"I wasn't afraid of your average dark alley. I had standard Agency-issue spells in my coat and a nine millimeter i...more I'm just going to leave this here...
"I wasn't afraid of your average dark alley. I had standard Agency-issue spells in my coat and a nine millimeter in my purse for dealing with the less dangerous pests, but even I knew you have to be careful with an upset woman."
Page 3, Free Agent by J.C. Nelson.
"The loading bays down at the end of the alley didn't look too promising, and now Princess PMS rose to her feet."
"She didn't look like a princess. She looked like a college intern for a radio station. Five foot three, strawberry blonde, and a complexion that could sure as hell use work. Plus she was packing the freshman five on her hips, along with the sophomore seven on her thighs and, well, you get the idea."
"I'd have loved to be beautiful. To have flawless skin and a nose that didn't look tiny, or eyes that didn't look like my father was part bat. Grimm said that men loved my large brown eyes. I didn't. I wanted blue eyes like Mom and Dad, but you didn't get a say in genetic roulette. If I ever got to go home, I was planning on asking Grimm to change my eyes to be like them. A push-up bra and a firm running regimen were the other components of my beauty treatment. To be the wrong woman you didn't have to look great, just available and interested."
"I had been up for three days straight and for my answer I invented the Leperochaun, a little man who carried disease, hoarded gold, and, worst of all, was Irish."
All of these statements are printed in the mass market paperback (ISBN: 9780425272671) that released July 29, 2014 from Ace Books, New York. The statements all irked me in one way or another. They are either sexist (exhibiting negative body-shaming imagery or gender stereotypes), racist, and pejorative.
I do not enjoy reading a book that promotes any of these things. I will not be reading the rest.
Archetype was among my favourite books of 2013. It was one of those books that I read very early and then had to wait to be able to put it into people...more Archetype was among my favourite books of 2013. It was one of those books that I read very early and then had to wait to be able to put it into people’s hands. Whenever someone asked me to recommend a thrilling book I told them to watch for Archetype in February 2014. I would tell them how absorbing it was and that I couldn’t put it down. And here I am, months later, simply dazzled by the follow-up book, Prototype, which I was fortunate enough to acquire early.
Dazzled, I say, because it’s a tremendous sequel.
* Spoilers for those who have not read Archetype *
Emma has escaped Declan Burke and fled their home after discovering that she is a clone. When he offers a sizeable reward for her return she must turn to her past for help. Now, with the resistance, she struggles to forget her time with Declan. She also begins to experience overwhelming moments of panic and obliteration which she brushes aside as trauma. In the midst of her adjustment Noah, her former husband before she was cloned, has moved on with another woman, Sonya. Sonya is raising Adrienne, Emma and Noah’s daughter whom Emma has never known. Emma, displaced and broken, tries to learn who she is and where she now belongs.
Emma fights fire with fire, turning Burke’s own manipulations back on him whenever she can. She is resourceful and courageous even in the face of insurmountable odds. She is the perfect blend of weak and malleable, strengths and flaws. She’s polarizing through and through.
The biggest thing about this book is the theme of identity and how Emma molds herself to her own, both past and present. Everyone has expectations of who she was and who she is now. This is a hard road to travel as she does not feel as if she identifies with Emma pre-cloning. Emma 2.0 (as she is jokingly dubbed by the members of the resistance) cannot reconcile the confusion of her own heart and is constantly pulled in every direction. As a result her conflicts are largely internal and the book reads as such. However, she finds ways to defy expectations and forges new paths for herself. Through it all she achieves the duality that comes from someone who has lived and lost, and fought with every step.
Emma’s gains are the reader’s gains, and her pain rings true as well. With every turn her endeavors become crucial, significant moments in the book. These moments are what makes Waters books so impressive; moments of incredible depth that stay with a reader long after the book’s conclusion.
Prototype is striking and poignant; a beautiful and terrifying glimpse of possibility. These books cannot be dismissed merely as potential, speculative fiction. They are plausible in every way.
Solsbury Hill is an upcoming adult novel by Susan M. Wyler. It is a contemporary retelling of Wuthering Heights set in New York City and then Yorkshir...more Solsbury Hill is an upcoming adult novel by Susan M. Wyler. It is a contemporary retelling of Wuthering Heights set in New York City and then Yorkshire, respectively. When you say the words Wuthering Heights and retelling together you are almost guaranteed to pique my curiosity. So, I requested and finally read this novel and enjoyed it quite a lot. It is, by no means, Wuthering Heights. But, it’s a great homage to the original, beloved classic, and that’s the best that a retelling can hope for.
Eleanor is a twenty-seven year old knit wear designer living in New York City. She’s in a relationship with Miles, her best friend from childhood. One day a phone call, and a chance encounter in which Eleanor catches Miles cheating on her, forces Eleanor to uproot herself. Eleanor’s Aunt Alice, from England, is dying and Eleanor makes the decision to leave New York, her budding career, and Miles behind.
In Yorkshire she travels to Trent Hall, her family’s home for generations. Besides her Aunt, it is home to a number of people, including Mead, an orphan who spends his time sprucing up the place. Mead’s current project is converting the ancient barn into a grand library to house all of the estate’s precious books. While in Trent Hall, Eleanor grows closer to her Aunt who tells her some family secrets, including a curse handed down through the women of the family – a curse that always has a woman of the family divided in love. The curse dictates that the women always choose the wrong man. Between secrets, ghosts, and the inconsistencies of her own heart, Eleanor faces a lot of unexpected situations.
Solsbury Hill is not a direct retelling. It is a shadow of the original book, which is utilized to underscore this book’s plot. There are elements that are very similar to the original, but overall the differences serve to divide one of the other. Much of the book surrounds an investigation of Emily Bronte’s infamous book. This technique makes this novel seem more self-aware than it should be.
Wyler paints a beautiful portrait of the moors, of a visiting ghost, of a woman falling into herself while simultaneously falling in love with her own Heathcliff. She paints a book of subtle heartbreak and growth and finding one’s place in the world. The biggest thing that Eleanor is searching for can be found anywhere, but she has to let herself understand what’s she’s looking for in order to become worthy of it – a true home; a hearth to warm herself by, and a heart by which to guide her life.
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Wild is an upcoming novel by Alex Mallory, a pen name for Saundra Mitchell. The book is a retelling of the classic Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Retellings can be done very well or fail miserably. A good author pays attention to the original themes of the source book and treats the material with respect. Alex Mallory has done just that with Wild. This is a brilliant retelling.
Cade has lived in the forest for most of his life. When he was thirteen he buried his Father, and his mother a few years before. His parents instilled in him the skills to survive off the land. They also taught him to fear the outside world. Cade believes that he is one of the last humans alive and he has little to contradict that thought until the outside world shows up on his doorstep.
Dara and Josh are spending their spring break in the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky. They lied to their parents, deciding to camp outdoors rather than travel to Orlando with their friends. Ideally, the trip was supposed to be relaxing and romantic. However, inept camping skills on Josh’s part leads to a few critter invasions and tempers become frayed with little food. Dara is content to take photos until she senses another presence in the woods; a feeling that she never shakes. When a disaster forces Cade to return to the world his parents fled the book becomes one of the best fish-out-of-water stories that I have read in a long time.
Mallory nailed the themes from Tarzan. What she has done to modernize it in a contemporary setting is fantastic. Tarzan’s curiosity has always been his downfall. His obsession with outsiders when they enter his midst is a turning point. Throwing in electronic devices and shopping malls and instant food and convenience… all of these things work in a way that makes the classic tale come alive. The base elements are there and the characters match the pace.
Cade is the perfect reinvention of Tarzan, quick to temper and all. His intense loyalty, his direct and truthful personality, all of it rings true. There’s not an ounce of guile in his entire body. He is precisely who he needs to be. Dara is a great counterpart to him as well as a fresh take on Jane Porter. Jane was always a damsel in distress whereas Dara holds her own in any (and all) argument(s). Some of the best moments from the book come from Dara. She has more spunk than the original heroine but I’m not mad about it. Jane needed the revamp to appeal to today’s woman and Dara hits the note perfectly.
There are a few minor plot details that I am sketchy about but they’re minor quibbles. Overall the book is superb and I am really happy that Mallory chose to write it. It’s really, bloody good.
Guy In Real Life is a contemporary standalone novel by Steve Brezenoff. It chronicles a few weeks in the lives of two Minnesotan teens, Lesh and Svetl...more Guy In Real Life is a contemporary standalone novel by Steve Brezenoff. It chronicles a few weeks in the lives of two Minnesotan teens, Lesh and Svetlana, a sophomore and a senior respectively. The book straddles several complicated thematic issues very well. I was most impressed by this.
However, I have a caveat before I get any further into this review - I had a few stutter stops reading this book. Frankly, I thought that I would have to put it aside. There is a large amount of homophobic, pejorative comments in the book from several of the side characters, all of them Lesh's closest friends. It made me initially suspect of him. I don't normally finish a book with this amount of hate speech. I find it to be crude, insensitive, and personally very offensive. My usual approach to this level of language is to put down the book out of sheer protest. But I decided to give the book a chance to explain itself. I realized (and hoped) that Brezenoff must be going somewhere with the sheer volume of hate speech he was writing. Eventually, the bigotry forms a message that is solid, poignant, and underscores many of the themes superbly. What Brezenoff says he says very well. I am glad that I finished the book.
To that end, the review.
One night just before school begins, Lesh and Greg go to a metal show at a bar. Lesh has a few drinks too many and ventures home wasted when a girl crashes into him on her bike. The girl is Svetlana; a gorgeous, ethereal, and sweetly swearing girl who rides off immediately. Lesh manages to get to safety and sleeps it off only to have his parents promptly ground him the next day.
Now, stuck in his room for weeks, Greg, Lesh's closest friend, convinces him to download a MMORPG and create a character to fill the time. Lesh turns his nose up at this until the first few days of school when a scheduling nightmare separates him from his friends. Now alone, Svetlana sits with him in the cafeteria to avoid an old acquaintance. This action breaks some unspoken social barrier between the Metal-heads and Svetlana's geekier group of friends. Svetlana is intellectual and dedicated, her parents obviously well off. Lesh's parents struggle to make ends meet and he feels inferior around her until she shares her secrets with him - She spends time in a school gaming club. She enjoys drawing fantasy creatures and creating scenarios as a dungeon master.
The two grow closer with each day and Lesh becomes fascinated with her. Instead of telling her of his developing feelings he creates an avatar of her in the game. As Lesh's affection for Svetlana grows so does his love of the game and of Svvetlana; the Elven priestess character that he spends most nights with. He keeps the secret from her as well as his own group of friends, hiding many things that he knows his friends will not understand, nor can he articulate properly. He knows that he shouldn't be gaming as a girl, but he cannot bring himself to stop anymore than he can bring himself to tell Svetlana (with one V) of his growing feelings.
Guy In Real Life has so many things going for it. In some parts it reads like satire, poking fun at Minnesotan life and teenager ennui in general. It also highlights much of the gaming culture; of the inherent sexism and homophobia both present in small towns and faceless online communities. Amidst all that is a sweet and tender story of identity, first love, and questionable self-worth. It's a great coming of age story over a short, tumultuous amount of time.
Lesh is a great everyman character. He's not special and he's not brilliant. He is blessedly ordinary and wonderfully normal. His self-esteem issues manifest in many ways; things I didn't see coming. I appreciate that Brezenoff hints at more things with Lesh that are never said. It always keeps a reader guessing. Svetlana is the wonder-girl of the novel. She embroiders clothing, draws with impeccable skill, listens to classical music, and looks like a goddess. She is a dream to him; a perfection he feels he can never achieve, nor attain. It's no wonder that he feels he cannot possible measure up to her. Lesh is 16 and defined by his parents and his peers. He hasn't carved out a real identity yet. Svetlana is older and doesn't let anyone define her... Not even Lesh.
Truth be told, there's a bit of a rushed ending to the novel. I wanted a bit more, but there it is. As much as I loved this novel the ending was unsatisfying. There are also long passages of gaming story told from the POV of both Svetlana and Lesh's avatars. These became a bit much by the end of the book. However, reading them foreshadows a few terrific plot twists, so do not skip them. The story within the story does amount to something powerful. It's just a bit overdone.
Guy In Real Life is not at all what I expected. If you are looking for a quirky, out of the ordinary YA novel, this is perfect for you. It's completely unique and singularly original. I enjoyed it. Very much. 4 out of 5 stars.
The final book in Kimberly Derting’s Pledge trilogy is a thrilling conclusion. I was immediately swept up into it and powered right through. It was pr...more The final book in Kimberly Derting’s Pledge trilogy is a thrilling conclusion. I was immediately swept up into it and powered right through. It was pretty much what I wanted with a few surprises along the way.
* Spoilers for those who have not read The Pledge and The Essence *
Charlie has become the Queen of Ludania but at a high price. Her psyche was bonded with Sabara’s and she has done her best to minimize her insistant demands. After a gathering of Queens at a yearly summit goes awry Charlie is lucky to get back to Ludania intact. But someone has not made it back and thanks to a messenger from another Queendom that someone’s life is at stake. Charlie decides to offer herself in lieu of the hostage and ventures into enemy territory with two of her closest comrades in order to finalize the deal. It’s only anyone’s guess if she will see the people that she loves again.
If the second book, The Essence, is largely character development then this book is all plot. The Offering grabs you by the throat and never lets go. The slow pace of the second book was completely absent in this one. I was sucked into the action and could not put the book down until the final moment. There’s a tension to this book that I have learned to appreciate from Derting’s writing and she pulls no punches with her storytelling.
There were one or two things that I would have changed character interaction-wise, but other than that I thought this was a fabulous ending.
The Ring & The Crown is the first book in a new series by Melissa de la Cruz. Having been a fan of her Blue Bloods series I was curious what she w...more The Ring & The Crown is the first book in a new series by Melissa de la Cruz. Having been a fan of her Blue Bloods series I was curious what she would do with historic fantasy. I am very pleased to say that this book lived up to its potential. I enjoyed it from page one until the end. It’s a really great book.
That said, there’s not a lot that happens plot wise. It’s entirely character driven, so I’ll try to condense it as much as possible without spoiling it for everyone. Here we go.
In 1429 the English employed magicians to defeat the French in battle, destroying the dark witch Jeanne of Arkk. Now conquered, the English empire absorbs the French into their growing dominion. Henry VI becomes the ruler of five continents with the Merlin, a powerful, immortal magician, as his support. Now, five hundred years later at the dawn of the twentieth century, an aging Queen Eleanor II’s reign is at an end. The Queen is 150 years old and her ailing 17-year-old daughter, Marie Victoria, is poised to assume the Franco-British crown. Marie suffers from tuberculosis and many doubt that she is fit to rule.
A new season is approaching and Marie’s marriage to Leopold VII of Prussia is about to be announced. This year’s season is bound to be the best, drawing a number of ambitious nobles to court. Aelwyn, Marie’s childhood friend and bastard daughter of the Merlin, Emrys Myrddin, has left Avalon to assume her place at Marie’s side. She has been trained in the deepest secrets of magic and is about to be bonded in immortal servitude to the crown just as her father was before her. Mages give up any rights to personal happiness when they accept the bond, eschewing family, love, and possessions. Aelwyn knows that her promise comes with a high cost and the sacrifice sometimes weighs on her.
Also venturing to London are two very different groups of people. There are Ronan Astor and Wolf, two people whose paths cross on the Saturnia, a luxury ship crossing the Atlantic from the Americas. Ronan is hoping to secure a marriage that will save her family in New York from bankruptcy. Several mix-ups occur that allow her to enjoy the season in high style, and Wolf is one of them. He has a connection to Marie and the Kronprinz Leopold and is much more than what Ronan’s initial impression of him proves to be.
The second group is the french contingent from Burgundy, Isabelle of Valois and her ruthless guardian, Hugh Borel. Borel owns a lush vineyard and supplies much of the Empire’s wine. He is grasping and cruel and exercises his power over both Isabelle and their other cousin, Louis-Phillippe Beziers, another ward of his estate. Isabelle was Leopold’s fiance and the Kronprinz exerted his rights as betrothed on her before their marriage. As a result of his engagement to Marie their union must be dissolved. Isabelle has come to court to plead for their love but finds that Leopold cannot circumvent a marriage that was entirely conceived without his approval.
There are numerous other characters involved in this court drama, but those seem to be the main players. At one point as I read I began to blur the lines between every character. It does take some time to establish just who everyone is, and I resorted to drawing up a list to keep them all straight. It’s worth the time though, as the characterizations in this novel are rich and rewarding. I was completely drawn into their schemes and intrigues and reveled in every new plot development.
The Arthurian bend was a nice touch as well. While the book does not completely follow the Arthurian myths there are shades of the origin tales that flavour the social-political ethos of the Franco-British empire. de la Cruz mentions Lanselin and Genevieve and Arcturus, though Merlin is the only person that we frequently see in the story. Avalon and Viviane (the Lady of the Lake) also features in the book. Initially, I was dubious about the idea of an alt-Arthurian premise but de la Cruz has handled it extremely well. I can’t wait to see where she goes with it.
This is one of those books that draws you through the pages. I felt like the characters were grabbing me by the hand and pulling me through the castle walls into their own machinations. It’s fast-paced and completely absorbing, a brutal game of politics and affairs of the heart. One likes to imagine that royalty has this much drama.
I am, once again, impressed with de la Cruz. She has tugged my heart out from my chest and wrapped the pages of her book around it. I entirely loved this story, and I cannot wait for book two.
Maybe Someday is the newest novel by Colleen Hoover. It releases March 18, 2014 from Atria Books. Having read her Slammed series last year to mixed re...more Maybe Someday is the newest novel by Colleen Hoover. It releases March 18, 2014 from Atria Books. Having read her Slammed series last year to mixed results I had level expectations going into this book.
My expectations, however, were exceeded tenfold. I positively loved this book.
Sydney lives in an apartment in Texas with her best friend, Tori. She has been dating Hunter for two years but he doesn’t live with them, instead choosing to visit often. One day an encounter with another man, Ridge, whose apartment is across the courtyard from Sydney’s, ignites a tentative texting friendship that will change Sydney’s life. First off, he reveals to her something that she does not know about Hunter and Tori and the news simply devastates Sydney. Now, homeless and heartbroken, she is invited to live with Ridge and his two room mates, Warren and Bridgette, until she gets on her feet again.
Sydney settles into life with her new house mates to mixed results. Warren has been Ridge’s best friend for ten years but he’s a loose cannon, and Bridgette is nearly unlikable. Ridge is a gifted musician. This is what drew Sydney to him in the beginning – his nightly guitar practice rituals on his balcony. But his musical ability hides something that takes Sydney a little bit of time to realize – Ridge is deaf. He works at home as a computer engineer but he has profound hearing loss and does not speak. Knowing this she enters into a friendship with him that is heavily reliant upon texts and instant messaging. The two discover that they share a passion for music and begin writing together; Sydney writes the lyrics while Ridge composes the melodies. When the two begin to develop an attraction to one another they discover other factors that could forever keep them apart.
There was something wholly perfect about this book. I cannot tell you the mathematical formula behind a great novel but Hoover nailed it precisely. Between the characters, the complexities, the plot arc, and the development everything added up to create a novel that was heart-felt, compassionate, and thoroughly entertaining. I was charmed the entire book and very impressed with Hoover. She’s come a long way.
It’s been a long time since I fell in love with a character, but I fell in love with Ridge. Unabashedly. He’s intelligent, he’s well-rounded, and though he has a disability it does not stop him from expressing everything that is within him. He’s one of those characters that has you sighing from page one and it never lets up. Sydney is also a great character and her struggle with her own heart rings true. She grows into a beautiful and self-assured young woman by the end of the book and her journey is nothing short of remarkable.
Fair warning to those who cringe at romantic tropes – there is a love triangle in this book. However, the story behind it is a big reason why Ridge and Sydney cannot be together. During this part of the book I kept telling myself that this story would work so much better if the three principles entered in to a polyamourous dynamic. That agreement could resolve everything in a snap. However, Hoover uses this plot to make one of her characters, Maggie, really shine. I was gunning for a poly ending until Maggie comes into her own. After that point the poly idea simply dissolved for me. It’s so strong a turning point on its own that it doesn’t need another complication, and I was really happy after the fact that it did not go there.
That said, where it went it went beautifully. This is a gorgeous book, strong and unforgettable. I know now that I will read Hoover again. I wasn’t so sure before, but because of this book I am convinced. This is one of the most believable romances that I have ever read. It’s not just for fans of the genre. This is a romance I would give to my friends who do not like romances. The power of this book cannot be denied.