I'm not invested enough in any of the characters to discover what happens to them in the following "novels."
As with most others who read this, I can say that this is really only for the most die-hard fans as, in many ways (and again echoing a few ot3.5 stars
As with most others who read this, I can say that this is really only for the most die-hard fans as, in many ways (and again echoing a few others), this play reads as fan fiction. Also, the story is far less "magical" than the previous seven books; it's less about the wonders of the world in which Harry Potter lives and more about the mundane, day-to-day running of said world. All those kids we grew up with are now grown adults, complaining of aches and pains and of making funny noises when they sit down (and those of us past a certain age all know how that feels). They have boring government jobs which usually mean dealing with paperwork most of the time. And they've got kids who listen to the stories of Voldemort and "The Boy Who Lived" with all the awe you might expect (eyerolls are definitely implied). Which makes Harry Potter and the Cursed Child even more of an outlier to the previous seven books and feel even less like an actual Harry Potter novel. And that's fine because, to my mind, it's not meant to be. I look at this book as fitting in with the other supplemental tales Rowling wrote: Quidditch Through the Ages, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and The Tales of Beedle the Bard. Part of the Harry Potter universe, but just slightly apart.
Because this is a play, everything is laid out right on the page. What the characters do and feel is explained in every line and stage direction. Meaning the story would be a hundred times better experienced as a play, seen by the actors performing it, than read or possibly even listened to as an audio book. However, from a completionist standpoint, it's a must-read if only to see how that final scene in Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows, showing a grown-up and married Harry Potter, has been expanded upon.
Oh, and one final note: Scorpius is a gigantic ball of squishy loveliness that I want to carry around in my pocket for whenever I'm feeling bad. Everyone should be able to have their own personal Scorpius in their life: the world would be a much better place for it....more
I came this close to throwing Wink Poppy Midnight at the wall when I finished it. Not because it was awful, but because it was so good, I hated it. ThI came this close to throwing Wink Poppy Midnight at the wall when I finished it. Not because it was awful, but because it was so good, I hated it. This book is unreal. And I don't just mean that it's fictional, which it is. It's so unreal it becomes real and then passes right through the other side of reality again. That's the only way I can describe this confounding, confusing, enrapturing, bewitching, infuriating, stomach-pinching-with-tension novel. Nothing in this book runs straight, just like any good fairy tale, so don't expect the villain to actually be the Villain, but don't expect the villain to be the Hero either. Don't expect anything. Just read. Then recover....more
A sweet story about friendship and Celtic myths from the same author who wrote The Dark Is Rising and The Grey King. After the Volnik family from ToroA sweet story about friendship and Celtic myths from the same author who wrote The Dark Is Rising and The Grey King. After the Volnik family from Toronto, Canada inherits a Scottish castle, they don't realize they've also inherited the family Boggart. When the Volniks decide to sell the castle and ship selected family heirlooms back to Canada, one of those, a desk, also contains the Boggart, into which he unwittingly slipped. Now the Boggart is with a new family, in a new world, and his playful tricks are doing a lot more damage thanks to the clash between Old Magic and modern technology. Now it's up to the two Volnik kids, Jessup and Emily, and their allies, to find a way to get the Boggart home and back where he belongs.
The first thing most astute readers will notice is the outdated technology. Yes, Jessup is thrilled about a computer with a black-and-white monitor, no audio, which runs on floppy disc technology. Now, you can either focus on this and let it taint the entire book or laugh it off as a anachronism that was cutting-edge when the book was published back in 1993. Which is what I did, leaving me with a fast-paced, entertaining read that would be perfect for kids around the 8-12 year range. The child characters are well-drawn and allow the reader to fully sympathize with their troubles with the Boggart and with the adults who don't believe their stories. Which, as an adult, I must admit can get tiresome, but at least there are a few adult characters who are on Emily's and Jessup's side, who know about the Boggart and what it can do, which provides a nice balance. Cooper shows a lot of love for Scotland in her descriptions of the countryside, the lochs, even the slightly dismal weather, which was lovely for me although it made me long to go back there, having visited the country as part of my UK hiking trip way back in '97. Toronto wasn't given quite as loving a touch, mainly because most of the focus was on the antics of the Boggart and the kids.
Overall, a pretty standard adolescent novel, story-wise, that benefits from an author with a deft and skilled hand at writing. The Boggart might not be a modern-day children's classic, but it's certainly worth a read....more
With Queen of the Dark Things, C. Robert Cargill returns to the dark, consequence-filled world he created in Dreams and Shadows. This time around, hisWith Queen of the Dark Things, C. Robert Cargill returns to the dark, consequence-filled world he created in Dreams and Shadows. This time around, his modern fairytale comes wrapped in the mythology of the Australian aboriginal people, creating a more philosophical and, if possible, even darker story than his previous book as the themes of life, death, and the afterlife are explored.
I was actually rather surprised when I saw this book, as I'd read the first one with the understanding that it was a stand-alone novel. So with my surprise came the tiniest bit of dread. After all, Cargill's debut, Dreams & Shadows, was so dark and twisted and unique--would any kind of follow-up be able to match the level of creativity he'd created, let alone surpass it? Well, in my highly personal opinion, I feel I can say: Yes, yes it can.
Our story begins on a island somewhere in the Indian Sea in the year 1629, where the remnants of the shipwrecked Batavia have created a gallows for the small company of sailors, led by one Jeronimus Cornelisz, who mutinied. Handless and lifeless, these mutineers return as ghosts to seek vengeance on their fellow conspirators, the ones who survived the gallows by turning on their mates. No matter how long it takes. From there we return to the present, to Austin, TX and to Colby. It's been a few months since the showdown at the end of Dreams & Shadows and he's still mourning the loss of pretty much everything, especially his best friend, Ewan. This grief takes the form of severe self-recrimination and self-destruction. But Colby won't be allowed to spiral down: his actions have made him famous (or infamous, depending on who you ask) and brought a lot of people out of the woodwork. Including some very dangerous enemies looking to settle a score. Into this dark and treacherous world is thrown Kaycee, a young girl from Australia, who is the yang to Colby's yin and has some very special abilities of her own. They're drawn together, and with the aid of the djinn Yashar, the Clever Man Mandu, Gossamer the talking golden retriever, and others--not all of them willing allies--attempt to hold back the evil threatening to spill out of the land of dreams and into our world.
From demons and djinn, to ghosts and fairies and the personification of Austin in the form of a woman, Cargill somehow manages to throw together disparate mythologies and cultures into a story that is cinematic in scope (no surprise, really, considering he's a screenwriter) yet still intimate enough to make the reader involved in the characters' lives and emotional journey. As with his previous book, Cargill also intersperses chapters from scholarly works, in this case works by a "Dr. Thaddeus Ray, Ph.D." concerning the history and significance of the Aboriginal concept of Dreamwalking and the role of the Clever Men who straddle the line between our world and the Dreamtime, along with other "references" which tie into and deepen both the chapters that follow these side excursions as well as the story as a whole. The intertwining of these "scholastic" works grounds the story and adds an element of realism, setting Cargill's work apart from most Urban Fantasy. And I say that as a lover of UF. But whereas most UF is set in our world, is meant to be our world with the same set of rules just slightly tweaked by the addition of vampires, werewolves, elves, whathaveyou, you understand that none of it could ever happen. Cargill's storytelling, however, leaves a small nugget of doubt in your mind telling you that, should you turn the wrong corner at just the right time, in the right city, you might just run into something straight out of your worst nightmare....more
A cute, mostly forgettable PNR. Being a self-published book (the copy I read, anyway), it was surprisingly more polished than I expected, though the aA cute, mostly forgettable PNR. Being a self-published book (the copy I read, anyway), it was surprisingly more polished than I expected, though the author did seem to have a fetish for ellipses. Those three little dots were everywhere! To the point where they began to lose all meaning. There's very little plot beyond the "I'm a vampire! Oh no, now what do I do?" variety, with the obligatory stand-offish alpha male who the heroine desires and who clearly wants to be with the heroine, but remains stoically stand-offish due to Deep Dark Secrets, which apparently will be revealed in the next book. Which I rather hate. I don't like it when a single story is strung out over multiple books. That's okay for a subplot, but not for the main, driving plot, even a light and fluffy plot such as this one. There's some mystery regarding who made Anja (that's with the 'j' said like a 'y', so ya know) a vampire, but, again, nothing is resolved. I highly doubt I'll read the second (and probable third) book because it was a total fluke that my library even had this one. And, while Wake Me was cute, it just didn't hook me enough to want to find out how everything ends up.
That said, despite the flaws, Olsen has an engaging voice and while the modern references will horribly date the book a decade from now, those references are authentic and not just as a result of an author trying to sound knowledgeable and coming off like a complete idiot. Olsen has managed to create a roster of characters that are funny, engaging, and realistic, populating an often humorous and entertaining story. Wake Me is not the worst self-published book I've ever read and while it may not be the absolute best, it's certainly up there as one of the better quality of self-pubs. A nice little gem that I ran across by pure accident and am glad I gave it a chance....more
C. Robert Cargill has taken the pieces of his tale, like so many hanks of hair, and woven them together into a beautiful and beautifully-created FrencC. Robert Cargill has taken the pieces of his tale, like so many hanks of hair, and woven them together into a beautiful and beautifully-created French braid, the end result being (not a hairdo, obviously), but a skillfully-wrought, modern-day fairytale which harkens back to the dark origins of the genre. In the vein of Neil Gaiman, Charles De Lint, and Emma Bull, Cargill's novel revolves around creatures that are a far cry from the beings of goodness and light which have taken over popular imagination and instead takes us back into Grimm territory, to a time when things that went bump in the night were not to be explored and all that glitters should be avoided like the plague because it often comes with (sometimes horrible, sometimes deadly) strings attached.
Dreams and Shadows begins with the story of Tiffany and Jared Thatcher, friends, lovers, soon-to-be-parents... doomed. Dithers, a Bendith Y Mamau (a baby-snatching fairy), has made the Thatchers his latest target and switches their baby boy Ewan with the misshapen changeling, Knocks. Tiffany is the only one who is aware that her baby is no longer her baby, and her desperation and revulsion (emotions on which Knocks feeds) eventually drive her to suicide and lead to Jared's drowning at the hands of nixies. Next we meet Colby, a little boy chosen by the djinn Yashar to receive a wish. Colby confounds Yashar by wishing for the ability to see everything supernatural. This wish leads Colby and Yashar to Austin, Texas and the Limestone Kingdom where Colby meets Ewan and the two boys become the kind of fast friends as only a couple of eight-year-old boys can. When Colby discovers the fate in store for Ewan, he manipulates a promise given to him by Yashar to save his friend.... and forever change his life. His actions intertwine the lives of Ewan, Knocks, and himself, with repercussions which will play out years later when they're adults, in a massive showdown of blood, death, and loss.
Interspersed between the chapters detailing the lives and actions of our characters are excerpts from scientific/philosophical books written by on Dr. Thaddeus Ray, Ph.D. These excerpts typically discuss whatever was the subject of the previous story chapter, thus deepening and expanding the plot without slowing down the action or having the characters dump a lot of exposition. (Later on we find out the identity of “Dr. Thaddeus Ray, Ph.D.” which makes for an amusing side-note.)
It's very obvious the novel was written by a screenwriter as the story had a very cinematic feel to it, especially when it came to the scenes of action and gore. There have been some complaints that Cargill skimped on character development, especially when it came to the female characters. While I can see the merit in these critiques, I can't agree with them. The one character, Mallaidh (pronounced 'Molly'), is fae and her nature is that of being changeable and, well, shallow. The other characters, both human and fae, seemed to possess enough development and backstory to compel the reader and keep them invested in the story. If we stopped to discover in detail what made them what they were and why they did what they did, the momentum would've come to a complete halt. We found out enough to either empathize or grudgingly understand a character's motivation without delving into the furthest reaches of their psyche and losing all track of the plot.
The ending was both final and ambiguous enough that, should he desire, Cargill could expand on Colby's adventures in further novels or leave Dreams and Shadows as a stand-alone novel (which would be a rather daring and--har, har-–novel move considering almost all books published these days are “the first in a brand-new series!”). Terrifying, dramatic, and, yes, even funny, Dreams and Shadows is definitely worth a read....more
I have been having the hardest time coming up with a review for this book. It's not because I didn't like it; quite the contrary, it was very entertaiI have been having the hardest time coming up with a review for this book. It's not because I didn't like it; quite the contrary, it was very entertaining. It's like... well, is it possible to make Cool Whip out of Greek yogurt? Because that's what this book is, fluff with a Greek flavor. It's a distant cousin to Neil Gaiman's American Gods in that it has many of the same elements--ancient gods living in modern times, weakened in power because no one believes in them anymore, as well a mortal (or, in the case of Gods Behaving Badly, two mortals) thrown in the mix, one of whom becomes "The Hero" who manages to rescue the damsel in distress and solve whatever problem is fueling the plot--just in a slightly "fluffier" version.
The gods in this novel are Greek (if you hadn't guessed), specifically the big 12 (the major gods of Olympus we've all heard about, one way or another) who are currently crowded together in a run-down London townhouse. They've fallen on hard times in the last thousand years or so and, my, how the mighty do fall: Artemis spends her time as a dog-walker, always looking for that one, modern dog which still has a trace of wolf in it and is always disappointed by the poor idiots; Dionysus still makes his own wine, but does a lot more damage with it in his role as nightclub owner, where his wine is the only thing on tap and weird, grotesque, erotic floor shows are the entertainment, which explains the club's draw; Hephaestus is still a mighty craftsman, though most of his efforts go into improvements around the house such as fixing broken furniture and improving the bathroom fittings; Aphrodite works off her mighty sex drive as a phone sex operator, panting, moaning, and faux-orgasming into her mobile phone at any time of day, to the disgust of Artemis; and Apollo has taken his Oracle to television, in a low-budget show where the set was "held together with safety pins and masking tape" and, just as in the good ol' days, the sybils did all the work. It's at the taping of the first (and last) episode of this show that Eros, who's now a Christian and suffering an existential crisis because of this, shoots an arrow of love into Apollo's heart at the behest of Aphrodite in a fit of "woman scorned" anger. Apollo falls instantly in love with Alice, a cleaner who's sneaked her friend, Neil, and herself onto the soundstage. Thus begins the complications and the drama: Alice is fired from the TV station, Neil convinces her to go freelance with her cleaning skills, as a result of which she ends up at the gods' townhouse where she's hired by Artemis and gleefully stalked by Apollo as he tries to convince the rather mousy woman of his love for her. And so the adventure begins.
This is a fun and funny book; it's entertaining and a quick read. While it may not offer up any great moments of genius, there's a tremendous amount of skill shown in the actual writing: clever and occasionally witty prose, authentic characters, and a story which evokes a genuine emotional involvement in the reader. (Yes, even in fluff, such things are possible.) Considering that this is a first novel, the high level of talent in Marie Phillips' writing is pleasantly unexpected....more
Oy. I have had the hardest time trying to review this book. It was such a mixed-bag: Parts of it were good, parts were merely okay,2.5 out of 5 stars
Oy. I have had the hardest time trying to review this book. It was such a mixed-bag: Parts of it were good, parts were merely okay, yet none of it elicited any strong emotions in me. So I'm going to make this a bare-bones, flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants review (and for those of you clapping and cheering at being spared reading another one of my long-winded reviews, well, that's just rude).
The Good: -This was only the second book/series I've read featuring a female blacksmith (the first being the Meg Langslow series by Donna Andrews). Not only was the lead in Black Blade Blues a blacksmith, she was also a lesbian, which is rare for a mainstream-published fantasy novel, at least as far as I'm aware. The only other gay characters I've encountered, in a series also published by TOR, are those in Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar: The Last Herald Mage trilogy (Magic's Pawn, Magic's Price, Magic's Promise). For some reason, mainstream publishers assume the general public can't handle leading characters who are gay and thus such characters are typically relegated to specialty publishing houses. -I love the mix of stuff in this book; it makes for a unique and interesting setting. There's Norse mythology (not to mention actual creatures which pop up, including giants, dwarfs, witches, Valkyries—complete with Pegasus. Oh, and Odin masquerading as a homeless guy [that's not a spoiler; as soon as you meet that particular character, even if you merely have a passing knowledge of Norse mythology, you'll recognize who he truly is]); the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) and its associated kingdoms, shires, and mercenaries; Renaissance Faires; B-grade independent movies about goblins, aliens, and Elvis; and dragons camouflaged as people. -While it personally annoyed me, Sarah's backstory of growing up in an ultra-religious, narrow-minded and bigoted environment, and her resulting discomfort with her sexuality and attraction to women, gives a depth to the character which isn't normally found in fantasy novels. (What annoyed me about this particular point is discussed below.)
The Bad: -Yeah, Sarah has a complex about her sexuality and a helluva lot of baggage to deal with because of her upbringing, but her recurring whinging and moaning and disinclination to actually deal with her issues, not to mention her complete willingness to let those issues derail her life on a regular basis, is grating to the extreme. You know what the problem is--bring it out into the light, talk about it, work with it, and learn to live your life in spite of it. Damn! -I really can't say there was anything bad bad, but... the whole novel felt disjointed and bumpy. There wasn't a steady build of story, leading the way to a dramatic denouement and thrilling climax. We're introduced to a supernatural plot point early on, but we have to deal with the complete breakdown of Sarah's personal life before we can get back to that supernatural plot point and build it up to a working story line. And when we finally do get to that story line, I have to use the word “bumpy” again, along with “slow.” Plus, I never encountered any true heart-pounding moments in the action scenes. -For a blacksmith who's ultra-protective of her work, especially her swords, the fact that Sarah would just casually let an actor, a very clumsy and irresponsible actor at that, use her prized sword as a prop in a movie is just completely uncharacteristic. It's a stupid move on the part of Pitts. -Once again, Pitts relied on that tried-and-untrue literary cliche, overused by so many in order to create drama: Having the characters not reveal to each other relevant information. Sarah's lover, Katie, and Katie's brother, Jimmy (who happens to be the seneschal [leader] of Black Briar, the mercenary band which belongs to the local SCA kingdom) both know more about what's going on as far as Sarah's sword and how it pertains to the dragons, yet neither one of them let Sarah in on the information. True, she wouldn't believe them, not initially, but still... I hate it when authors do that; it's such a lazy way to create tension.
The Ugly: -When it came to the protagonist, it was abundantly obvious this book was written by a man. Listen up, guys: Lesbians are not males dressed up as females. They do not have a man's brain in a woman's body. They do not get a metaphorical hard-on every time they see an attractive woman pass by. Every time Sarah had to deal with her interpersonal relationships, the resulting dialogue or prose was like a neon sign proclaiming “A Man Wrote This!” The protagonist, Sarah, was like some sort of avatar for male voyeurism: As Sarah ogled, lusted, and reminisced over her sexual adventures, male readers could ogle, sigh, and titter along as their hormone-fueled imaginations conjured up all sort sorts of accompanying mental pictures. Though Sarah's complex about her sexuality felt authentic, her actual behavior didn't.
Overall, I'd have to rank Black Blade Blues as “disappointing.”
I met Sara King about four (or was it five?) years ago while I was participating on writing.com. I started reading the story she'd posted there entitlI met Sara King about four (or was it five?) years ago while I was participating on writing.com. I started reading the story she'd posted there entitled "Outer Bounds," or should I say part of a novel because it simply consisted of the first few chapters she'd been working on. I was immediately hooked, so much so that I almost cried when I reached the end of what she'd posted. When I discovered more about her, I was absolutely astonished that she hadn't been picked up by a big-time publisher, even with the help of a go-getter agent. After all, it only takes a brief glance at any of her works to see that this lady has an untamed imagination and an unstoppable talent.
That said, this book is one hot mess. Don't get me wrong, it was fun to read. (And rather spooky from my end: The heroine is 6'4" tall [if I'm remembering correctly] and complains about how men her height seem to have a genetic disposition to prefer women about a foot shorter than they, leaving her out in the cold and having to deal with the freaks who only like her because they can dress her up in leather and be their 'Amazon woman'. I'm 6'1" and have often complained about the same issue. Not to mention I've literally had people cling to the other side of a hallway I'm walking down, in fear, I guess, of me squishing them to death. I seriously thought about growling out "Fee, Fie, Fo, Fum" at them. But I digress...) Blaze's inner dialogue concerning her dating issues and other problems can be quite hilarious; the description of Jack facing the humiliation of his paralyzed legs is heart-wrenching; and the parts where the bad guys are being bad made my butt pucker with the utter 'badness' of the villains. However, the story, taken as a whole, is all over the place. You can tell King and company really tried with the editing (since she doesn't have access to a professional editor, she relied on the help of several friends and first readers), but the book desperately needs that professional polish and tightness. The so-called banter between Jack and Blaze often became infantile and drawn-out. Their continual arguments and insults, with the occasional "Um, I like you" inserted just to let the reader know that the two of them were engaged in some sexy banter designed to build up tension, failed as such because they just went on for too long. Even the sex scene, once the two finally worked their issues out and got together, went on way too long. They'd start getting hot and heavy, then they'd stop to talk right in the middle of the action, then get back to it. Frankly, it took all the heat out of it. The action jumps around, going from a near-fatal encounter in which either Blaze or Jack is unconscious and ready to die, to the description of Blaze or Jack or both going about their duties on the lodge grounds as if nothing had happened. Stuff gets built up and then we pause, then it starts up again and then we pause again, like going up a hill and down a hill and up a hill and down a hill, instead of a nice steady climb to the final scene: There's no real coherency. And once the climax is reached, the book continues on for another good while, describing how things get back to normal at the Sleeping Lady lodge, with Blaze and Jack turning it into a scare-fest for geeks and thrill-seekers. While that's all well and good (and personally, I like a bit of a wrap-up once the villain(s) has been taken care of and all personal issues between lovers have been cleared up), it just seems like a rather flat way to end the book. Coming down from the high of the climax is fine, but with this, we've come down and started to fall asleep once the book finally ends.
Basically what we've got here is a good set of bones that desperately needs the flesh rearranged to make it more appealing. After all, King has managed to combine the Alaskan Bush, wereverines, werewolves, a phoenix in human form, and other assorted supernatural and mythical beasties into one novel and, aside from a few bumps, makes it work. That's no small feat. Which is why, at the end of the day, I gave this book 4 stars. It may need some serious reworking to make it flow better, but I was still enthralled and entertained by what I read, enough to make me eager to start book two. And for anyone who's read enough of my reviews, you'll know that I am rarely eager (in fact, before now I'd say never eager) to read a second book in a series if the first book has as many editing errors as Alaskan Fire. There's a good story here if you're willing and have the patience to dig it out....more
Wow. I mean, wow. This has been described as a rollercoaster ride and that is so true. However, this is a rollercoaster which comes out of the loadingWow. I mean, wow. This has been described as a rollercoaster ride and that is so true. However, this is a rollercoaster which comes out of the loading dock straight into a free-fall drop and never slows down until the very end. Take The Da Vinci Code, add few more octanes of amphetamine-fueled energy and you get Comes a Horseman. And that's the problem. As much as I love exciting, grand conspiracy-fueled action-thriller novels, I also like a bit of breathing room to take everything in, to allow my heartbeat to slow and my adrenaline to drop back to its baseline level. I don't mind the action getting a running start from the get-go, but, like any good rollercoaster, you need some flat sections, some gentle curves before your brain gets scrambled and your insides get rearranged by the next loop-de-loop. Right up until the very end, Liparulo keeps the action at a break-neck pace and by the time the finale rolls around, you as the reader are just so damned tired you're more numbed than relieved when the bad guy gets it and the battered yet satisfied main characters return home. However, the story itself is so well-told, so well-researched, with enough gruesome killings, conspiracies, and misdirections, when that ending does come, you don't care that you have the energy level of a beached jellyfish. You're just glad that it's fiction (or, at least, one hopes it's fiction) and can set the book aside for something a little more upbeat at the end of the day. And I have to say that even though the plot does concern the advent of Antichrist (that's right, just 'Antichrist', no 'the' involved) and the Christian mythology which revolves around such a person, there's a level of realism involved which makes the concept not only plausible, but downright scary, as there're no metaphysical elements involved. No appearance of the Devil, no singing of angels, just men who believe so much in a particular destiny that they will do anything, kill anyone in order to bring it about. And let me tell you, that's the scariest thought of all because you know there are people out in the world today psychotic enough to do just that a million times over. Hell, history is full of such megalomaniacs and the advent of bigger and more destructive weapons has made their quest for glory that much more bloody and deadly.
There's a good book lurking somewhere in here; one just needs a machete, a weed-whacker and a couple of sturdy pruning shears in order to find it. DonThere's a good book lurking somewhere in here; one just needs a machete, a weed-whacker and a couple of sturdy pruning shears in order to find it. Don't get me wrong, I like it when an author gets creative with certain stock genre archetypes and messes with the traditional mythology associated with said archetypes. I don't like it when authors then decide to cram every single item which pops into their head into one book. With Once Bitten we have shape-shifters, but not just of your lupine variety but also of feline, in the the shapes of lions, tigers, bobcats and, in the case of the lead character, a calico housecat. Okay, no probs with that, especially the housecat bit; that's rather amusing, once your brain stops trying to figure out the physics and logistics of squishing a human into a tiny cat form, complete with clothes, and just goes with the flow. Then you have vampires. Okay, sure, why not? After that, though, it starts to get a bit over the top, as you have a vampire "bringing over" a shifter (said calico housecat), a mage shows up with his demon hoarde, a fairy pops by (at least, I think she's as fairy; it's never clearly explained, another of the author's problems I'll get to in a moment), a vampire council is introduced, not to mention we have a rogue shifter who's the main thrust of the plot. It's exhausting! It's as though the author, in one of her brainstorming sessions, thought, "Hmm, what else can I add to make sure this book is as 'supernatural' as possible?"
Basically, the story runs like this: We have our calico shifter, Kita (whom everyone calls "Kitten" even though she hates that nickname and, trust me, by the end of the book, you'll hate it as well), who's run away from her clan. Now, according to her, this clan lives in Firth. We don't know where Firth is, whether it's another city or country or dimension; we can kind of guess it's the latter, as a 'gate' opens up between the human world and Firth every full moon or so and apparently that's the only method of travel between the two places. But we're never told explicitly. And here's where we run into the information problem. I've been very vocal about my hatred of info dumps: they are poor excuses for exposition and world-building. However, the opposite, info droughts, are just as despised. Ideally, an author should sprinkle pertinent information, including backstory, throughout his or her novel, like a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar through a coffee cake: Little nuggets of extra information which add bursts of yumminess and dimension to the experience. Withholding information doesn't make you seem mature as a writer; it makes you seem even more inexperienced as, the further you go on not explaining your world, the more a reader believes you haven't taken the time to fully build it and its mythology. We are left to fill in so many blanks in the story, after a while it's easy just to give up and skim through the remainder of the book. After all, if the author didn't put the effort into writing it, why should we put any effort into reading it?
To get back to Kita, she's apparently run away from her clan because she's the next in line to be clan leader or Torin; she doesn't think she's powerful enough to take over, even though everyone else is seemingly okay with it (and once again we have another author falling prey to the tired PNR cliche concerning their female lead: "Ooh, poor me, I have no self-esteem even though everyone I know tells me I'm great, but I just can't believe it, woe is me, I'm so pitiful"). So now she's been on the run for five years and has hunters from her clan and others on her tail, so she's constantly on the move, changing cities quicker than some people change their underwear. The latest town, Haven, isn't turning out to be one; hunters have found her already, including one of her childhood pals from Firth, Bobby. To escape them, she hides inside a local rave. She finds herself roofied, on her way to crying out "Goodbye, cruel world!" only to be rescued by a vampire who has to turn her in order to save her life (which he endangered in the first place, as he decided to feed from Kita but found her memories and life force so interesting, he took a wee drop of blood too much; finding he couldn't let such an "interesting" creature die, he turned her instead. Nice, huh?) Waking up naked and chained to a wall, naturally Kita's a bit perturbed. Even more so when the mad vampire woman who's guarding her offers her a cup of warm cat's blood to drink. The vampire who turned her, Nathanial, finally releases Kita (who was chained for her own good; yeah, we've all heard that one before), who, quite naturally, tries to get as far away as possible. Just then, however, is when this mage pops up, who's apparently some kind of uber-judge for supernatural creatures, and sentences Kita to death for creating a rogue shifter who's been piling up the bodies in the local environs. Are you saying "Huh?" yet? Because I know I was. Who is this judge? Why does he have the right to sentence Kita? How does he know she's responsible, because, as far as I can see, there's no obvious evidence leading to a glaring neon sign of 'Guilt' over Kita's head. Why does he have demons doing his bidding? What the hell is going on? So, to try and wrap this up, Kita has two nights to find the rogue and kill it. She's helped in her hunt by Nathanial and Bobby (who, despite the fact he has a mate who's expecting a litter of his whelps, still pines for Kita's affection), as well as the fairy Gil, who tags along, studying Kita for some sort of interdimensional college doctoral thesis (or something like that; once again we're never explicitly told, leading to yet another round of questions: Who is this Gil? Why does she have the authority to study Kita? Why the hell would she want to? How did she know about the judge and Kita's case?)
While there is some good writing in here, the book is clunky. I had a hard time identifying or even liking any of the characters. Kita is whiny and whimpy; most of the time I just wanted to punch her and turn her over to the judge. She's also a complete mess: she's feisty when she should be calm and showing some sense, and meekly docile when she should be kicking some ass. Bobby is underdeveloped, with little-to-personality; the most we know from him is that Kita and he used to be an item when they were kids, but, because he's a wolf and she's a cat, I suppose (although it's never specifically stated), he wasn't allowed to mate with Kita and instead was forced to mate with another, a female wolf from a different clan. So Bobby moons over Kita and bristles at any affection shown to her by Nathanial, but that's about it. Nathanial has the most potential for being a well-rounded character; although he's still slightly one-dimensional in the novel, things are hinted about him which could add depth to his story. I presume those hints are further explored in subsequent novels. And although you can sympathize with Kita's anger over being forcibly turned into a vampire and her reluctance to initially trust Nathanial, the way she treats him and her situation is more like a toddler throwing a temper-tantrum: "I don't like it, I don't wanna do it, you can make me, waaaaaaa!" Not to mention the many questions and inconsistencies throughout the book. For instance, in Firth, females cannot be hunters (why the hell not?), in fact females seem to be good for nothing other than breeding, yet there's no problem with Kita taking over as leader? That doesn't jive with such a seemingly misogynistic society. Why does Kita wear a necklace into which the finger bones of a human child and kitten (her own bones, taken when she was little) are woven? What does that signify? What about the number of bones, which is more than Bobby's, who, apparently, shouldn't even have the right to wear such a necklace, but petitioned the clan elders to do so and was allowed.
Frankly, there are too many questions, not enough answers and not enough sympathy or interest generated to make me care enough to read the next book....more
This is a truly sweet, cute, funny and entertaining modern fairy tale. I haven't read any of Alex Flinn's previous books so I don't know how much or hThis is a truly sweet, cute, funny and entertaining modern fairy tale. I haven't read any of Alex Flinn's previous books so I don't know how much or how little Cloaked differs from them. From what I can tell, Flinn has hit her stride as a writer, deftly weaving several of the lesser known fairytales--such as The Six Swans, The Golden Bird, The Valiant Tailor, among others--into a larger, more complex tale set in a very modern South Beach, Florida.
Meet Johnny, a seventeen-year-old boy who works at his family's shoe repair shop located in the lobby of the posh Coral Reef Grand hotel, who's rather ashamed that he works in his family's shoe repair shop but has no choice as his family depends on the money. In his spare time, though, he dreams of becoming a famous shoe designer and joining the likes of Manolo Blahnik and Christian Louboutin. So when a real-life princess checks into the hotel, paparazzi hot on her stiletto heels, Johnny believes he may have found his chance to fulfill his dreams. The princess, however, has other plans for Johnny. Deeming him trustworthy, she shares her secret with him one night: Her brother, the prince, has been enchanted, turned into a frog by an evil witch. Even worse, now the prince has disappeared somewhere into the depths of the Everglades. Would Johnny please rescue her brother? In return, the princess would marry Johnny, giving him status and wealth and every opportunity to follow his dream. How could he refuse? With the help of some talking swans, a magical earpiece which lets him understand other 'used-to-bes'--animals who were once human--and a magical cloak, not to mention his best friend Meg whom he may or may not be in love with, Johnny sets off on an adventure which leads him from the Florida Keys to the wilds of Europe. Along the way, Johnny discovers that "happily ever after" may not be such a fairy tale after all.
Full of adventure and daring-do, rescues and traps, magic, luck, humor and true love, not to mention a bit of chauvenism to help prove that while not all frogs are princes in disguise, some princes can really be toads, Cloaked is a wonderfully vivid and enchanting tale, quite equal to William Goldman's The Princess Bride in terms of entertainment and storytelling....more
This will probably sound self-serving, but I think the main reason I enjoyed Tempest Rising so much is because Nicole Peeler's writing "voice" is veryThis will probably sound self-serving, but I think the main reason I enjoyed Tempest Rising so much is because Nicole Peeler's writing "voice" is very similar to my own: the snarky asides, the goofball attitude, the first-person narrative complete with inner monologues and conversations (and arguments)... it's all there. Reading her book is most likely the closest I, or anyone else, will come to seeing my words in print.
However, I'm supposed to be speaking of this book (after all, that is the purpose of a review) and I must say it's a refreshingly quirky entree into the jam-packed Paranormal genre. Jane True is a slightly odd outcast in the small town of Rockabill, Maine. She's laden with guilt over a childhood tragedy and thus falls easily into the role of town pariah. Her family history doesn't help either, nor does the fact she likes to swim in the ocean... in the dead of winter... right next to the famous Old Sow whirlpool. This is Jane's life, until one nightly swim changes everything for her. The discovery of a body leapfrogs her into the world of the supernatural and into the arms of Ryu, a handsome and dead-sexy vampire. Perhaps Jane doesn't handle all her adventures in this new and dangerous world with grace and dignity, but humor and a smart-ass attitude works out just fine for her. Not to mention a healthy dose of reawakened libido. I'm not saying there aren't moments where Jane's guilt and self-pity don't get annoying, but I will say that I wanted to shake and/or smack her less often than I have with other female leads. The peripheral characters of the story are fairly well fleshed out (especially Grizelda, one of Jane's close friends; she's quite flashy with her flesh) and the potential for a deeper relationship between Jane and Anyan is quite tantalizing.
Nicole Peeler's writing is crisp, funny, and idiosyncratic, with many laugh (or snort) out loud moments. While the plot is a bit, not necessarily thin, but perhaps meandering, it still leads up to quite an exciting finale and, frankly, the ride is so much fun, one doesn't mind taking the scenic route to get there. I really hate to compare books to one another, but if you enjoy the Sookie Stackhouse series or Kim Harrison's novels featuring Rachel Morgan, you'll get a kick out of Tempest Rising. 4.5 stars.
Addendum: Many reveiwers have commented on Ryu's lack of depth as a character; 'cardboard cut-out' is a common phrase. It's true, we don't get a sense of who Ryu really is, what drives him, what his history is. Perhaps he is a bit bland. Frankly, I didn't see that. I did, however, see a man who is nice and courteous, character traits which are unusual in romantic leads. Maybe it's because Ryu wasn't a bad boy, a brooding, mysterious, cypher of a man, that the appellation of bland was applied to him. Yet his niceness doesn't negate the possibility of him having a past, even a tormented one. This is a purely personal observation, but I'd rather have a heroine fall for a nice guy who may still have a dark history rather than another overdone Gothic "hero."...more
Supernatural: Nevermore is my first foray into the world of the Supernatural tie-in novels. I'd been wanting to read one of the books for some time anSupernatural: Nevermore is my first foray into the world of the Supernatural tie-in novels. I'd been wanting to read one of the books for some time and by a lucky happenstance, I found this title at my library. The fact that it's the first of the tie-in novels was an added bit of serendipity. I have to say, I'm mighty pleased with the book. In my opinion, the author really nailed the voices and characterizations of Sam and Dean. Throughout the book, the dialogue and rapport between the two were so vivid, I could actually visualize Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki acting the scenes out. And while the storyline wasn't as action-packed as one of the t.v. episodes, it had enough to keep the pace going. For the most part, as I read the book, it played in my mind as though it were a lost episode of the show...maybe not one of the better episodes, but I could still see it. The nice addition was that we were able to see the action from the perspective of the other characters, including a ghost, something which the time constraints of a television show doesn't allow. The other nice touch was when the author, and I'm almost postive I'm right about this, gave a tip of his hat to Jim Butcher's Dresden Files when he mentioned a female cop, named Murphy, in Chicago, who happens to be part of the inner circle in on the secret world of the paranormal. And I loved the little dig about CSI and how there were better things to watch on Thursday nights. Not that I don't like CSI, but it still made me chuckle.
The biggest downfall on the author's part is his tendency to over-describe. For example: Dean pulled the gearshift down to R and said, "Let's move out." He backed out of the parking spot, then brought it down to D and sent them out onto the open road. Wow. Do I really need to have the procedure for pulling out of a motel parking lot described in such detail? No. All he needed to do was write: "Let's move out," Dean said, as he maneuvered the car out of the parking lot and sent them out onto the open road. From 33 words down to 23. I'm sorry, but unless the detail so lovingly overemphasized has a bearing on the upcoming scene/action or drives the story along, which in 99.99% of this book it doesn't, then it's totally unnecessary. Detail isn't action, action is action.
However, when all is said and done, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and am looking forward to reading more....more