Hooray--my status with Richelle Mead goes from "it's complicated" back to "in a relationship" again! *throws confetti* This review is spoiler-free eveHooray--my status with Richelle Mead goes from "it's complicated" back to "in a relationship" again! *throws confetti* This review is spoiler-free even if you haven't read any of the other books Bloodlines or VA books.
Vampire Academy is one of my favorite YA series and I'm usually a big fan of this author's, but I've had middling reactions to her books across all genres since Spirit Bound and Iron Crowned. I am happy to report that the magic is back again for this latest installment of the Bloodlines series, which follows the problems that Alchemist Sydney Sage encounters as she tries to protect Jill, the spare to the vampire throne.
The Indigo Spell picks up a few weeks after the events of The Golden Lily, and Sydney is learning to how to cast spells with Ms. Terwilliger. Eventually she goes in search of the mysterious Marcus Finch, an ex-alchemist who apparently betrayed them, but who may hold the key to secrets that Sydney is trying to uncover about the only way of life she's ever known.
Things I thoroughly enjoyed:
-- The overarching story about the Alchemists' magical tattoos. The idea that a special indigo ink might stop a particular aspect of the tattoo's power is really interesting and well-done.
-- The physicality of Sydney using magic. I always loved that part of Mead's Dark Swan series, and there are shades of that descriptive writing here in the hum of energy and use of incantations.
-- The southern California settings which I obviously have a soft spot for. (Plus I think the bunny-themed bed and breakfast might've been inspired by this crazy bunny museum in Pasadena!)
-- There is NO love triangle...yet.
-- The mystery behind Ms. Terwilliger's missing sister Veronica is pretty intriguing--she's not the first evil woman rumored to steal the youth and beauty from young girls, but that idea is always fun to me.
-- We don't see a lot of Jill, thank goodness! She drives me bananas.
-- Adrian seems like Adrian again. After being such a mopefest in the last two books, he's back to being so witty and charming that your pants may have disappeared before you've even noticed.
-- Sydney doesn't irritate me as much in this book. There are also some reasons suggested for why she might be so very obedient.
-- There is finally--finally!--some Sydrian chemistry. I never bought the attraction between them, and I'm still not 100% into this relationship, but there are a few scenes that definitely show a spark between them. Although I'm still not sure she really gets how awesome he is.
-- There is pie. Lots and lots of pie.
I don't really have any, other than that Sydney's still not my favorite heroine. I like her much more than I thought possible, but I just think Richelle Mead is better at writing kickass heroines. I felt this way about Seth in her Succubus series, too--both he and Syd come off as more wimpy and tiresome to me rather than reserved and brainy.
But Sydney's finally starting to become interesting, or the story is becoming better suited to the things she might actually be good at, with less time spent on all the things that showcase her annoying traits. The plot in this book is much more engaging than in the previous two, and it's a relief that the author isn't relying as much on Rose and Dimitri appearances to transition things through.
So in closing--if you enjoyed Bloodlines from the very beginning, you're going to go nuts over this book! But if you've had mixed reactions to the series thus far, you may just find that this one is better suited to your taste. I'm grateful that a copy of The Indigo Spell landed on my doorstep unexpectedly, because I really enjoyed it--and I'm definitely looking forward to the next installment.
Why are readers drawn to horror? Read our Q & A with Marcus Sedgwick, the Printz honor author of Midwinterblood. Plus win a finished copy of thisWhy are readers drawn to horror? Read our Q & A with Marcus Sedgwick, the Printz honor author of Midwinterblood. Plus win a finished copy of this fantastic book!
4.5 starsBlood-soaked nightmares. Of another time. Of another place. Of another life.
The unusual story of Midwinterblood begins in the future, in the year 2073. A young journalist named Eric arrives on a remote island, where it is rumored that the people live forever. He is immediately drawn to a woman named Merle, but soon begins to notice that the locals are behaving strangely...very strangely. Little does he know that his story is but one chapter in a piercingly poignant, savage saga that stretches across time and transcends the boundaries of life and death.
I love fiction that is unsettling, particularly when it comes to the YA genre. Eric and Merle's story has elements of the shrieking madness of the film The Wicker Man, including a distinct undercurrent of unease and disturbing pagan rituals. To tell you too much about the seven interconnected stories would be to give away too many of their delicious secrets. But following the opening segment, the plot moves backwards in time, and by the third story "The Airman," the pieces start fitting together. My favorite ones are "The Painter"(1902), "The Unquiet Grave" (1848), and "The Vampire" (10th Century), many of which are violent, pensive, and sad. One of the things I like best about the plot is how Eric and Merle are bound together throughout the centuries, and yet their relationship is never the same. Sometimes they are lovers, sometimes they are children, etc., but there is always a connective emotional thread between them.
The prose is descriptive and powerful, with fragments of rough beauty jutting out from the horror contained in the intricate framework of the story.
Behind them grew a tree, an odd tree, with a straight trunk, and a pointed crown of brilliant green leaves. Gold objects hung in the glossy leaves, and Bridget was startled as she saw they were skulls. Shining golden skulls.
Although I read a great many books for sheer entertainment value, it's coming across an author like Marcus Sedgwick that reminds me how very formulaic many YA books tend to be. When I read his chilling gothic mystery White Crow last year, it freaked me out--I couldn't believe the intensity of the emotional pitch, or how the persuasively suggestive writing played tricks with my perception. Midwinterblood solidified the author's place on my list of favorite writers, and I will be seeking out every title of his that I can get my hands on. I wish we saw more YA with this degree of depth and complexity.
If you're the type of reader who prefers goth over gore, mood over mayhem, or disquiet over digust, this is exactly the kind of horror story that will appeal to you--one that is odd and beautifully strange, and one written with passion, but also with great restraint. Unapologetically bold, horrifying, and desperately doomed, Midwinterblood is not a book any reader could easily forget.
This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.
Midwinterblood Tour Stop
We're very pleased to be kicking off the official Midwinterblood Blog Tour next Monday, February 5th! Stop by for our Q & A with author Marcus Sedgwick, when you may also enter to win a copy of this spectacular book. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
3.5 stars This is a compelling read, and I appreciate the complexity/moral ambiguity that the author was trying to portray.
I felt very detached from3.5 stars This is a compelling read, and I appreciate the complexity/moral ambiguity that the author was trying to portray.
I felt very detached from these characters overall, however, and it doesn't help that I found the story to be predictable up until the very end. I can see why this one has stirred up quite a bit of shock, especially with its more titillating elements. I can't help but feel that though the details of the two stories are different, Drowning Instinct has many of the same melodramatic leanings as Tabitha Suzuma's Forbidden. But it doesn't have half the heart. ...more
This review is spoiler-free, and safe even if you haven't read the first book in this series.
In my review of last yearWin a Fragments ARCon the blog!
This review is spoiler-free, and safe even if you haven't read the first book in this series.
In my review of last year's Partials, I posted a handy check list to help readers decide whether the book was for them. If you're a fan of well-written science fiction thrillers or post-apocalyptic novels with strong heroines, this series is one you should definitely check out!
What do you need to know going into the sequel?
-- There are fantastic action sequences, full of taut suspense and emotion.
-- Survivalist enthusiasts will love it. During the first half of the book, Kira spends most of her time searching through rubble for clues to ParaGen's involvement in the devastating events that decimated human society.
-- A mysterious character named Afa, who has been wandering alone through Manhattan for 12 years since the break, could hold the key to everything Kira needs to know. If you liked the gentle, defenseless character Maury from The Reapers Are the Angels, Afa's relationship with Kira reminds me a lot of that his relationship with Temple. A few of the scenes involving Afa are among the book's most touching.
-- Improvements from the first book: the secondary characters are more defined. Less politics. Marcus is much more interesting. But romance still takes the back seat here, even more so than in the first book.
-- More of Kira's history, and the creation of the Partials, is revealed. And they are both intriguing.
-- There were some readers who complained about the pacing in Partials, and I'm afraid that it's even slower--and occasionally more sluggish--in Fragments. This is a hefty book at 564 pages, and while it's all good material, I would have preferred seeing probably 150 pages of it edited down. This would have balanced things out a bit more, and tightened up the story line in a way that sustained the tension better.
Overall, I thought this was a terrific sequel to a series I very much enjoy. My only issue was really with the length of the book, but hey--after plowing through so many disappointing sophomore efforts, I'm just grateful to have a book two that lives up to the original! And I can't wait to see how Kira's story ends when the final book is released next year.
If you were to lay out a visual storyboard for The Miseducation of Cameron Post, it would be filled with lomographic photography--retro lighting, wideIf you were to lay out a visual storyboard for The Miseducation of Cameron Post, it would be filled with lomographic photography--retro lighting, wide-open vistas, saturated colors, and quirky, sometimes blurry exposures that provide quick snapshots of the many small pleasures of childhood. This coming of age novel, which is written more like adult literary fiction than typical YA, beautifully captures the sun-drenched mood of summer as we meet Cameron, a young girl living in a small town in eastern Montana in 1989.
It was the kind of heat where a breeze feels like someone's venting a dryer over the town, whipping dust and making the cottonseeds from the big cottonwoods float across a wide blue sky and collect in soft tufts on neighborhood lawns. Irene and I called it summer snow, and sometimes we'd squint into the dry glare and try to catch cotton on our tongues.
It's a pleasure to be lulled into the slow rhythm of the author's words and to enjoy the moments of stillness and spontaneity throughout the entire story. As the novel begins, Cameron's parents have gone off on their annual camping trip, and she's spending the summer with her best friend Irene, eating too-big scoops of ice cream and strawberry pretzel salad, freezing wet shirts to keep cool, telling stories, and watching the twilight creep over the town. There's a new awareness between the two girls, however, which floods Cameron with pleasure and confusion when things suddenly take an unexpected turn.
There's nothing to know about a kiss like that before you do it. It was all action and reaction, the way her lips were salty and she tasted like root beer. The way I felt sort of dizzy the whole time. If it had been that one kiss, then it would have been just the dare, and that would have been no different than anything we'd done before. But after that kiss, as we leaned against the crates, a yellow jacket swooping and arcing over some spilled pop, Irene kissed me again.
Later, the girls talk about how they'd get in trouble if anyone found out.
Even though no one had ever told me, specifically, not to kiss a girl before, nobody had to. It was guys and girls who kissed--in our grade, on TV, in the movies, in the world; and that's how it worked, guys and girls. Anything else was something weird.
Shortly afterwards, Cameron's parents die in a car crash and she's sent to live with her conservative Aunt Ruth in the small town of Miles City, Montana, where she does her best to fit in and forget what happened before. So when beautiful Coley Taylor arrives on the scene, it spells trouble in a big way--and things spiral out of control in Cameron's world when she is sent off to God's Promise, a Christian de-gaying camp. (The author addresses this very frankly in most of the interviews I've seen, so I'm assuming it's not a spoiler to include that info here.) Here, she is to learn "appropriate gender roles" and refrain from "negative bonding over sinful/unhealthy desires."
I wasn't sure what to expect with this novel, so it was a relief to find it doesn't feel at all heavy-handed. I've realized recently that the problem I have with so many Message Books is that you can so clearly tell the author set out with an agenda and just filled in additional details to make a story. However, The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a fully realized novel in every way, and if Cameron weren't gay, it would still be a well-crafted, well-written story with an immensely appealing protagonist...even if she's not always completely likable. But I sort of like that about her, you know? Because most of us were pretty unbearable as teenagers, and I found her prickliness and defiance to be sympathetic and very real.
Fair warning that Cameron is just as likely to tell you to eff off as she is to bum a smoke off you, though. For even though there are beautiful moments of stillness and jumbled, joyous images of childhood (Cameron puts a piece of flourite in her mouth at one point so she can taste its hardness and grit, which is something I totally did as a kid), there are also frank sexual situations, marijuana use, shoplifting, and all kinds of other things that might normally drive me up the wall when they're casually included in your typical YA book.
But this isn't a fluffy young adult novel at all, and it's easy to understand why Cameron acts out as she tries to figure out who she is under extremely difficult circumstances. Not to mention that her feelings are not at all unusual; Cameron's confusion and longing during the prom scene when Coley dances with someone else is that stuff of universal loneliness and despair. As a reader, it also hurt unbearably to read about Mark Turner, son of a preacher from a mega church in Nebraska, who is the "poster boy for a Christian upbringing, but yet here he was, at Promise, just like the rest of us." Mark's struggles with his faith and his natural impulses are devastating to witness, and it's a brutal reminder that there are sometimes terrible consequences when we ignore what's right in the name of what's righteous.
I appreciated how honestly teenage sex and experimentation were portrayed, in a way that didn't feel tacky or sensationalized. And I appreciated the restraint with which this enormously touchy subject was handled. I found myself getting very angry as I read the book--it's hard not to when you see a child being told unequivocally that he's going to hell for what he feels--but the story is remarkably even-handed. While Cameron is defiant and angry over her containment, as most of the kids are, the few harsh words about the program include "I'm just saying that sometimes you can end up really messing somebody up because the way you're trying to supposedly help them is really messed up." Instead of using this platform to rant or rage, the author simply allows us to get to know Cameron and provides the framework for the question: after reading this girl's story, which is the story of so many girls and boys just like her, can anyone deny the validity of her feelings?
The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a fierce book that boldly explores identity, sexuality, and human responsibility in a relatable way, even as it demands attention from your social conscience and reaches out for your empathy. Even with such a hot-button topic, however, it somehow manages to refrain from outright condemnation of those who oppose its views. It's a shame that twenty years after the events of this book, this type of tolerance is still not entirely a two-way street.
Recommended for mature teens and adults only.
About the Book
The author was partially inspired by the true story of a 16-year-old boy who said he was being sent to a de-gaying camp in Tennessee. Read more about this in the author's Slate interview with author Curtis Sittenfeld.
Emily Danforth also has a deleted scene from the book on her website.
With most Book Sevens, I am usually checking release schedules and making all kinds of martyred noises about how series should quit while they're ahea
With most Book Sevens, I am usually checking release schedules and making all kinds of martyred noises about how series should quit while they're ahead. By that point, authors are usually stuck on rules they've set for how the relationships play out, or they're having trouble coming up with new problems without changing the nature of certain characters.
That's not the case with Chloe Neill's Chicagoland Vampires, however. This series shows no signs of slowing down or relying on tired, recycled story lines or forced conflict to move the action forward. In this particular installment, the vampires' Cadogan House is in a state of flux as its status among the other Houses is called into question. On top of that, vampires are disappearing--and a face from the past comes back to make trouble for Merit and Ethan.
The series' trademark humor, great action sequences, and complicated political intrigue are all here, in ways that feel familiar and yet still fresh. I love that Merit is such a kickass character, but who still struggles with her vulnerability. The question of doing what is honorable comes up again and again in this series, particularly in this installment as she's faced with a new allegiance she's made with the Red Guard that may threaten her standing as Sentinel and protector of her House. I love that Ethan is true to the character we've come to know, and proves again what an admirable Master he is, as well as a good match for Merit. I love that we get to see Jonah, albeit all too briefly--someday he really must get a spinoff series, I think! And I love that awkward Jeff gets some cool moments as well.
There are also some, um, pretty hot scenes in this book. Vampires eyes' get silver when they get angry or excited and let's just say there is a LOT of silvering of eyes and pouncing in this one. :D
If I had to quibble about anything, I'd say that I do wish the author didn't feel the need to use so many of her characters in every single book. While I appreciate the sprawling and memorable cast of characters, as well as how easily she works back story into the narrative, having to explain so much does slow down the momentum of the beginning of each book. And please, let's have these vampires suck a little more blood!
But those are minor points when I enjoy so much about these books--somehow the Chicagoland Vamps just work for me every single time. I'd recommend this series to: anyone who enjoys adult urban fantasies, or to mature YA readers who want to try out books with a similar feel but more adult conflicts. Chicagoland's Merit is a lot like Vampire Academy's Rose, actually. Both strong, principled characters who get into all kinds of trouble, but have a hell of a time fighting--and reasoning--their way out of it.
This review also appears on The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.
3.5 stars Every person in the city of Kersh has a genetic Alternate--but only one will survive! Dun dStop by The Midnight Garden to win a Dualed ARC!
3.5 stars Every person in the city of Kersh has a genetic Alternate--but only one will survive! Dun dun dun. At the age of fifteen, West Grayer has just been notified of her Alt's location, and it's a race against the clock to find and eliminate her...before she herself is killed.
I really enjoy YA science fiction, so Dualed is right up my alley. Who wouldn't be intrigued by a concept like that? The blurb sold it to me, and I'm guessing it will hook a lot of other readers, too. I thought this was a pretty entertaining story, though I did have a few reservations.
What I liked:
-- West. Instead of being a more typical butt-kicking heroine, she's just an ordinary girl--albeit one well-trained to fight--who is placed in circumstances where she has to kill in order to survive.
-- The narrative. I liked being in West's head, and her internal dialogue was written in a way that gave insight into emotions she was hiding from everyone else.
-- The suspenseful cat-and-mouse aspect of West and her Alt hunting each other down kept me guessing.
-- The book is well-paced overall, with good tension and release.
-- Kersh is described in a way that felt reasonably solid in a physical sense, if not overly complex in its philosophies and structure.
-- Some of the fight sequences were really, really fun! A lot of thought was put into the choreography of the movements, as well as sensory details that added to the experience.
What could have been further developed:
-- The secondary characters, particularly the Alts, are pretty one-dimensional. Aren't West and Chord also Alts themselves, after all? It would have been interesting to have more nuanced antagonists.
-- While a certain amount of suspension of belief is certainly required in science fiction that is centered around a concept like this, there aren't really enough convincing explanations as to why there are Alts, what purpose they serve, how all this is administered, why the second one has to be killed, etc.
-- I didn't really understand West becoming a striker, which are assassins hired by the rich and powerful. It happens pretty early on in the book, and the scenes where West is acting in this capacity are among my least favorite. They are where she seems the most lost, and where her actions (or lack of them) are the least understandable.
-- West and Chord have known each other all their lives, so I wish there had been more shared history or feeling there. The connection between them didn't seem any stronger than that between two strangers who had just met.
-- A little more humor, and dialogue that was a little punchier, would have made the characters more relateable--and endearing.
-- A few important scenes could have been written with an aim towards greater emotional impact.
All that said, this one definitely satisfies if you're looking for a fast-paced, suspenseful read. I literally read it in a day, which is a statement in itself of its high entertainment factor! I'll also read the sequel when it comes out next year, although it's with the hope that some of the logic questions and character development are addressed. Fun stuff, if you can suspend your disbelief for a bit.
Recommended for: fans of Divergent, False Memory, and other action-oriented YA science fiction thrillers.