3.5 stars Some amazing angel imagery and shocking scenes, though I think Mercy is the stronger book of the two. It's disappointing to have to wait so...more3.5 stars Some amazing angel imagery and shocking scenes, though I think Mercy is the stronger book of the two. It's disappointing to have to wait so long between installments in the US, though! All four have already been published in other countries.
Survivalist story + shifter. I should have loved this, because I really like the author's Darkest Rising series. But while the first book in this spin...moreSurvivalist story + shifter. I should have loved this, because I really like the author's Darkest Rising series. But while the first book in this spinoff series felt like a loooong road to get to the main point of Maya's story, this installment is so jam-packed with action, there's barely any breathing room in it.
(view spoiler)[While I'm relatively indifferent to the romance, the missing-presumed-dead plot with Rafe annoyed me, because OBVIOUSLY he was just fine. And it irritated me even more when he just suddenly shows up again, and the clumsily handled "betrayal." (hide spoiler)]
This should really be 2 stars for my ho-hum/annoyed reaction to the book, but Kelley Armstrong still writes shifting sequences in a way that I love, both in terms of the character's thought processes and the sheer physicality. Maya's first shift (with her trying to back up and falling on her rump) is so utterly right, and so very familiar to anyone who's spent any time at all with cats.
Headed into the final book for sure, but how I wish this spinoff series didn't seem like such a missed opportunity. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Goes down like a cool glass of sweet tea on a hot summer's day. SO much fun! If you love Hex Hall or other lighthearted, funny paranormal books, you'l...moreGoes down like a cool glass of sweet tea on a hot summer's day. SO much fun! If you love Hex Hall or other lighthearted, funny paranormal books, you'll certainly enjoy this.
Ah, steampunk libertines! Who'd have thought they'd be so appealing?
Books that are heavily influenced by classic stories are always tricky, particula...moreAh, steampunk libertines! Who'd have thought they'd be so appealing?
Books that are heavily influenced by classic stories are always tricky, particularly when it's as ambitious an undertaking as a story inspired by the Edgar Allan Poe classic. I loved the lavish setting and moodiness of the original story, so I had my doubts that anything could come close to capturing its crazy vibe. But somehow Bethany Griffin has managed to create a very similarly dark, extravagant feeling in her gothic adaptation, which is a surprisingly compelling read.
Seventeen-year-old Araby Worth lives in a world devastated by plague. Haunted by the death of her twin brother Finn, she and her friend April spend their nights attending opulent club parties, trying to lose themselves in pleasure so they can forget the what's going on around them. In this atmosphere of dissipation and discontent, she meets the reckless Elliott, the nephew of the mad Prince Prospero who controls the city, and Will, a boy who works at the Debauchery Club who is desperately trying to take care of his little brother and sister. Through her association with them, she is shaken out of her numb acceptance of the world she lives in, and learns that she just might hold the key to saving countless lives.
I fully admit that my overall liking for the book is fairly reliant upon the extravagant world that the author created, but that's not necessarily a bad thing when it's such an important part of adapting Poe. I was mesmerized by: the visuals of porcelain masks that protect the wealthy from the contamination which were invented by Araby's scientist father; disease-carrying bats; zeppelins in the sky; nights of debauchery; tattered velvet dresses; the threat of death by crocodile. I also liked the central story line involving a plan to steal blueprints for the masks so they might be distributed to the poor, and the romance had enough substance to keep me interested, too.
Things that should have driven me crazy but didn't: first person, present tense; a love triangle, mostly because it keeps you guessing for the most part and doesn't always go the expected route; recreational drug use, because it fits in with the story; modern slang mixed in with a historical-ish style; the vow Araby takes to avoid all pleasures that Finn will never get to experience. I do wish that we'd gotten a little further along in the central plot to undermine Prince Prospero, however, as well as in Araby's relationships with...well, everyone, since it seems as though there is a lot of buildup, and then the book ends just as things are really starting to get interesting. And I wish that the choice Araby makes towards the end was a little more meaningful (view spoiler)[since I was never really all that interested in April (hide spoiler)]. I think she's a girl who is just discovering who she is for the first time, however, so I don't mind that we don't really know her all that well yet. She shows the promise of being a strong, take-action sort of heroine, and I'm hoping that we'll see her character, as well as everyone else's, further developed in the sequel.
I really liked Masque of the Red Death (much more than I enjoyed Nevermore, by the way) and I'm dying to see what happens next. Readers who don't mind a slower, more literary style will like this book, and I think most Poe fans will be happy with it, too. The story pays homage to the original story but doesn't adhere to it too slavishly, instead expanding on the world and imagining what would happen if it were a teenage girl that was caught up in the baroque madness. This strange mix of dystopian-steampunk-gothic-romance works really well here, in no small part because the author does such a beautiful job in creating a decadent, imaginative world for the characters--and us--to lose ourselves in.
This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.
Inspiration Behind the Story
If you aren't familiar with Edgar Allan Poe's The Masque of the Red Death, by the way, it's a masterpiece in drama, tension, and symbolism. Read the story online and compare it to this one--I think it actually makes you appreciate what Bethany Griffin did even more.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
4.5 stars Do you believe violent offenders are the product of nature or nurture?
In the case of 17-year-old Jasper “Jazz” Dent, he’s got both factors...more4.5 stars Do you believe violent offenders are the product of nature or nurture?
In the case of 17-year-old Jasper “Jazz” Dent, he’s got both factors working against him. Not only is he the son of the country’s most notorious serial killer, but dear old daddy even forced him to watch those grisly crimes and sometimes…more.
I’ve always been interested in how human beings cope with extreme circumstances, and the way children in particular can demonstrate remarkable resilience. I Hunt Killers sets up a fascinating scenario showing how both environment and biology can contribute to certain conditioned responses and behaviors—and how an innate sense of human decency might be strong enough to overcome even the worst of upbringings. At least that’s what Jazz keeps telling himself. Because now that he suspects that a new serial killer is at work in his small town, he’s flashing back to memories that make him extremely uneasy. Did he help kill someone he loved without knowing it? Is he destined to follow in his father’s footsteps?
What sets this novel apart from all the other paint-by-numbers mysteries is that Jazz is an incredibly complex, believable character. The book has been billed as “Dexter for YA” and it’s an apt comparison; Jazz is likable, relatable, and consumed by the idea that he may not be able to stop himself from doing harm to others. The story itself is engaging, with the masterfully detailed, well-researched criminology aspects related in an accessible way. The book is also HILARIOUS from beginning to end. I didn’t expect to be laughing so much at a book about a possible serial killer in the making, but it’s impossible to resist the graveyard banter running through Jazz’s seasoned, offhand narrative.
Making a duplicate key from a wax impression was an extremely useful skill to have if you were the sort of person who liked invading other people’s homes and killing them.
And later, his best friend Howie earnestly asks him what his middle name is, because he’s sure that serial killers all have three names! The choice to use humor to hook the reader into the story is brilliant, and I thoroughly enjoyed being in Jazz’s conflicted and absurdly playful head.
Despite its humorous tone and exceptional writing, however, my guess is that this is going to be an extremely polarizing book. Its refusal to look away from the often horrific nature of brutal crimes and twisted mind games will be shocking to readers who aren’t used to these kinds of details. Early in the book we’re eased into some crimes because they’re mostly told in past tense, but the later scenes definitely escalate in tension and violence, although I don’t think they really cross the line in terms of being gratuitous rather than graphic.
If I had to quibble about anything, I’d say that Jazz’s give and take relationship with the police is something readers will need to accept, although their doubtful reliance upon him is portrayed in a fairly believable tone. And as with all murder novels, I wasn’t particularly keen on the few scenes told from the killer’s point of view. But those things are really almost incidental when the writing is nearly pitch-perfect in balancing ghoulish humor and a macabre subject.
It’s so exciting to see YA that pushes boundaries in this way. While I confess that I'm a little uneasy about the idea of 13-year-old being exposed to this sort of information, I don’t think the book contains too much explicit material that older teens or adults already haven’t seen in other forms of entertainment. I strongly urge readers to carefully consider whether this is a subject that they want to read about, however, because this book certainly isn’t for the faint of heart. But for the right audience, this thriller will hit all the right notes for an unforgettable reading experience. Its dark, disturbing, and devilishly funny vibe is pure genius.
This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher. Recommended for mature teens and adults only.
If you’re intrigued by the sound of this book, stay tuned. We’ll be giving away an advance readers copy next week on the blog!(less)
The end of the world is coming! When a book begins with the heroine getting hit by a truck and killed in the first chapter, you know you’re in for a g...moreThe end of the world is coming! When a book begins with the heroine getting hit by a truck and killed in the first chapter, you know you’re in for a good time. 17-year-old Janelle Tenner somehow wakes up miraculously unhurt, however, and staring into the eyes of a boy she barely knows. In the 24 days that follow, she has to figure out what Ben has to do with her strange revival, as well as how her FBI agent father’s investigation into a series of unidentified burn victims might tie into her own story...and the fate of her entire world.
This sci-fi mystery took me by surprise, in a very good way. While I go into all YA novels with an open mind, particularly when the premise is as intriguing as this one, I admit to a certain degree of ennui after slogging through so many tedious paranormal romances that don’t add very much to the genre. Despite its somewhat ambiguous blurb, it’s nice to find that this is not PNR at all, although I think it will definitely still appeal to fans of that genre. While there discussions of quantum physics, viral engineering, and various other interesting theories, the book is written in a very accessible and entertaining way. The story does take some cues from X-Files, Fringe, Veronica Mars, and a host of other sources, but I don’t think anyone but the most hard-core fans of those shows will nitpick with the influences that are found here.
Things I really enjoyed:
Janelle’s leafing through her father’s case files: I’m the type to do this too, especially if I found reports of severe radiation poisoning that resulted in gelatinous, melty humans. Let me say that again: gelatinous melty humans. :D
Janelle’s dad: We really only get to know him much later in the book, but her relationship with him was plausibly complicated, with the confusing combination of anger and frustration and love and guilt and regret that starts to surface when you're the heroine's age.
A romance that eventually grew on me: I was relatively indifferent to Ben and Janelle as a couple at first, but I gradually warmed up to their relationship. The first cute moment came with grape soda, and then their attraction grew into a keen connection that I became invested in.
Realistic family drama and setting: Janelle’s father is a workaholic and her mother is bipolar and unreliable, so it’s up to her to parent herself and her younger brother. I thought the family dynamic was well done, and it added an interesting complexity and tension to Janelle’s situation. I also liked the way Janelle’s school life was a part of the book, because it’s such a big part of being a teenager and yet often gets ignored in YA.
Things that could have been smoothed out a bit more:
There’s a lot crammed into 450 pages: While I appreciate the fact that this isn’t not a sketchy wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am kind of book, some of the subplots did seem a bit superfluous. If the ex-boyfriend, subplot about rape, etc. were more compelling, perhaps I wouldn’t have felt that way, but as it is, I think the book easily could have rid itself of 100 pages without losing anything vital.
Fairly unremarkable secondary characters: Aside from Janelle and Ben, Janelle’s dad, and her ex-boyfriend Nick, most of the other characters blended together for me.
The structure: the choice to break up the story into segments corresponding with the mysterious countdown is a good one, but I’m not sure it was necessary to have so many short breakdowns, to the point that essentially each change in scene merits its own chapter. Because the story also flits back and forth as it fills us in on backstory, there were occasions when it also disrupted the flow of the story. We’re in the middle of a tense scene at the climax of the book, for example, when we suddenly step out of the action to a flashback of Halloween, which could have easily been included elsewhere.
A couple of overly dramatic gun-brandishing moments, one of which I suppose could be explained away as the character’s extreme agitation after finding out upsetting news, but it’s a little harder to look the other way when it’s being done by an FBI agent.
Writing technique occasionally trumping story: this goes back to the structure thing, although there are other moments when I felt a little jolted out of the engrossing plot because of a line that is included for irony or affect. For example, Ben’s unorthodox way of telling Janelle how he feels about her, “I fucking love you,” is strangely commandeered by someone else during an important scene towards the end of the book. In my opinion, the emotional punch of a poignant moment was interrupted and diminished because of that inclusion.
Despite these criticisms (and my dislike for the Heroes-like tagline), I very much enjoyed this book, which is the first one in a planned series. While I wasn’t really surprised by any of the twists and it wasn’t a story that moved me strongly enough to tears, I did find that the way the author explores the aftermath of grief and separation seemed very true to life, particularly in Janelle’s conflicting feelings and the heavy weight of her responsibilities. That strong opening scene is also bookended with a fantastic ending, one that leaves the door open for the story continue, but also feels emotionally satisfying—even if it is extremely wistful, bittersweet one.
Unraveling is a great blend of science fiction, mystery, and romance with solid writing and a memorable story, and this debut author is definitely one to watch.
This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.
I enjoy mysteries, but I am not a huge fan of the writing, overall plot, or the characters in this book. The killer also seemed pretty obvious as soon...moreI enjoy mysteries, but I am not a huge fan of the writing, overall plot, or the characters in this book. The killer also seemed pretty obvious as soon as he/she shows up. There are also some pretty tasteless scenarios, starting with "I jerked him off" from one of the main characters at just 7% in. Probably won't bother some readers, but that sort of thing (written in that way) is definitely not to my taste.(less)
3.5 stars Liked, but didn't quite love, although I think a lot of readers will go crazy over this one. There's a preview chapter for the Iron Fey spin...more3.5 stars Liked, but didn't quite love, although I think a lot of readers will go crazy over this one. There's a preview chapter for the Iron Fey spinoff at the end too, Julie Kagawa fans!
This book is so much fun, and a terrific start to a promising series. I am far too behind on reviews I have to do to write one for this, but I did wri...moreThis book is so much fun, and a terrific start to a promising series. I am far too behind on reviews I have to do to write one for this, but I did write a spoiler-free review of book two here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...
If you enjoy sarcastic quips and hot boys with your YA urban fantasy, you'll definitely want to pick this one up, though!(less)