Wildly imaginative and thrilling, this complex and beautiful story follows brave, fierce Lyra Belacqua in her quest to save her childhood friend. The...moreWildly imaginative and thrilling, this complex and beautiful story follows brave, fierce Lyra Belacqua in her quest to save her childhood friend. The book is filled with dazzling adventure and marvelous inventiveness, as well as many scenes that will fill readers with utter horror and pity.
There are witches, gypsies, daemons, and best of all--armored polar bears! The warrior bears have a spectacular battle scene towards the end that still shakes me to the core when I read it. There aren't words enough to describe what an important work of literature this is, not only for children, but also for thinking, feeling, dreaming adults as well.(less)
A well-written, twisty puzzle of a mystery, filled with fantastic clues, unforgettable characters, and countless red herrings. Turtle Wexler will alwa...moreA well-written, twisty puzzle of a mystery, filled with fantastic clues, unforgettable characters, and countless red herrings. Turtle Wexler will always be a hero to me.(less)
I love the Emily books so much. Her passion and her dreams, along with her dignity, were expressed in a way that really appealed to me when I read the...moreI love the Emily books so much. Her passion and her dreams, along with her dignity, were expressed in a way that really appealed to me when I read them as an impressionable teenager. The formative years of every girl's life are filled with wild hopes and worries and exhilaration, and as an adult, I re-read this series with a great deal of fondness.
I also love Teddy Kent. Such a romantic character, and how lovely to have your childhood friend be the love of your life!
Some of the anecdotes, like many of L.M. Montgomery's, do cross over into exaggerated predicaments and a wee bit of melodrama...but honestly, that's part of the fun of indulging in books like these.
It had always seemed to Emily, ever since she could remember, that she was very, very near to a world of wonderful beauty. Between it and herself hung only a thin curtain; she could never draw the curtain aside-- but sometimes, just for a moment, a wind fluttered it and then it was as if she caught a glimpse of the enchanting realm beyond-- only a glimpse-- and heard a note of unearthly music.(less)
A lot of people don't like this Vampire Academy book as much, but it's one of my favorites. There are breath-taking battle sequences at the end, and a...moreA lot of people don't like this Vampire Academy book as much, but it's one of my favorites. There are breath-taking battle sequences at the end, and a devastating aftermath that leaves Rose forever changed. My respect for her grew leaps and bounds in this book, and the series really kicked into high gear both in story and in emotion.(less)
3.5 stars Val Shapiro is a part-demon vampire slayer. And she has a snarky dog named Fang who thinks at her in all caps.
Bite Me, the first book in th...more3.5 stars Val Shapiro is a part-demon vampire slayer. And she has a snarky dog named Fang who thinks at her in all caps.
Bite Me, the first book in the Underground series, surprised me with its butt-kicking heroine, deadpan humor, and an interesting set-up. I really liked Val and Fang, whose relationship is the most compelling one in the book. There are also some great fight scenes and some intriguing secondary characters, including Shade, Micah, Ramirez, and Tessa, and the whole thing is well-written and moves along at a fast pace.
The book could have used some fleshing out, however, in the conflicts with her family. Val handles it maturely (so refreshing for YA), but there's not much insight into her mother's or her stepfather's or her sister's characters. They only make themselves known in the context of the main character, so it's hard to get to know them--and therefore it's hard to get a good feel for emotional tension. Some of the plotting in the middle and latter parts of the book could have used some streamlining as well, as there are a LOT of visits to go see this person and that person and a LOT of talking at all those locations. Plus the whole set-up might've been a little more convincing if Val were simply helping out an underground task force rather than an official police department--I mean, the girl is only 18. Most of all though, Val needs a better love interest than the good-hearted but supremely uninteresting Dan.
I thought the scene where Val lends her strength to Dan by using Shade as a conduit was very strong, though, and I'd love to see more of that type of thing in future books. I'm intrigued enough to keep reading the series (the next two books arealready out), as I think the author shows a lot of promise. But please--let's get this succubus a sexier boyfriend! (less)
Sometimes you ask for something...and the author actually grants your wish! After reading Bite Me recently, I noted that the series would be a lot mor...moreSometimes you ask for something...and the author actually grants your wish! After reading Bite Me recently, I noted that the series would be a lot more fun if Val, who is a vampire-slaying part-succubus, actually got a decent boyfriend. I'm happy to say that in the second and third installments in the series, Val breaks up with the honorable but boring Dan and hooks up with someone much more interesting.
And that someone is Shade, a fascinating shadow demon who has transparent skin that shows the powerful energy swirling around inside him. Shade's skin only appears normal when he's grounded by touching someone else, and paired with the ability to absorb and reshape energy, this character pretty spectacular. Val is partnered with Shade to help figure out who's betraying the Demon Underground and to recover the missing Encylopedia Magicka, and later finds that he's very helpful in channeling Lola, her inner lust demon. Unfortunately, just as Val starts getting closer to her boyfriend, she's faced with a difficult choice: is love worth giving up your identity for?
As in the first installment, Val's sidekick demon hellhound Fang is still snarky and hilarious and sweet, and now has a lady companion of his own who wreaks havoc in her own inimitable way. The struggles and power plays between the demons and the vamps has been ratcheted up, with tensions mounting as both sides try to maintain a temporary truce while fighting the unrest and deception within their own factions. Val really comes into her own in these books as a strong female character who's not only a butt-kicking action hero, but who also consistently tries to do the right thing. It's also great to see a hot but mutually respectful relationship; Shade doesn't hesitate to disagree with Val when he thinks she's wrong, but their arguments don't turn nasty and controlling like they do in so many other books.
The author has already announced that she's working on Make Me, the fourth book in this series, which will be out in 2012. Fans of the Chicagoland Vampires or Vampire Academy (and kick-ass heroines in general) will definitely love this series.
This review is also available at The Midnight Garden. An advance copy of this book was provided by the publisher.
Anyone who is a fan of Vampire Academy will love the sarcastic, meat-loving, ass-kicking Merit. This is a fun series that follows a typical "newly for...moreAnyone who is a fan of Vampire Academy will love the sarcastic, meat-loving, ass-kicking Merit. This is a fun series that follows a typical "newly formed vamp" story, but is also filled with lots of great action and excellent training sequences. The power plays between the different covens is well done, Merit's relationships with her friends is strong and true, and there are some super cute guys in it. A fast-paced, thoroughly entertaining start to the series.(less)
Fun fun fun! I love Vampire Academy but I haven't been able to get into the Georgina Kincaid books as much, so it's great to find that this series is...moreFun fun fun! I love Vampire Academy but I haven't been able to get into the Georgina Kincaid books as much, so it's great to find that this series is so entertaining. Eugenie, like all of Richelle Mead's heroines, is a kick-ass character and both Kiyo and Dorian are appealing in different ways. Some great action scenes, in both the battle field and the bedroom. Looking forward to starting Thorn Queen.(less)
Have you ever stood in your house, listening to a quiet, unfamiliar noise, and felt the hair rise on the back of your neck? Cas Lowood has, and the un...moreHave you ever stood in your house, listening to a quiet, unfamiliar noise, and felt the hair rise on the back of your neck? Cas Lowood has, and the unholy hell of what he finds when he investigates will make you jump a little bit in your seat. He's a 17-year-old who kills the dead with a magic athame, just as his father did before him--and now he's faced with the task of killing Anna, a homicidal ghost who was murdered more than 60 years ago.
Cas is a fantastically strong and appealing protagonist, but it's really Anna who takes center stage. Imagine the visual of a pale girl with inky hair floating in a dark house, her beautiful white dress slowly drip-drip-dripping with blood. She's deadly dangerous and full of vengeful fury, however, because of the way she was killed. When you find out what really happened to Anna, it's hard not to feel terrible pity for her--and to understand why Cas has such a hard time killing her.
If you've been looking for a great YA horror novel, look no further. Anna Dressed in Blood is a stunning novel, full of atmospheric spookiness and unthinkable horrors. I cringed reading about ghosts with stones where their eyes should be, I yelped when Cas goes down into a basement full of...dreadful things, and my eyes got as big as saucers when the walls starting bleeding. But although the descriptions are full of vivid imagery and there's plenty of brutal action, what happens isn't at all gross. If anything, there's a dark beauty in the descriptions and an elegance in the writing that makes every scene a true pleasure to read. My reading status updates will give you a peek at some of the lines and scenes that particularly made me shiver, but I really had to restrain myself from posting one every couple of pages, as there's so much to savor, even in simple but humorous lines such as "She's wearing the same smile as her cat." I found just as much to love in the writing as I did the fantastic story, and the cheeky humor made me laugh even in dire and inappropriate circumstances.
This is the darker, more grown-up version of Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, and it's much more violent and much more polished. Anna offers an unforgettable thrill of a ride--and it catapulted instantly to my favorites list for the year. I am so excited about this author and I can't wait for the sequel, Girl of Nightmares, to come out in 2012. Read it, read it, read it! I promise it will make you shudder, in the very best of ways.
This book has zombies in it, but to call it a zombie or horror novel does it a disservice. There are some awesome action sequences, but no gratuitous...moreThis book has zombies in it, but to call it a zombie or horror novel does it a disservice. There are some awesome action sequences, but no gratuitous feeding scenes, screaming teenagers, or B-horror movie cliches or gore. It's more of a novel about journalism, the right to information and free speech, and the personal and political ramifications of a wide-spreading disease. With occasional zombie action.
This is also not necessarily a young adult novel. Not because it's inappropriate in any way, but because the themes it addresses are hard and sometimes the narrative is pretty dry. In the year 2039, Georgia and Shaun Mason, along with their friend Buffy (recognize any zombie-related names there?), are invited to cover Senator Ryman's presidential campaign in a world in which the Kellis-Amberlee virus has decimated the country's population and resources. Traditional news organizations have given way to the rise of internet journalism, and the trio of young bloggers must uncover a terrible conspiracy and disseminate information to their readers, all while risking their very lives.
The strengths in this novel include incredibly well thought-out world-building, strong characters, snappy dialogue, unexpected plot twists, and excellent action sequences. Mira Grant's attention to detail in Feed regarding precautionary measures, sterilization procedures, and waiting for heart-pounding test results all rang very true. (Richard Preston's The Hot Zone: A Terrifying True Story scared the bejesus out of me when it was first published in 1999, and for awhile I was fascinated by the CDC and read a lot of books about various outbreaks and plagues.) Georgia, who is the primary narrator, is a butt-kicking heroine with a huge amount of integrity, and I loved her adopted brother Shaun, who sports both a cheerfully bantering demeanor and a crossbow. I have a healthy amount of respect for their efforts to survive and for their pursuit of truth, which often came at great cost to themselves and to those they hold dear.
This is not to say that this is a perfect novel. There are overly long info-dumping passages (they are intelligently written and provide necessary back story, but they are info-dumps all the same) that would have been better served with more dialogue; a surprisingly uncomplicated, easy-to-spot villain; and some aspects of Georgia and Shaun's relationship that were teased but perhaps a bit unexplored. I wish there was also better build up of tension, a few more zombie encounters, less politics (a personal preference, though, since I find politics a big snoozefest), a less prolonged ending following a major game-changing event, and a little more emotion throughout the book. Overall, I think the spareness of prose and Georgia's all-business approach worked within the context of the story, but because I'm always looking for emotional connection, I would liked to have seen it spread out in more than just a couple of places.
However...the scenes with emotional impact pack a gigantic wallop. It's hard to surprise me these days with unexpected story twists, but this one managed to do it not once, but twice--and the outcomes of both those revelations ratchet up the stakes in a way that nothing else could have. I had early, anxious worries about the ending, but things didn't unfold the way I expected--and it still didn't prepare me for the tears that flowed freely and the awful ache in my throat, both of which still come and go as I think about the book. That characters would still, in such extreme and tragic circumstances, behave with such integrity and nobility and selflessness and love, just wrenches my heart.
To be honest, this would probably normally be a 4 star review because of points I mentioned. But because of its heartrending and unforgettable ending, it gets 4.5 stars from me. I think as readers, most of us go through dozens and dozens of books hoping to find that one book that shatters our expectations and leaves us speechless with unexpected feeling. For me, Feed is one that definitely does that.
Here is my spoiler-free review of the sequel (which is okay to read even if you haven't read FEED). Reminder: DO NOT READ the synopsis for the second book in the trilogy, however, as it spoils major plot points for this first book. (less)
*Spoiler-Free* Don't worry, Chicagoland fans. *pat pat* Everything will be okay.
4.5 starsIt's been two months since the nail-biting events of Hard Bit...more*Spoiler-Free* Don't worry, Chicagoland fans. *pat pat* Everything will be okay.
4.5 starsIt's been two months since the nail-biting events of Hard Bitten, and Merit is still dealing with the fall-out from what occurred. As Cadogan House is investigated for mismanagement and blood rations keep everyone on edge, there's also trouble when Lake Michigan suddenly turns black and fingers are pointed at the vamps. Merit must work together with Jonah, the attractive captain of the guards at Grey House, to find out who's really responsible, even as she's haunted by dreams that she doesn't understand.
Merit has always been a strong, smart, and funny heroine, but her loyalty and her honor really come through in this particular book. We also get more kickass fight scenes, interesting political developments as a pending paranormal registration act causes tempers to flare, complicated problems with Merit's best friend Mallory, skies that turn ruby red, and tense run-ins with faeries and lake sirens. I also liked that Malik has stepped up in a stronger role at Cadogan, and how respect and trust and allegiance are, as always, big themes in this series.
But never mind all that--you want to know about Ethan! The sexy, green-eyed Master is never far from Merit's mind, and he casts a long shadow over all of the turmoil at Cadogan House. After the sucker punch dealt to fans in the last book, many of us worried about the direction that the series was taking. But most readers are going to be very, very satisfied with the way Merit deals with her feelings for Ethan as well as her reluctant attraction to Jonah. I am really happy that she finds the strength to come to terms with this very tricky situation, and every development in this story arc feels completely right and emotionally true.
I continue to be impressed by how Chloe Neill juggles a sizable cast of characters and all kinds of interesting subplots while moving Merit's personal story forward. There's no doubt at all that this series will continue to deliver the great stories and quality entertainment we've come to expect. And yeah, I gave an urban fantasy book 5 stars--what of it? Chicagoland has always been the cream of the crop for this genre, and Drink Deep is by far the best book in the series to date.
Have you ever pictured yourself wandering among the tombs at Westminster Abbey, marveling at the sheer wonder of being among the greatest literary fig...moreHave you ever pictured yourself wandering among the tombs at Westminster Abbey, marveling at the sheer wonder of being among the greatest literary figures in history? Sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray is taken to Poets' Corner by someone who understands exactly what such an experience will mean to her, and this lovely little moment in the sequel to Clockwork Angel perfectly encapsulates everything I love about the Infernal Devices series. Tessa is a shapeshifting Shadowhunter who is becoming accustomed to her powers, but in the middle of all the magic and mystery in Victorian England, the relationships between Tessa, the enigmatic Will, and the thoughtful, sensitive Jem remain the very heart of the story.
Following a rather, ahem, provocative prologue, the story really begins as the London Institute of Shadowhunters is given two weeks to find the evil Magister, who is still determined to gain control of Tessa’s powers and bring down the Enclave. Tessa and the Shadowhunters must battle dreadful clockwork creatures, demons, and even treachery within their own ranks before everything around them is forever altered. Readers who agonized over the last book will be happy to know that we see the beginnings of the ties between the Lightwood and Herondale families, find out what the initials "JTS" mean, and spend more time getting to know all the characters, including Magnus, Jessamine, Henry, Charlotte, and Sophie.
Here are the other important elements that I loved from this story:
Tessa, Will, and Jem
Tessa becomes more sure of her unique position and powers, and her relationships with both the boys in her life deepen in a life-changing way. Jem unexpectedly reveals an incredibly alluring side to him that we’ve never seen before, and we finally discover the devastating secret in handsome Will’s tragic past. This is one of the most well-written love triangles I’ve ever read, with a strong girl torn between two very attractive and honorable boys; there are good reasons for Tessa to love them both, but also excellent reasons for her to give her heart to neither. It is nothing short of torture to feel Tessa’s deep pull towards Jem and Will, both of whom have swooningly romantic and wildly sensual moments with our heroine. Believe me, the infamous Dirty Sexy Balcony Scene more than lives up to its promise, and I clutched my pearls more than once while reading this book!
What Tessa never forgets, however, is that as confused as she is about her feelings for Jem and Will, there is also a lifelong friendship between them that she must honor. Jem’s illness, Will’s love for and dependence upon him, and her own need for self-respect all contribute to an intensely difficult situation, and one that made me hurt for everyone involved.
The Victorian details in this novel make me quite ill with pleasure. That's right, ill with pleasure. I'm not even speaking solely of catnip such as the clothes and carriages and the like, but of a finer, deeper authenticity that has to do with a way of truly immersive thinking, rather than just trifling details. It seems to be so difficult for many YA historical fiction authors to refrain from projecting anachronistic modern attitudes onto period characters, but Tessa Gray stands out as a true Victorian heroine. She shows courage and spirit, but it's within the appropriate behaviors and thinking patterns for a girl living in the 19th century; if she breaks tradition, she thinks about it (and we know it's unusual) before she does so.
Even while she's being trained for self-defense by other Shadowhunters, Tessa spends a great deal of her time struggling to reconcile her magical powers and responsibilities with her upbringing and social decorum. The role of women in oppressive circumstances has always interested me, and Tessa’s internal dialogue and conduct (along with Sophie’s) are notably in keeping with all the other spot-on period details, which are meticulously researched and beautifully woven into the story. Before she began writing this series, the author rather famously moved to England for six months and read nothing but books written or set in the Victorian era, and even walked all the streets that her characters might have traveled. There is a certain mood and style that is decidedly steeped in the foundations of this research, and the dexterous language and witty dialogue feel pretty nearly perfect and true to the time—with allowances for fantasy and magic, of course. Tessa transcends the thinking of the time and uses clever magic and thinking to outwit her adversaries at every turn.
A Love of Literature
Another thing I also adore about this series is how much appreciation all the characters have for literature. I still remember the awe I felt the first time I went to Westminster Abbey, and it struck a chord to hear Tessa say, “I can’t explain it. It’s like being among friends, being among these names.” Upon traveling to the countryside for the first time, she also says, "I feel as though I have seen it before. In books. I keep imagining I’ll see Thornfield Hall rising up beyond the trees, or Wuthering Heights perched on a stony crag.“ It is nearly impossible for any lover of books, particularly those with an unruly bit of romance in her soul, to fail to thrill when reading words like this. Tessa is a kindred spirit for me, and I think she would be for many other thinking, dreaming readers as well.
If you were dying for this second installment in the Infernal Devices series, rest assured that it has been more than worth the wait. It's full of great action scenes, a clever use of magic, and the hilarious dialogue that we've come to expect from these characters. It is, however, also an intensely emotional read for those invested in the characters, so be prepared with tissues—I cried several times near the heartbreaking end and it's going to be so hard to wait another whole year for Clockwork Princess. Was the book satisfying? Yes. Was it agonizing? A thousand times, yes. But it was painful in the most exquisite and emotionally truthful of ways.
This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.
My poor heart has never felt this way after finishing a series; I had no idea it was possible to feel such tempered happiness as well as such overwhel...moreMy poor heart has never felt this way after finishing a series; I had no idea it was possible to feel such tempered happiness as well as such overwhelming grief for everyone involved. Many of the things I thought might happen, did--and yet it doesn't change my fierce love and admiration for the way everything unfolded.
THIS is how a love triangle should be written, in a way that preserves the honor of everyone involved. There isn't another series out there that has ever managed to handle one with such love and kindness and respect.
Ugh, that epilogue. Still sobbing uncontrollably. I don't know how to stop! My puny human heart wasn't meant to process such epic love stories.
P.S. If you're considering reading the Infernal Devices series, I wrote a real review for Clockwork Prince here, which is book #2. It contains no spoilers, even if you haven't read the first book.