4.5 stars Smart, serious, sexy, and playful all at once--and not a single freaking cliche. It is heartening to see authors taking advantage of the lib...more4.5 stars Smart, serious, sexy, and playful all at once--and not a single freaking cliche. It is heartening to see authors taking advantage of the liberties that writing for the New Adult category affords--and doing it with integrity and style.
This book is kind of like a really great episode of Felicity, with smart girls (non liberal arts girls, too!), intense worry about education, complicated family relationships, anxiety over identity and dating and life decisions, and one seriously cute boy.
Big thanks to my friend Emily, who raved so much about this book that I added it, bought it, read it, and loved it without ever reading the synopsis. We should all have awesomely reliable blogger friends like that.
And now I'm going to have to go get some baklava tomorrow. *fans self*(less)
Well, I stayed up all night reading this one. A well-crafted story that's humorous, but also a serious look at all the secrets we keep from one anothe...moreWell, I stayed up all night reading this one. A well-crafted story that's humorous, but also a serious look at all the secrets we keep from one another--and ourselves.
Definitely looking into other books by this author.
4.5 stars A story that is brutal and savage, yet full of honor and tenderness as well. A satisfying conclusion to a series I've come to admire tremend...more4.5 stars A story that is brutal and savage, yet full of honor and tenderness as well. A satisfying conclusion to a series I've come to admire tremendously.
Everything, everything, everything a violent crime thriller should be, and the best Slaughter book to date. (view spoiler)[ I am even more irritated w...moreEverything, everything, everything a violent crime thriller should be, and the best Slaughter book to date. (view spoiler)[ I am even more irritated with The Shining Girls now. Grrrrr. (hide spoiler)]
4.5 starsSiege and Storm is an exquisite jewel of a book. The second installment in Leigh Bardugo's Grisha Trilogy is full of adventure and magic--and in my view, it's even better than Shadow and Bone.
There are flying ships. A thrilling, poignant scene with a magnificent white ice dragon. A whirling, frenzied volcra attack in the night. A sobering ride through the city of Novokribirsk, where names are written in blood on church walls and a Ryeal'nye Alina, "genuine Alina" has terrifying meaning. And Genya--oh, my heart breaks for the beautiful Genya.
So much thought was put into this world, with evocative settings, original folk tales, gorgeous clothes, memorable battles, and incredibly imaginative touches. (I love the gift from Nikolai's father!) The food porn, both real and imagined, made me dizzy with pleasure: smoked sprats on black bread, little dwarf fruit trees, brandied cuckoo, cold soup served in jeweled pumpkin-shaped cups, croquembouche, and a suckling pig, to name but a few of the items that made my mouth water. And I definitely want to have a baby jello deer at my next party! Preferably with a miniature living forest centerpiece.
And while I still hold love for both Mal and The Darkling, there's now also Sturmhond, a dashing privateer with a careless grin and hidden agenda. I can't help it, friends, I have a serious weakness for men who have a gift for witty banter. (view spoiler)[He's been added to my fictional island, where swoonworthy YA boys like Will Herondale, Dimitri Belikov, Adrian Ivashkov, and Archer Cross roam about freely like ponies. You may come visit, they're always willing to play. (hide spoiler)] Alina's interactions with Sturmhond are so much fun to read, and even when he's out of the room, his presence continues to fill it.
"So you don't trust me to resist his charms?"
"I don't even trust myself. I've never seen anyone work a crowd the way he does. I'm pretty sure the rock and trees are getting ready to swear fealty to him."
Most of all, I love how Alina character has undergone interesting development. She begins asserting herself more and more, and the allure of power beckons seductively--but the price she must pay for it may be more than she can afford.
I looked up at the star-filled sky. The night was velvety black and strewn with jewels. The hunger struck me suddenly. I want them, I thought. All that light, all that power. I want it all.
Her relationship with Mal is now terribly complicated, both by her position as Sun Summoner and by the position she's put him in. So many YA books revert to tired old machinations to separate love interests, but the tension and difficulty between these two feel urgent and real.
I have to say, Shadow and Bone is the only book that all three of us read and loved last year on the blog, and all three of us love this sequel, too! I mean, K says it deserves a meteor shower of stars. What does this mean for book three? Will Leigh Bardugo blow our minds with Ruin and Rising? I have the feeling the answer is going to be a resounding YES.
An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.
4.5 stars Fantastic debut! Written like an adult urban fantasy, and a must-read for fans of Vampire Academy. There is, ahem, a very Dimitri-Rose dynam...more4.5 stars Fantastic debut! Written like an adult urban fantasy, and a must-read for fans of Vampire Academy. There is, ahem, a very Dimitri-Rose dynamic going on with this one.
Had a great ending, am very curious to see what will happen next...(less)
This is the fantastical story of a boy tormented by nightmares that literally--literally!--become real. Set shortly after the events of The Raven Boys...moreThis is the fantastical story of a boy tormented by nightmares that literally--literally!--become real. Set shortly after the events of The Raven Boys, the students of Aglionby Academy are still on the hunt for a legendary sleeping Welsh king. This time, while we continue to get perspectives from multiple POVs, the story primarily focuses on Ronan Lynch, a troubled and angry 17-year-old who pulls dark objects out of his dreams. But when ley lines running through their sleepy town are awakened, incredible power is unleashed, and none of the boys are prepared for the ordeal that awaits them.
I liked The Raven Boys so much that I was nervous going into this one--but I think this book actually surpasses its predecessor, in no small part because of its sharp-eyed character sketches. Adam still worries me. I feel tremendous love and pity for poor Noah. I'm eager to learn more about the entire Lynch clan. And I'm finally starting to feel something for Gansey, as well as to feel the lovely pulse of connection between him and Blue. Add to that a pair of compelling, nuanced antagonists in The Gray Man and one willfully destructive Joseph Kavinsky, and this world is filled with a host of unforgettable players. The author has the ability to create such fierce depth of feeling towards her characters with a single phrase such as "a teddy bear of a boy," in reference to Ronan's younger brother Matthew, whom you immediately want to cuddle and protect all at once.
I haven't been able to stop thinking about this book since I finished it. I have so many crazy theories about where this quest will lead, and I desperately want to know what happens to everyone. Aside from thrilling, nightmarish scenes, gorgeous prose, wild revelations, shocking deaths, and clever humor, there are also delicious layers to this novel that you may not fully appreciate until after you're through, including distinct symbolism (both subtle and powerful), sly hidden jokes, and a deep complexity of thought and plot and emotion. It's such an interesting meditation on the power of dreams and how hidden desire can influence our actions, from Ronan's waking nightmares to his mother and father's unusual relationship to...more yearnings that I won't spoil for you.
I could also write an entire essay about how The Dream Thieves contains one of the most beautiful, heartbreaking kisses in the history of kisses. (Yes. The ENTIRE HISTORY of kisses.) It's a delicate moment that's suffused with the breathless wonder of discovery, and it's all the more poignant because it's entirely unexpected, and because you are well aware of its context for both parties. Tears are literally welling up in my eyes again as I write this, because that type of longing and sadness pulls so deeply at my heart.
There isn't any way for a single review to do justice to this book, but this line from The Dream Thieves sums up its own story rather nicely:
Magic was real, magic was real, magic was real.
And it runs deep and true through Maggie Stiefvater's veins.
This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.
P.S There's a huge spoiler-tagged discussion going on down below with theories on what everything MEANS, if you'd care to speculate. But please use spoiler tags!
I also participated in a rather epic chat with several authors about this book, including Sarah Ockler and R.J. Anderson--and let me tell you, there are no better companions to discuss a story like this with than a bunch of smart, passionate authors who are just as excited about the book as you are. One of the mind-blowing takeaways from that discussion: consider the characters as tarot cards.
Wow, what a huge surprise this was! Unexpected layers, a heroine who develops over the course of the book, and a seriously, seriously crush-worthy guy...moreWow, what a huge surprise this was! Unexpected layers, a heroine who develops over the course of the book, and a seriously, seriously crush-worthy guy.
I've thought and thought about what to write about this novella, but all you really need to know is that after some teases in the previous Elementals...moreI've thought and thought about what to write about this novella, but all you really need to know is that after some teases in the previous Elementals books including Spark, we finally get to know what Nick Merrick's been hiding from everyone, including himself. This is a must-read for any fan of the series, and after you've finished you'll be beating down the author's door trying to get your hands on Nick's full-length novel Siege, which comes out next year.
If you haven't tried this series yet, by the way, now is a good time to start! I was skeptical when I first read about the premise of four hot guys who could harness the power of the earth elements, but the stories are wickedly fun, with moments of surprising substance and emotion.
As part of the tour we're hosting for the new book Spirit, you can download the Elemental novella for free. Use the promo code VCARD to get your free book (though that link only!), which is good through May 31.
My pals Jen and Steph are also hosting an Elementals Readalong. Sign up here or here if you're interested.
4.5 starsIf You Find Me is a stunning debut that explores the consequences of child neglect.
The heart of this book is beautiful. There is poetic soul...more4.5 starsIf You Find Me is a stunning debut that explores the consequences of child neglect.
The heart of this book is beautiful. There is poetic soul beneath the rough edges of backwoods dialect and unpolished story, and the honesty in the book's emotional journey shines through even when Carey is angry or scared. And while the ending may have felt a little too neat in some ways, there is redemptive and truthful quality to this girl's story that I respond to strongly. After all those years of living in awful circumstances, Carey's physical well-being is finally assured--but the truth is, none of us are whole until our hearts are mended.
The full text of this review appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.
Read the incredibly touching story behind If You Find Me through the author's guest post for our blog. It made me cry. (less)
STATUS: Considered a serious risk to all reasonable conduct.
This paper is an emergency presentation to provide anecdotal evidence that the young adult author Brigid Kemmerer is a menace to society. Through her Elemental series, which follows a group of dangerously attractive brothers with the power to harness the forces of nature, she has irresponsibly spread rampant mass hysteria in a thinly disguised attempt to take over the paranormal romance genre.
TEST READERS HAVE REPORTED: irregular breathing, flushed cheeks, and most alarmingly, a tendency to dissolve into incoherent giggles while reading the novels. Left unchecked, the subject will continue to be a detriment to all reasonable behavior as readers seem physically incapable of putting down her books.
Furthermore, after careful examination of her latest novel Spark, the following conclusions have been drawn.*
Theory #1: Brigid Kemmerer may be a gleeful pyromaniac. Of all the natural earth elements, fire is perhaps the hardest to control and the most thoroughly destructive. Gabriel Merrick has been able to transform this incredibly powerful element all his life--but problem is, right now he's having trouble controlling it. And in his desire to prove himself, he takes on dangerous risks that alienate those he cares about the most. The author's descriptions of the magic harnessed and the gorgeous yet frightening sight of fire flaring out of control are incredibly evocative, and will likely satisfy those who felt let down by a similarly themed but disappointing Struck. Given how convincingly the fire element is described in this book, it's entirely possible that the author's deadly accuracy comes from personal experience with playing with this fascinating and unknowable force.
Theory #2: Brigid Kemmerer is surrounded by gorgeous, playful men who know how to kiss a girl senseless. It's hard to write a male who is cocky, sarcastic, and a nice guy underneath it all, but Gabriel is a completely believable teenage guy who mouths off without thinking, but who is also capable of decency and tenderness. Both he and Layne, the troubled girl who tutors him, are layered, interesting characters whose relationship develops naturally. All the hot and heavy makeout scenes and underlying emotional growth in this book are likely the result of months and months of hedonistic indulgence as the author "researched" her book.
Theory #3: Brigid Kemmerer stole the prized guidebook on How to Write a Fun Paranormal Romance. This highly coveted manual outlines how to introduce fascinating powers, nuanced characters, snappy, amusing dialogue, and highly entertaining plots. What's especially interesting about Spark is that Kemmerer mixes up some of the usual paranormal checkpoints so that the main character is denied his power and the romantic interest is unaware of his abilities for most of the book, so that the swoon-worthy romance and the brotherly relationships are what really carry this story through. The fact that the subject was able to write a fun and fluffy book that isn't shallow provides nearly irrevocable proof that the author has confiscated the very few copies of the guidebook that exist.
*Please note that these theories are yet unproven, but the testimony from countless readers is overwhelming authentication.
CONCLUSION: Subject must be captured at all costs and detained until the remaining Elemental books are finished, so test readers may go through the series as quickly as possible. It is absolutely vital that their exposure is limited to a short period of time. Failure to contain Kemmerer's growing popularity will result in untold damage to readers' health, work habits, and relationships as their rampant enthusiasm for her books will continue to override all common sense.
This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.
Win an Autographed Copy of Spark!VOLUNTEER TO TEST THIS DANGEROUS CONTRABAND:
Brigid Kemmerer has offered to prove that her books are not detrimental to your health. She will send a copy of Spark with an inscribed message to one of our readers anywhere in the world. (And no, you don't necessarily have to have read the first book before reading this one.)
If you're interested in volunteering despite all of our attempts to convince you how much reading these books will affect your well-being, you may enter on the blog.
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...more
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.
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)
So here it is: the conclusion of yet another of my favorite series. Did all the YA writers get together to plot to torture us in 2013?
No spoilers belo...moreSo here it is: the conclusion of yet another of my favorite series. Did all the YA writers get together to plot to torture us in 2013?
No spoilers below, even if you haven't started the series yet.
My favorite thing about Soul Screamers: Kaylee has grown so much over the course of these books. As a bean sidthe, or banshee who calls souls of the dead, she started out somewhat naive and unsure of herself, but grew into a strong, admirable young woman. She makes huge sacrifices for her friends and family, but has stayed somebody you'd still want to invite over for popcorn and a movie. 'Cause you know she'd eat some to be polite, even if she doesn't...feel like it.
Other things about the series that are done well: strong family bonds. (Aren't you tired of absent parents or parents who just don't "get" their teens and are nothing more than annoying roadblocks to a good time?) Well-defined secondary characters, many of whom have their own interesting story arcs. Mythology that is well thought out, with cool soul-calling and blood-letting. Humorous dialogue. Emotional turmoil handled in a reasonable way. Realistic depictions of how relationships with friends and exes change, with both anger and sadness. A love triangle that doesn't make you want to kill everyone involved. Sex handled in a way that is tender and funny and true. Cute, cute boyfriend. Swoony ice cream kisses. (view spoiler)[ :D (hide spoiler)]
I still loathe Sabine, though. And I wasn't a huge fan of the plot line with Emma that continues on through this book, nor of a certain baby/soul subplot. And unlike in the last two spectacular Soul Screamers books, I was frustrated with Kaylee several times because she kept making all these decisions that were clearly going to lead to no good and hurt people, even if they were made with the best of intentions. But props to the author for handling emotional responsibility and consequence in a way that felt satisfying, even if I didn't necessarily enjoy some of the things that happened.
Overall, With All My Soul offers exactly what you'd want in a series ender: high stakes, heightened romance and feeling, unexpected plot developments, and satisfying emotional resolution. I'll miss having a Soul Screamers book to look forward to in coming years, but I'm happy with how Kaylee's story ended. Fingers crossed we'll get a new YA series from this author soon, too!
This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Not many books start out with the heroine getting shot in the chest with a flying arrow. Fortunately, Tevra is wearing chain mail and astride her hors...moreNot many books start out with the heroine getting shot in the chest with a flying arrow. Fortunately, Tevra is wearing chain mail and astride her horse, however, so she doesn't even bat an eye. She merely pulls out her sword, narrowly avoids the keening magical orb pursuing her, and rendezvous with the men under her command. The king himself has charged her with ending the corruption in the Forest Province, and as the youngest Colonel in the Light Cavalry, she takes her extraordinarily powerful role as the king's viceroy quite seriously.
I rarely traditional fantasies because I often don't have the patience to learn all the new customs and names--and so many fantasy books seem so focused on the world building that an engaging story sometimes falls by the wayside. Not so in this book, however! We are thrown into the action as soon as the story begins, and we are quickly caught up on the issues at stake. For a short book in which sword battles, politics, romance, and magic play nearly equal roles, it is exceptionally well-paced, entertaining, and accessible, whilst pleasing most fans of high fantasy, adventure, and romance.
Tevra is an unforgettable heroine, one who imperiously commands war-scarred men and dispatches corruption with ease, but who is also capable of expressing herself subtly with a cool lift of her brow or a gracious tilt of her head. The author has created in Tevra a sympathetic protagonist who is believably authoritative, but whose inner dialogue also shows a more vulnerable, emotional side that is immensely appealing. In the middle of the sensitive political issues she must deal with, Tevra is also struggling with an unwanted attraction to the Forest King, and her tingly encounters with this man made me clutch the book a little more tightly more than once. Complicating matters is the headstrong young Hetwith, who has been at her side for more than a decade and whose strengths and weaknesses somehow seem a perfect match to complement her own.
Written with brisk economy that still manages to convey a great deal of expressiveness and emotion, Tevra's story excited me and moved me in ways that I didn't expect. It is thrilling to witness her decisiveness and determination in the heat of battle (the woman takes a harpoon through her side at one point!), it is unbearably sad to hear about her past as an Unchosen maid, and it is scandalously pleasing to see her discover her feminine side for the first time. It's always tricky with first person narrative to make the reader cognizant of clues that the main character herself may not necessarily be aware of, but somehow the author managed to do that here. I also loved the cheerful humor and witty language with which nearly every scene was met--I don't think I've ever chuckled so much in a fantasy adventure.
While it's true that you might predict some of the plot lines or you may guess some of the secrets that Tevra keeps hidden even from herself, it really doesn't matter. This book fulfills every demand you would want from a story like this--and it does so with style, playfulness, and latent emotion. I couldn't have loved it more.
Spread the Love
If you ever wonder about whether word of mouth is influential, by the way, this book is another great example of how readers discover and share hidden gems. Gail Carriger chose a moment from this book as her favorite romantic scene on my blog for her guest post. Since I started reading it, more than 100 people have shelved this book and I know a number of friends have purchased it (along with a few of the author's other titles) as well. Taming the Forest King is sadly out of print, but you can easily obtain a copy through secondhand bookstores or online through Amazon, Half.com, Alibris, etc. Good luck! It's well worth the $5 or so you'll spend.(less)
"Can we be certain of anyone's soul, human or otherwise?"
Fiction is often most meaningful when it explores questions we find too disturbing to ask in the everyday world. Through one girl's struggle to claim her own identity, The Lost Girl addresses some fascinating ethical questions, all the while presenting a measured, powerful essay on the value of human life.
Fifteen-year-old Eva lives, sleeps, and breathes someone else's existence. As an echo, a carbon copy of a girl halfway across the world, she learns everything that Amarra learns and is even nearly forced to suffer the same physical injuries as her other. There have been various books that explore cloning, but what's so unusual about this one is the psychological element, since it's not just Eva's organs that are being harvested, it's her entire entity and identity.
One of the things I liked best about this book is the way the science fiction elements are handled. The creators of these echos are called Weavers, and they are presented in somewhat mystical and mysterious manner. It has a similar tone and feeling to the film Children of Men, and the book is not unlike the way some of Bradbury's futuristic tales are written; that is, these just happen to be human beings in extraordinary circumstances, rather than a fantastical, tech-heavy setting with some humans in it.
The writing is also well-paced, thoughtful, and beautifully descriptive, deftly balancing gravity and humor, as well as joy and sadness. Eva recalls a man with "a voice like thunder and lions" and upon her relocation, marvels at how familiar her new home seems.
I had been sent pictures all my life, of course, and Mina Ma had told me long stories about Bangalore. She had described streets, places, pieces of her life. As a child, I sat at her feet and drew picture, inspired by her voice and the flickers of memory passed on through Amarra's and my consciousness. So many of those pictures had been true. There were ashoka trees down the middle of a long road, just the way I'd imagined...There were little stalls along the roads, open late, tea stalls with clinking steel cups and sweet shops with packets of crisps hanging from makeshift roofs. Or chips, as Mina Ma called them. Coke and Pepsi in glass bottles with steel caps. Men crouched on the edge of the road, smoking tiny not-quite cigarettes.
Every character left an indelible mark, from Eva herself to her gruff caretaker Mina Ma to her brother Nikhil to her friends at school. I was enraged by the casual cruelty Eva endures, and the parents later made me so angry that I couldn't see straight. I do wish that Sean and Ray had a chance to be a little more developed, though the love story--and the love interest--still squeezed my heart.
"I'd rather spend the rest of my life without seeing you again," he says,"than to watch them destroy you because of me."
When I initially finished the novel, I rated this a 4.5 because there are some elements that might have been explained a little more, and I thought the ending was a bit rushed and becomes perhaps more of a typical YA thriller. But who am I kidding? A book that treats human life with this kind of reverence deserves nothing less than 5 stars.
This book explores loss and grief in a way you wouldn't necessarily expect in speculative fiction and tears dripped down my face for nearly an hour as I was reading it. It is an stunning elegy for those who have been lost, a cry of sorrow for those who are left behind, and a profoundly sad lament for those whose very existence is denied. This elegant novel touched me deeply, and will leave readers with a lingering feeling of grief that is all the more devastating for its restraint and its dignity.