I must've been too busy reading Diana Wynne Jones and Madeleine L'Engle, because I'd never heard of this series growing up. It was only in the past co...moreI must've been too busy reading Diana Wynne Jones and Madeleine L'Engle, because I'd never heard of this series growing up. It was only in the past couple of years that it came to my attention. I have to say, I'm not all that impressed. Part of the problem is the fact that the book feels dated. Usually when that happens, the story is able to carry me along so that I don't notice things like Dictaphones and typewriters (non-self-correcting ones, at that). Not with this book. I blame most of that on the "magic" used in the story; it seemed more like physics or calculus to me. I'm sorry, but when I want to read about physics, I'll read Stephen Hawking. I don't want to stumble through it in a childrens' book. It's not the fact that magic is equated with science that gave me pause, it's the manner in which the author narrated its use. The analogies and descriptions she gave of its workings had me scratching my head, rereading paragraph after paragraph, and always with the same result: "Huh? What the hell is she talking about?" The only way I got through it was to gloss over such descriptions: "Okay, they did something and now they're in a parallel world... Oh, look, cars that act like animals!" I'll also repeat what several have said before concerning the sexist attitude represented in the story; Nita seemed to require an awful lot of aid from her fellow (male, of course) wizard, Kit. She spent most of her time deferring to him, aiding his spells, looking to him for answers. Puh-lease. Not to mention the dumb-ass concept of younger wizards having more power (what?). What a lame plot device to explain the two kids' prowess with their wizardly powers.
There are a few other nitpicky points of dislike which I won't go into detail here. The only bit that really was intriguing and quite original was the character of Fred, the white hole thingy (yes, that's a techinical term). His was the most well-rounded and charismatic character in the book, with the Lotus not far behind in terms of likeability. It's pretty sad when one feels a stronger connection to non-human characters than to the human ones about which the story (supposedly) revolves.
I will be fair and give the next book a go. Perhaps the series gets better as the characters develop. If I'm wrong, however, I'll happily forgo the rest of the series and return to the books of Diana Wynne Jones and Madeleine L'Engle, forgetting I ever heard of Diane Duane. 2.5 stars.(less)
Rude, crude, lewd, and disgusting, Amanda Feral and her cadre of companions came into my life like mold...or a venereal disease.
I typically have littl...moreRude, crude, lewd, and disgusting, Amanda Feral and her cadre of companions came into my life like mold...or a venereal disease.
I typically have little patience with characters whose only thoughts concern the hottest hangout, the hippest drink, and the hardest hard-body to shag. However, when those kind of characters also happen to be zombies, vampires, shapechangers, and other assorted supernaturals, my interest is piqued. Throw in a story peppered with snarky footnotes (and who can resist a fiction novel which utilizes footnotes?) and it's amazing how palatable such shallowness can become. For bitchy, self-centered, frivolous fun, this book is the template.
However, I didn't enjoy it as much as I'd hoped. Eventually the snark and selfishness began to grate on my nerves, which I had somewhat expected, but I believe my annoyance was compounded by the lack of a cohesive plot. A mystery is alluded to in the beginning, which is then put on hold as we explore Amanda's past life, zombification, and current uber-hip state of undeadness. When we get back to the mystery, it's treated by the characters in a very lackadaisical manner (which is typical of shallow people, but still frustrating), very much a case of "Ooh, a friend is in trouble? But the new club is opening tonight and everyone who is anyone will be there, which means we have to be there! Let's worry about it tomorrow, or whenever the hangover wears off." Eventually the mystery is solved, which turns out to not be so mysterious but which leads to a second, more dramatic situation. However, the impact of this second crisis is lessened by the limpness of the first, and the impetus of the book is let down by a meandering storyline. What really bugged me was the blatant hard-on the author had for commas. (And, yes, I realize with that statement I'm coming off like a picky bitch; I was born that way, so deal.) I know I can go a bit gaga for punctuation. If I can use a semi-colon and some hyphens, I'm happy; thrown in a colon and a few ellipses, I'm positively ecstatic. Mark Henry's single-minded punctuation obsession, though, gets in the way of his writing, as he uses commas in multiple locations where they're not needed (and throw off the pace of the sentence) and leaves them out where such clarification a comma would provide is necessary. I realize this is the more the fault of his editor, but since an author and editor are part and parcel of the whole writing procedure, it's still a valid quibble.
I can't say I'm excited to read the second book, but I am curious to see what other kinds of mischief Amanda and her pals can get into...and still keep their makeup intact.(less)
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 very...moreThis 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."(less)
I'm not exactly sure what star rating to give to this book; three stars seems at once too generous and not generous enough. Perhaps it would help to s...moreI'm not exactly sure what star rating to give to this book; three stars seems at once too generous and not generous enough. Perhaps it would help to simplify and break my review down into what I like and what I don't like about the book. What I Like: The gothic spin on a traditional Victorian London setting. The dark, gloomy and terrifying atmosphere of classic gothic storytelling fits perfectly with this book, whose story takes place in the year 1888, the year of Jack the Ripper. I also liked the interpretation of the ancient tale of Persephone and her abduction by Hades, which forms the backbone of the book's storyline. What I Don't Like: The author's repeated use of 'regal' and 'noble' to describe the appearance of Professor Alexi Rychman. 'Regal brow', 'noble face', 'regal this', 'noble that', ad infinitum, ad nauseum. Enough already, we get it, he's a handsome dude! I know Ms. Hieber is emulating the traditional gothic guidelines in describing her hero, but one or two 'nobles' or 'regals', combined with the futher descriptions of the character swooping, stalking, pacing and prowling, is quite enough for us to understand he is the hero, in all his brooding, mysterious, tormented, waiting-to-be-saved-by-his-one-true-love glory. Ease up on the descriptors and move on! I also quite dislike the book's subject, Miss Percy Parker herself. She has been raised in a convent, where modesty and self-effacement is all that, but her mewling, whining, whimpering, cowering, cringing, apologetic, servile attitude is so far beyond modesty, it creeps into the sado-masochistic realm ("please, hurt me, for I deserve no better"). Yeesh! Annoyance is not a strong enough word to describe the feeling her behavior engenders in me. We, as readers, are given to understand that the lack of self-confidence in Percy comes from her unique appearance when instead she is merely falling prey to the tired cliche of a Beautiful Heroine Unaware of Her Beauty. Her continual assumption that her snow-white hair, milk-pale skin, and near-colorless eyes brings nothing but revulsion to people grates on the nerves and, frankly, made me want to smack her. I know the Victorian era was several decades before the "Let Your Freak Flag Fly" movement was popular, but, still... Woman up and grow a backbone already! When she finally does grow a backbone, it comes so late in the tale and it's such a half-hearted attempt at confidence that it doesn't seem worth the effort. Lastly, the density of the other characters as regards to Percy and her role in the story was so frustrating, I came close to throwing the book at the wall. Despite many clues, one of which the equivalent of a ginormous neon sign, as to Percy's importance, the characters' heads remained firmly up their arses. Ostensibly, this was to create a dramatic denouement at the finale of the book, but their behavior was so unbelievable that instead of a gasp of surprise and empathy at the reveal, I blurted out "Well, duh! That's what happens when you have your heads up your butts." It was a ham-handed approach to creating dramatic tension. However, despite all these failings, I felt a strange (strangely beautiful?) compulsion to keep turning the page. It was the kind one feels when watching a train wreck, the horrified fascination which comes when one knows something will end badly but has to watch anyway.(less)
Meticulously researched and exquisitely written, Heresy is like a boat ride down the Thames of Elizabethan England: leisurely and immersive, allowing...moreMeticulously researched and exquisitely written, Heresy is like a boat ride down the Thames of Elizabethan England: leisurely and immersive, allowing one to take in the sights, sounds, and smells of a slowly unfolding panorama. For such skillful writing, the book deserves 5 stars. However, for personal reading enjoyment, I could only give the novel 3 stars. I have to stress, this is my problem and doesn't reflect at all on the author's writing or storytelling skills, but that leisurely pace, especially in a mystery novel, is too soporific for me. There were times when I found myself skimming the page, searching for a part with more excitement, more action. I admit, I'm used to reading mystery/suspense novels in which the story moves along at breakneck speed, sometimes at the expense of atmosphere or character, where the action propels me, like a whitewater rafter heading towards Niagara Falls, over the precipice and into the thrilling climax. Heresy, however compelling in its rich characterization and lush environment, slowly unfolds its mystery like a rose bud, one delicate petal at a time, which for me became somewhat tiresome and patience-testing.
The story is based on the real-life personage of Giordano Bruno, a forward-thinking man in a backwards-thinking era, on the run from the Inquisition. Finding himself in England, he's recruited into the legion of spies which populate the court of Queen Elizabeth I, by the infamous spy-master himself, Sir Francis Walsingham, the queen's Secretary of State, in order to seek out those behind a Catholic plot to overthrow the queen. As an outsider sent to Oxford University on the pretext of participating in a debate on Copernican theory, he discovers a wealth of secrets, plots, and conspiracies which could shake the very foundation of England itself. With a thrilling mix of real and fictional characters, it's a multilayered and clever story.
Despite my lack of enthusiasm over the pace of the novel, I fully intend to re-read it. Perhaps I need to be in a more receptive mood; perhaps repeated reading will allow me to more fully appreciate the slow burn of this exceedingly well-crafted tale. I look forward to finding out.
Note: I received an ARC of this title through the Goodreads First Reads program; as such, this review is well overdue.(less)
Much better than the first book. I know first books can often suffer, trying to set up not only the recurring characters but the tone and flavor of wh...moreMuch better than the first book. I know first books can often suffer, trying to set up not only the recurring characters but the tone and flavor of whatever world an author is trying to create. Sometimes an author can fit all that in and a spectacular storyline; sometimes, not, as was the case with Kitty and the Midnight Hour. However, now that we know about Kitty and her world, the author was finally able to concentrate on giving us more well-rounded characters and a more captivating and interesting storyline. The best thing is the fact that the author doesn't fling supernatural beasties at the reader; instead, she makes it more of a surprise, even to those supernatural creatures that exist in the author's world, so that the experience of finding out 'there are more things in heaven and earth' is fun for everyone involved.(less)
Okay, so I'm a flibbertigibbet; I'm wishy-washy, flaky. So sue me. I've been rethinking my original impressions of this book and came away with the aw...moreOkay, so I'm a flibbertigibbet; I'm wishy-washy, flaky. So sue me. I've been rethinking my original impressions of this book and came away with the awful realization: I got snowed by the bird. I was so entranced by Doc (who was the most well-rounded character of all) that I completely ignored the annoying flaws of this book, the most glaring of which was the idiotic foreign-speak of the love interest, Dr. Steven Sable. C'mon, the guy's supposed to be educated! You can be educated and foreign without sounding like a complete imbecile. His continual "How do you say this?" and variations on that theme became as irritating as a poison ivy rash after the first half a dozen times, not to mention M.J.'s nauseatingly girly (read: giggly) reactions when she corrects him.
The storyline, although not brilliantly complex, was fairly interesting; I did enjoy the whole 'ghost-busting' angle and the interactions between M.J. and the spirits. However, the characters were either so cliched (her gay partner who's terrified of the ghosties) or so bungled in execution (see complaints above), not to mention the author's infantile reactions to negative reviews (I'd like to see what she makes of mine), I have been completely turned off of reading not just the rest of this series, but her books altogether.(less)
Normally I abhor the Disney-fication of books when they are turned into movies; it seems sacrilegious somehow. However, I can honestly say that I like...moreNormally I abhor the Disney-fication of books when they are turned into movies; it seems sacrilegious somehow. However, I can honestly say that I like The Princess Diaries movie much more than I do the book. My nose wrinkled in disgust most of the time I was reading this book. The parents are annoying ciphers, as most parental figures are in the YA genre; the grandmother could've been funny, in a tart, European way, but instead she's just rude; Mia is a spoiled, self-righteous, self-obsessed jerk and Lilly isn't much better. Don't get me wrong, I'm not so far removed from my teenage years that I don't remember how it was to be a fourteen-year-old girl: At that age, we're all self-obsessed and convinced the world revolves around us (an attitude which some of us don't grow out of, but that's another line of thought altogether). However, this book had me feeling my age, because no one can be that self-involved! Growing up, I agonized over my flat chest as well, but not every fifteen seconds; I agonized over being the tallest girl in my school, too, but, again, not every fifteen seconds. I had other things to do and to think about. Mia is a spoiled little princess even before she finds out she's a princess.
And speaking of finding out she's a princess, I don't buy her reaction one bit. Every girl at some point in her life, whether it's a phase that lasts for ten years or a brief musing that lasts ten minutes, dreams of being a real princess. Mia can go back to being a militant vegetarian, but to be realistic, she should've had at least a moment or two of squealing happiness over the thought of her princess-hood.
The book picked up slightly towards the end, when Mia started acting a bit more real, but it wasn't enough to interest me in reading the rest of this series.(less)
I feel about this book the same way I do about Kim Harrison's series involving Rachel Morgan: I'm compelled to read it, but I'm not sure that I totall...moreI feel about this book the same way I do about Kim Harrison's series involving Rachel Morgan: I'm compelled to read it, but I'm not sure that I totally like it and I can't quite put my finger on the specific things which make me want to read Rosemary and Rue or continue with the series. Yet there was something about the book that hooked me, because I sped through it and am eager for the next. Perhaps I'm just being perverse (something I do quite often).
First off, I have to congratulate Seanan McGuire on her skills at world-building. She's obviously put in a lot of thought into the world of fae she wished to create, even if she does throw in some disconcerting Japanese mythology in there as well. (I'm sorry, but the concept just doesn't sit well with the whole Celtic/European fae setting she's got going, but, for some reason, it seems to be the thing to do in recent urban fantasies involving the Fair Folk.) And, like a friend of mine, I'd love to know where I can get a rose goblin; they're quite an original creation! The characters are complex and--dare I say this about a book involving faeries and halflings?--human, with conflicting aspects to their personalities. And although Toby never seems to be proactive during much of the story, falling into situations by a combination of luck and good (or bad) timing, the story moves along quickly and the author writes fairly stimulating action scenes. The thing which I most loved was the un-traditional way McGuire went about describing the magic. Most authors rely on colors, which is fine and dandy, but McGuire gave every character's magic a distinctive scent, which, seeing as I'm a sense-oriented type of person, I really appreciated. It made her brand of fantasy stand out.
That said, the book overall bugs me. I can buy the reactions of her boyfriend, Cliff, and her daughter, Gillian, to Toby's fourteen year disappearance, but just barely; I would think, even if Cliff suspected her of not telling him the whole truth, he would stick around a little bit longer to try and pry it out of her instead of walking away from Toby like some sulking little girl. Speaking of Cliff's reaction, the author has an annoying habit of withholding information about her characters. I understand, as a writer, that it's not nice to info-dump, lumping a bunch of details into a paragraph or two. That said, you can sprinkle those details throughout the paragraphs that follow a major backstory, giving the reader information without overwhelming her or distracting from the story. McGuire withheld the story of Cliff's reaction to Toby's disappearance for three chapters or so. Call me impatient, call me an instant-gratification girl, but that's too long. Plus, she introduces some characters without explaining their relationship to Toby until another two or three chapters later, so you're left with only the name of this person, wondering, did this character appear already and I've forgotten? Who is this person? By the time the explanation comes, the story gets paused as you try to figure out who the author is talking about and why that person is important. And, I hate to say this, but a lot of the time I was reading Rosemary and Rue I couldn't help but think that Toby is a female version of Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden. The wry, sardonic narration, the resignation they feel when they have to do a job they'd rather not, which then turns into a stubborness to fight for the little guy, the willingness to fight, but to also run away when possible, the aversion to power-plays and politics. Not to mention the fact that they both drive VW Bugs. I know, that doesn't mean a lot, but c'mon, aren't there any other cars out there besides Bugs? How 'bout a nice VW Rabbit for a change?
My biggest pet peeve, though, comes from Toby's relationship to her old flame and mentor, Devin. Come on, the guy's a creep! I can see that from a mile away, anyone with half a brain can see that. So why does his behavior come as a shock to Toby? Why does she keep going back to him? Is it that whole 'bad boy' thing? Maybe that's why I don't understand Toby's attraction to Devin, because I don't understand the attraction to bad boys. I find it stupid, quite honestly.
However, despite all these nit-pickings, despite my confusion over exactly why I think this is an excellent debut, Rosemary and Rueis an excellent debut and I'm looking forward to where McGuire is going to take the series.(less)