'Get in.' He demanded. [...] I got in the car, against my better judgement, because I didn’t want to cause a scene. [...] 'You understand that I just'Get in.' He demanded. [...] I got in the car, against my better judgement, because I didn’t want to cause a scene. [...] 'You understand that I just met you, right?' 'Yes. You understand that the woman you were about to have lunch with is my aunt and she just disappeared in a matter of minutes, right? You understand that perhaps there is more going on than you could possibly comprehend, right? You understand that I am trying to get you home safe, right?' His blue eyes pierced me and my body felt numb. I did understand. I handed him my keys. 'My house is at 504 Briarwood Court.'
You like that? Good for you. To me this passage embodies everything I dislike about a certain type of paranormal young adult romance. And although I have read only 7% of the self-published mermaid novel, I can tell that I would label the whole package as unbearably awful. Therefore there is no sense in reading the remaining 93%.
If the 'teaser' above made you kind of excited, you might be pleased to hear that the story deals with a freshly graduated orphan called Seraphin, who has had water phobia since she went into the ocean against her father's explicit prohibition, which is somehow connected to her father's mysterious death. Rich Seraphin has lived for years Cinderella-style with a family friend, who resented her presence in the house. She made do with only one true friend, her biology teacher Ms. Z., who starts blathering about legends and merpeople and guardians and successions and prophecies out of the blue and right on graduation day. After Seraphin has laughingly established that she doesn't believe in mermaids, she witnesses said teacher-friend, who announces that she will have to leave town directly after lunch, to make the biology department's goldfishes do as she says using plain English to communicate at them. Just as Seraphin contemplates becoming a believer (Praised be Nemo!), Ms. Z's grumpy, shy and gorgeous nephew Joseph barges in, flickers his mesmerising eyes from ice to navy blue and back, stops himself from releasing a very secret secret and takes the first-I-have-to-pretend-to-hate-you role with aplomb. Phew! Just in time, because fifteen minutes later he needs to be the ill-tempered-and-tight-lipped-knight-in-shining-armor. Our friendless heroine of the later-to-be-revealed superior qualities is about to faint and cannot drive or think or walk and talk.
This marks the opening of the fantastic curtain: I am sure there will be a lot of mistrust and bickering and withholding of information. There will be fulfilments of prophecies that demand sacrifices of vast proportions to be made. And there will be goldfish lingo to be learned. In the end there will be peace and harmony in Earth’s oceans again. How inspiring! But alas, I cannot stay. You tell me, if I am right. But make it quick, okay?
Disclosure: I received a Smashwords Coupon from the author to download the e-book for free. ...more
"Yamaguchi Hiroyuki, who rested agura-style in front of a too warm kotatsu, enjoyed a cup of fragrant genmaicha with a plate of fresh kusamochi from a"Yamaguchi Hiroyuki, who rested agura-style in front of a too warm kotatsu, enjoyed a cup of fragrant genmaicha with a plate of fresh kusamochi from a wagashiya at Higashi-Bashi and took a secret sip of shirozake in between, while reading the less shocking parts of the shimbun to his wataire-clad okusan Miyuki, who was supposed to fold the last Hinamatsuri origami, but nervously fingered a fertility omamori from the neighborhood jinja instead. If she did not conceive this very month there was nothing left but harakiri. 'Shou ga nai', she wispered to herself with a soft sigh reminiscent of the maiko she once had been." Huh? No, this paragraph was certainly not extracted from Jay Kristoff's debut novel Stormdancer, but it could be, for I jumbled together a paragraph that made the same exaggerated use of japanese nouns in a slightly clumsy attempt to create a kind of asian atmosphere. I was really peeved by the vocabulary overload, which even had characters answering with "Hai" instead of simply "Yes", but in the end there were all in all more aspects in the story that I enjoyed, adored or felt comfortably familiar with than those I disliked. I will try to point out both and I will explain why I would in fact recommend to pick up the book along the way.
What I liked ... * First of all: The cover. No, not that bland one one by Tor. It reminds me too much of the cover of Takashi Matsuoka's Cloud of Sparrows. I mean the gorgeous red and black one that shows a griffin, lotus-poisoned air, a sexy, young-enough-looking heroine and even a nine-tailed-fox tattoo on her arm. I really appreciate it, when publishers invest in creating a cover that actually reflects the story in detail. . . . * The abundance of action and gore. * The author's decision not to shy away from including sex in his plot. A lot of writers do so to appease those strange people who continue to pretend that sex is something not belonging into a normal teenager's life – both fictional and real. That really drives me bonkers from time to time. How refreshing to see a heroine who does not treat losing her virginity like a matter of life and death. * Several strong and extremely likable female characters – even in previously unexpected places. * The initially fragile, but later indestructible, Eragon-Saphira-style, exclusive bond between the paranormally gifted kick-ass heroine and the rare, conflicted and highly intelligent mythical creature thrown into her company. Who would not love Yukiko's "taming" of the proud and bristling griffin Buuru and their later mutual come-what-may trust in each other? * That under the disguise of a brutal, slightly romantic, steampunk fantasy set in an alternative Japan a highly relevant, thought-provoking environmental fairytale is genially smuggled onto many reading lists, which reminds me on the one hand of Hayao Miyazaki's masterworks Nausicaä and Princess Mononoke in a very positive way and on the other hand presses a hand-mirror reflecting our own planet-destructing behavior against our greedy noses. I am going to elaborate: - In Princess Mononoke the fierce Lady Eboshi runs a settlement that produces coal from cut-down forest trees to melt ironsand, which is needed to create firearms. The firearms are meant to kill the giant animal-gods protecting the forest and its inhabitants from human exploitation. Lady Eboshi is willing to sacrifice the forest and the magical creatures living there in order for her country's economy to flourish. She actually cares for her workers, but she doesn't see the connection between the mysterious illness many of the men are inflicted with and the destruction of the woods. The imperial hunters want the deer-god's head and they will receive it. In Stormdancer the ruthless ruler and a fanatic group called the Guild have considerably "bettered" the country's economic and political standing by forcing the farmers to grow lotus on their fields, a plant that fuels the various high-tech steampunk machines, appliances, weapons and airships, leads to addiction when consumed in the form of tea or smoke and unfortunately permanently poisons the air around it and the soil it is grown in. To highlight his power the monarch sends out his recently idle hunters to catch the very last magical beast, that had been spotted in one of the rare regions still untouched by the destructive effect of lotus production. - The easily influenced population in want of lotus money reminded me in turn of the Valley-of-the-Wind people in Nausicaä, who eagerly burn down each trace of fungus that reaches their fields, have to wear breathing masks when leaving their wind-filled haven and hold the Omu, huge insects roaming the supposedly deadly fungus forests, responsible for the actually man-made environmental catastrophe. Animal-loving Nausicaae finds out the truth, connects with the gentle Omus and deals with a steampunky, neighboring country threatening to invade the small paradise with their scifi airships. Oh, I can easily imagine Stormdancer turning into a Miyazaki animation film. The plot, the beast and the girl would be perfect. - But what is even more important – and worth a whole rating star for me – is the adaptability to our own present situation: The looming climate problem is evident, but it gets shoved again and again into a dusty backgroud corner to be dealt with later, because shortsightedly securing the immediate want and comfort and well-being of a handful of still thriving countries always gets prioritized. We destroy species after species and their habitats, we squirrel away radioactive time-bombs all over the planet, we make money at war, we figuratively design prettier breathing masks to avoid the stench of our own exhaust and we diplomatically close our eyes, when countries on the rise want to try their hands at high-impact beginners' mistakes, too. We do not import foreign slaves to do the dirty work in front of our doors like the Stormdancer's Emperor does, we prefer putting the factories themselves into far away countries, so we don't have to watch those people slaving away under unhealthy, inhuman conditions, and we can buy another cheap or not so cheap pair of of hip new jeans, while they have to decide between buying a daily bowl of rice or sending a kid to school. I am really grateful to Mr. Kristoff for writing a story that takes place in the midst of a barely stoppable destruction. The only other comparable example I have read so far was Firestorm by David Klass. Most young adult post-apocalyptic novels are – like the label says – set up in a time after an environmental collaps, after the wounded planet rebelled against being treated like something disposable. And usually the teenaged protagonists are handed the broken pieces and try to make the best of it: Living underwater, surviving a draught, contructing a dome ... They play the role of the innocent victim. We – like Yukiko – are not victims, we are doing the deed right now. * The "normal" fantasy plot parts. I had high expectations for the book to be completely different from everything else I have read, but it is certainly not. A lot of plot elements are very familiar, standard fare, really. But for those of us - like me - who usually enjoy high fantasy, that is not necessarily a bad thing. * The ending.
What I disliked ... * The above mentioned vocabulary overload. Glossary or no glossary, all the unnecessary Japanese made reading the first chapters at least extremely exhausting. In fact, it seemed to me like complete lists of traditional japanese weaponry and clothing were put next to the author's computer with the goal to cross off each of them eventually. A lot of concepts could have also been expressed by a simple English word and an unfamiliar, exotic vibe would still have been the outcome. A good example is in my opinion the fantasy debut City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster. The robes, the fans, the customs, the nomads ... everything was pretty visual, excitingly unfamiliar and special, but I couldn't pinpoint the setting to a single country. There were chinese, japanese and arabic elements and things I believe that were purely fiction. But no glossary and no inbuilt explanation was needed. I could understand it all. I hope that the final version of Stormdancer drops the occasional "Hai", uses plain English for things like jackets, trousers and knives and at least deletes American leanwords like sararimen (salary men). * The lack of world building in the midst of all the elaborate description. For example, I did not get a proper impression of the tree-house village (in comparison Yelena's first visit in the hidden jungle-city complete with floating bridges and braided furniture in Magic Study has burned itself into my memory), I was puzzled by ensuite bathrooms in the imperial palace, I would like to know more about the lotus business and how it facilitates warfare and I needed to dissect several scenes to finally understand Buuru's outer appearance. * Inconsistencies like love-interest Hiro, a green-eyed foreigner with a japanese name serving the nationalist, exclusive Guild and being a trusted servant of the Emperor in spite of obviously not being from "Shima". * The love triangle. * The very forseeable twists and turns on the way to the plot's climax. * The insignificance of Lady Aisha's role. She showed so much promise and surprise and then ... * The missing romance. There was lust and sex and a heroine lost in rather detached dreams of glowing green eyes, but there was nothing to make my heart flutter. I do not ask for an increase of boy-girl-scenes, but for those already there being more intense, more palatable.
I am afraid, this is getting unbearably long. Anyway, I am very grateful for the chance to read the book pre-publication and I recommend it in spite of the above mentioned obstacles, which might scare away a considerable number of potential fans before the story's lotus fumes have begun to lure them in....more
He nodded. 'And how old are you?' 'Eighteen.' But he said nothing. 'I know,' she continued. 'It is impressive that I accomplished so much at such an eHe nodded. 'And how old are you?' 'Eighteen.' But he said nothing. 'I know,' she continued. 'It is impressive that I accomplished so much at such an early age.' 'Crime isn’t an accomplishment, Sardothien.' 'Yes, but becoming the world's most famous assassin is.' He didn’t respond. 'You might ask me how I did it.' 'Did what?' he said tightly. 'Became so talented and famous so quickly.'
To readers who were sorely disappointed by the teenage assassin girl in Grave Mercy, because she turned out to be squeamish, uneducated, childish, prudish and – stripped of her wonder box of magical knives and poisons – not really fit for killing anybody at the right place and at the right time, the Throne of Glass’s equally young heroine might certainly represent a reconciliation: For Celaena Sardothien proves herself to be more than capable of ruthlessly and efficiently ending the lives of those unfortunate enough to be on her hit list when she is working or those on her radar when she is snapping. Yes, capable is the adjective the reader cannot escape to associate with "Adarlan’s most notorious assassin", whose career had been cut short a year ago by some spineless betrayer, but there are many other labels that fit her.
Thus I would rather exchange "capable" for "accomplished", since the latter - used by Celaena herself, too - encompasses almost the full range of her praiseworthy achievements, traits and gifts and it implies her delectability in the admiring eyes of the strong, intelligent and good-looking alpha males around her: Celaena's best features are her blond hair and her gold-ringed irises, but after a few hearty breakfasts and some hefty workouts in her new castle suite her cheeks hollowed by prison food and her lean body mangled by hard slave labor in the conqueror king’s mines resume their seductive, yet athletic, voluptuousness and shine. Male chaperone Captain Chaol and Crown Prince Dorian certainly notice in spite of the multi-layered clothing that attempts to conceil her forms. The mine-induced paleness of skin – which stays and stays and stays – simply seems to add to Celaena’s attractiveness. Just like the three huge scars the girl earned during her year as a captive are on the one hand conveniently located on her back in places hidden by the country’s court fashion and on the other hand almost aesthetic reminders of the heroine’s unquenchable toughness. For right after her arrival in the mines her fellow inmates had started flocking towards her and had insisted on cleaning her wounds and smearing them with their own precious salves each night. Which makes it safe for me to assume that no ugly bumps and infections disturb the white-lined artwork on Celaena’s pearly shoulders.
The prisoners’ selfless act of help is just an example of how good and just people recognize Celaena’s inert goodness and righteousness. The reader sees the difference between cruel and mindless soldiers slaying random people in the name of the king and the pure-hearted murderess-on-commission, being a member of the highly esteemed and selective assassins' guild and killing with care and precision, anyhow. It is never mentioned how Celaena managed to stick to having fulfill clean-conscience-assignments only, but listening to her enraged thoughts you simply know deep down that killing children and innocent villagers would be against her work ethics. And, as mentioned, several characters having no access to her stream of consciousness also see her inner light: She might do friends only seldomly on principle because of her line of work, which requires mistrust and competitiveness, yet she is immediately sought out by the few sensible competitors of the king’s secret future champion competition, and her simple, welcoming greeting immediately convinces the visiting ambassador princess of one of the recently subjugated countries, that the girl disguised as Prince Dorian’s merchant class lover Lady Ludmilla is the only castle inhabitant fit to become her language and culture teacher, even her trusted confidante and companion.
Princess Nehemia’s sudden sway to her favour might unquestionably also have been caused by Calaena’s unusual and outstanding language skills – nobody but her in the castle is able to speak Eyllwe, because the King of Adarlan does not believe in diplomatics, but in swords and in the display of power.
As already mentioned, Celaena's special abilities are numerous and her knowledge is vast. I attribute these facts to her almost magical grasp on time management: In a very short time she has her fighting, spying, running, targeting, poison sniffing and observing skills honed to their former unsurpassable glory by doing sit-ups in her room, sparring outside and running a few laps now and then. Simultaneously she naps, stuffs herself with as much food as she can and spends her entire spare time reading herself through the royal library while idly lounging on her balcony. Still there is enough time left for competition meetings, clothes fittings, afternoon hours with the princess and nightly expeditions through the castle’s ancient hidden passages, which certainly, yet to the reader’s complete surprise, start right behind a meaningful tapestry in Celaena’s heavily guarded apartment and carry a whiff of magic and destiny with them, which I do not want to elaborate upon.
Luckily, Celaena does not need to set aside time slots to practice playing the pianoforte. A short foray into some of her former favourite pieces shows that she has lost nothing of her prodigy-like techniques and means of musical expression.
Unlike the above mentioned heroine of Grave Mercy Celaena could hold her own in the company of anybody at any table – highest to lowest - , for her manners including table manners are impeccable – but only if she chooses to make use of them, she says. When she nourishes herself in her suite with Chaol watching her, she prefers showing off her skills in chewing und slurping full-mouthed, open-snouted pig-style, which mysteriously seems to make her more exotic and delectable in the eyes of her male trainer.
The process of heartily inserting food reminds me of Celaena’s favoured method of extracting it again. Boy, can that maid vomit. She "heaves and heaves", when she is exhausted or afraid, when she had breakfast, when she has her moontime. And she does it with gusto and bile in finely tuned archs right where she is – she has a waiting woman who cleans up after her after all – one who had the impertinence to call her out on her arrogance and her habit of admiring herself in the mirror for longer bits of time.
But who would be entitled to being a tiny bit arrogant and show-offy if not she? Even after a year of handling nothing else than a pick-axe Celaena knows that she is the best archer, the best climber, the best knife thrower, the best sword wielder, the best runner, the nimblest fist fighter, the second best poison sniffer, the most intelligent planner, the cutest grinner, the one travelled widest and, and, and without checking out the runners up. Her name is universally known and feared, her education had been costly – though forced on her. So, what if lying low first for the sake of gaining the weapon of surprise is something she simply is not really capable of? Every perfect heroine – even the very most capable one - needs a flaw. Right? And the habit of admiring the cute enemies’ butts to block out waves of mortal fear in a death trial does not truly count.
So, why, in the Wyrdmarks’ name, am I too bored to continue reading after having covered 65% of my Kindle copy? Who is to blame for that dust-layered feeling of draggerishness if not our rise-and-shine hyper-good, hyper-pure, hyper-seductive, probably hyper-magical and hyper-accomplished-in-general murderess-for-hire? I am open to suggestions, but I won’t listen to those trying to shove prequels and sequels and other literary masterpieces under my nose, which I supposedly have to study first before being apt enough to appreciate Throne of Glass. ...more
'The tech is safer now ... It can change how a person acts and thinks.' I tell him about what Cormac said about isolating problem areas in the strand'The tech is safer now ... It can change how a person acts and thinks.' I tell him about what Cormac said about isolating problem areas in the strand and splicing new material into an individual's thread. I vividly remember the awe I felt when I was watching 'The Matrix' for the first time. Although it puzzled my mind with questions like 'How can virtual procreatic activity result in a real baby? Do the machines manufacture an embryo when a couple living in the Matrix stops using condoms?' or 'How do the human bodies produce more energy than the upkeep of the huge living apparatus swallows?' I was easily lulled into believing it might be possible and I was only missing a clue. It all sounded so convincing that I had the uncomfortable urge to double-check my own reality against the frightening idea of it being nothing more than a clever illusion.
Reading 'Crewel' was nothing like that. I was feeling something close to awe - but only for myself, because I managed to stay on board past the 70% mark of my Kindle.
Also is 'believable' a term that I would never, ever associate with this woven-world setting. In fact until approximately 36% I had convinced that I was dealing with a fantasy novel set in a fantastic totalitarian world unlike our own. The notion that 'Crewel' could take place on post-apocalyptic Earth never crossed my mind and comes to the formerly ignorant heroine as a surprise revelation, too.
But not only the heroine, the whole population of 'Arras' is unrealistically docile, content and easy to control - without being held in check by threats (the rulers have ridiculously easy means to change people's minds same as they have means to adapt their appearance or their environment: Removing, replacing or repairing threads on a loom is just a matter of seconds for a capable and virtuous weaveress after all). The information that someone living in the neighborhood has to report in for being rewoven is processed among the citizens with slight unease, but does not cause boosts of fear or resentment; same as being claimed by the government to become a glamorous but secluded and never-to-be-seen-again spinster, who weaves reality and features in the yellow press, equals being selected to participate in a beauty or talent TV show today: The 'lucky' person does not really know what participation entails, but it will make her famous - so what?
And thus I have mentioned my two most annoying aspects of the story (I will not talk about the unlikable characters, the overflow of mean girls or the love-quadruple in this review. Things like that are definitely of matter of taste. I am concentrating on the lack of logic and believability here.): The spinsters' and the creweler's way of weaving the world (view spoiler)[as a layer on top of the real, but catastrophically destroyed world (hide spoiler)] on a couple of looms and the spinsters' paradoxic position between having to remain pure, untainted women, who are idolized for their gift of creating the whole world with their hands like a virgin Mary would be for creating a foetus without male input, on the one hand, and serving as seductive geishas to the needs of leery senators at administrative functions on the other:
Weaving the world on a loom: A loom, as I am able to imagine it, is - however large an industrial one gets to be - a device that produces something two-dimensional. Usually threads go in two directions and can consist of multiple fine fibres. Really intricately woven or not - in contrast to cloth reality as we know it is a three-dimensional thing. In 'Crewel' there are rooms and rooms full of looms, large and small, wooden and metallic, and each of it supposedly holds something big and complex like a whole city. A handful of connected strands can represent (or rather be) a school-building and ripping a single thread with a sharp object before it grows thin and unravels naturally can mean ending someone's life. How all the cloths of those unconnected looms form one seamless country, how people are able to walk around although their position is fixed firmly between two other threads, how specially gifted heroine Adelice is able to see and manipulate the threads of time and matter without a loom when she is part of the world - and suddenly the walls of a room consist of more 'wool' than a whole district -, how the Coventry itself has to be a cloth on a loom that contains other looms, how people are able to grow grain on field that has been created by the Creweler, who plans how many ponds to put where in order to feed the population with fish, and how zooming in at a loom is possible, when nothing sounding remotely digital is mentioned, does not get addressed at all during the first three quarters of the story I more or less patiently endured. At one point the Creweler reveals some crucial information concerning the planet's past, its physical matter and some clever inventor who found a way to shape it, but she did not solve the urgent, logical dilemma described above.
Women, spinsters, sexuality and creativity: Almost right from go there is a kind of inconsistency in the position and the behavior expected from women that made it obvious to me that the author wanted the reader to notice something is off in the gender department, something that might have been different or even better at some point in the times proceeding the plot. Still, to me things were that unbelievably strange, that I had to shake my head in disbelieve instead of employing it in contemplation: Young males and females live completely separate lives. There are even districts for couples with female offspring and districts for families who have born boys. Each girl has to stay pure until she becomes a spinster or is matched to her future husband. In spite of that the art of brightly colored, seductive facial make-up and attire is deemed to be extremely important to acquire. Adelice's mother, for instance, who has a husband and absolutely no say in who she wants to be with, spends some time in front of her mirror reach morning because an atttractively painted face pleases her boss. Gifted girls are a commodity. They are unceremoneously fetched from their homes and put through a process that assesses the strength of their abilities. Although refusing would not be an option anyhow they are pampered by personal assistants and make-up artists, showered with beautiful clothes, good food and media attention. And even though the common opinion is that only virgin women can do the weaving or the creweling necessary for survival, Arrras' senators traditionally order very young spinsters to accompany them to official banquets and state functions as arm candy and as bed warmers, too. Apart from my irritation concerning how women have managed to stay the bottom feeders in a society that completely depends on their special work (view spoiler)[Creweler Lorciel's answer at 67%: Women are easy to control. (hide spoiler)], I wondered why the rulers did not think of setting aside especially attractive girls to form a caste of pleasure givers and assign a supposed importance to those working in the sexual sector, instead of 'wasting' their country's future creators, guarantors of nourishment and housing, on their personal gratification and risking the population's wrath. In addition our little creweling star, who describes herself as shy, goes from being ignorant, timid and naive to behaving brazen, saucy and confident in rocket time. Such a character twist is not a beautiful thing to behold.
At the point at which I stopped reading signs of rebellious activity have started to manifest; and I suppose not far ahead there will be a big gender-related bang (view spoiler)[My guess is both purity and gender do not matter at all to do the weaving. (hide spoiler)] and a revelation of someone evil purposefully drawing the 'strings' tight to keep everybody in line. But that will definitely be too late for me. The train that would have had the power of turning me into a believer has left the station long ago.
So. Please weave a better setting next time, Ms. Albin. And do make the basic concept water-tight. If not, I am not willing to try on one of your hip, dystopian garments again. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
OH. DEAR. What can I say about Mari Mancusi's zombie apocalypse "Tomorrow Land" (view spoiler)[“Land” as a tribute to Disneyland (hide spoiler)]?
BasiOH. DEAR. What can I say about Mari Mancusi's zombie apocalypse "Tomorrow Land" (view spoiler)[“Land” as a tribute to Disneyland (hide spoiler)]?
Basically, that everything about it is either flatter than the Netherlands or comes straight out of a cookie mold: The suspension arcs of the two alternating, generic storylines, the probability of the world-building pieces forced together like a mismatched jigsaw puzzle (view spoiler)[i.e. students in high school go to a real-building-school, but they never take part in real-life sports in favor of simulation games like "Basketball Dayz". Still, nobody seems to suffer from weight problems or other side-effects that come with a lack of physical exertion. Ahh, well there seem to be body enhancing technologies around, that vaguely take care of everything. Or that Walmart is still stocked to the brim after an epidemic that forced people to change the routines of their productiveness and four years of pillage-based survival (hide spoiler)] and most of all: the characters – quite all of them, actually: Scatterbrained, addicted socialite mom, mad, one-track-minded ex-government scientist dad, the slutty, nerdy or sporty, instantly forgettable classmates at school, the Toy Aisle gang at Walmart, the fanatic, post-apocalyptic small-town community with their arena games, the sainty, well-organised, über-equipped underground hive members, moody, helplessly inferiority-complexed and infatuated druggie Chase and last but not least misunderstood, frail-but-strong, between-the-chairs world-saver Peyton.
Yepp, the only curves worth mentioning in this goremance are those of our virginal "sweet teen goddess's' soft boobs and creamy white shoulders. But even those deflate as the story's progress lets the superwoman nanobots in enhanced daddy's girl's blood stream fail (the bots got a best-before-date that's just convenient for the race against time).
Apropos virginal: What does one make of the fact that the kids who had successfully applied for an officially issued LTF (“licence to fuck”) are the first to become either a zombie or zombie fodder? The reasons are given eventually, but I don’t like the resonance of the back-door message, which could have easily been replaced by something else. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Re-read from July 1 to July 2 2013. Loved it as much as a month earlier. A pretty perfect book in my eyes. Honest, real, raw, tender, funny, sad, wellRe-read from July 1 to July 2 2013. Loved it as much as a month earlier. A pretty perfect book in my eyes. Honest, real, raw, tender, funny, sad, well-articulated and open-ended on a hopeful note. I want to quote it to pieces and I want a physical copy to keep. Affordable, international edition, where art thou?...more
Although the style of its cover illustration did not appeal to me at all, I spontaneusly requested a review copy of 50 Underwear Questions: A Bare-AllAlthough the style of its cover illustration did not appeal to me at all, I spontaneusly requested a review copy of 50 Underwear Questions: A Bare-All History as soon as I my eyes fell on the title, because since I paged through a wonderful children’s book about the history of underwear in a British bookshop about 15 years ago and forgot to write down the bibliographic data, I am on the lookout for a title that is equally informative, well written and illustrated.
I have to admit that about the only history book I occasionally consult for the sheer fun of it in the library is “This History of Private Life” by Philippe Ariès. I should update my brain with facts and figueres on a much larger scale, because before I entered university all I did during history lessons was doodling on my margins - for which I do blame my teachers, because they were that boring -, but what interests me more concerning the people of the past is how they worked and behaved, with which means they endured or enhanced their private little or grand lives. Therefore about the only thing I remember from the the lessons on the French Revolution is that there were no toilets and only a few bathtubs in Versailles. The Roccoco ladies used to fectate just were they stood. And when they moved on to talk to another friend and swept their large hoopskirts with them, a servant took care of the evidence of genteel digestion.
I think you cannot know enough tidbits concerning the hygienic horrors of the past. Lately I visited a restored townhouse that belonged to a wealthy clothier. And although it matched the accumulated information on 18th-century hygiene I was appalled to hear that the water-filled washing-bowl in the parlor was meant to be visited after partaking of the meal in the dining room – because eating with your fingers certainly made your fingers sticky. Among all the curious hygienic and non-hygienic things our ancestors did and owned underwear belongs to the category that is at the same time the most tangible and the most questionable – why do we use underwear anyway?I do not seem to be the only one to think that way, for books on underwear history are plenty and for readers of all ages. 50 Underwear Questions is one of the newest attempts to bring “light” into that dark corner.
Although the title gives the impression that 50 Underwear Questions can be consulted ramdomly when a certain underwear-related question question turns up and begs to be answered, I think it is best to read it from cover to cover, because apart from some side-tracking to other cultures it is structured chronologically. It starts with several variations of the loincloth and ends with the Aussiebum Wonderjock.
Although I enjoyed some nice anecdotes about rulers like Isabella of Spain, who refused to change her underwear before the war was won, and although I really learned a lot reading these 100 plus pages, i.e. about the origin of the word jock (C.F. Bennett’s jockey strap, invented to cushion professional bikers’ testicles from being bruised by racing across the cobble-stoned streets) and the expression Long Johns (Boxer John L. Sullivan long, white leggins instead of knee-lenths drawers), about the glorious success of the Kenosha Klosed Krotch union suit, which had a diagonal opening instead of the difficult-to-operate bottom flap, and about the influence sports, war (American women were asked to stop buying corsets in 1917 in order to save the metal - 31,000 tons that year – for battleships) or celebrities (James Dean stripped down to his white half-arm undershirts in front of the cameras and Nick Kamen wore white boxers out of modesty reasons in a 1985-Levi’s commercial) had on the evolution of trends, I sorely missed the descriptive illustrations to go with the texts. 50 Underwear Questions is not a picture book. It has background illustrations in the form of washing-line photos which are mixed in an interesting way with cartoonish characters that are meant to make the reader laugh, but – with the exception of the crinoline - I had to either engage in futile brain acrobatics or in internet picture searches in order to get an idea of how the Japanese fundoshi, the French cache-sexe, the Roman subligaculum, a farthingale, a codpiece, a pannier, a shift, a bloomer suit, or the Alps iceman’s loincloth was hung or wrapped. That is a large minus in my point of view. A book encompassing only 30 pages without explanations would not optimal either, but this almost text-only version is though quite ressourceful, but lacking in the most essential department. Therefore I guess that somewhere out there is a better underwear book for children around. I just haven’t found it yet.
Thank you, Netgalley and Annick Press, for providing me with an hour of educational fun. ...more
"Who are you to say what the god of death needs or doesn’t need? Mortain is an old god and has no desire to be forgotten and fade from this world, whi"Who are you to say what the god of death needs or doesn’t need? Mortain is an old god and has no desire to be forgotten and fade from this world, which is why he chooses to bestir Himself in the affairs of man. [...] He will ask for sacrifices, but it is not your role to question. Only to serve with love and obedience."
Before starting this review in earnest I believe I have to come clean concerning three facts: 1. Although I have consumed some very fine specimens historical fiction is usually not my kind of playground. At the time when everybody else was adding Grave Mercy to their wishlists, it even failed to kindle my interest in reading the description. I came to read the electronic ARC because of the publisher’s awsome decision to make it available to every Netgalley member for a slim slot of time. The chance had simply been too good to pass. 2. I am part of that very tiny group of young adult fiction readers who regarded the label "assassin nuns" with weary apprehension instead of the urge to squeal and fantasize. The way I think categorizes people who are both faith-driven and bent on ending human lives on a regular basis as religious fanatics. I am not so fond of religious fanatics – no matter which god or idea they worship. 3. I stopped reading approximately around the 55% mark. That means, everything I am going to say about the story, the characters and the setting does not take into account the possibility of character development or tremendously unexpected twists of the plot.
15th century Britanny: Ismae has been raised as the younger daughter of a brutal turnip farmer, although she is the result of her late mother’s infidelity. Her being still among the living and defiantly bearing the sign of being a survivor as a huge read welt along her torso although her mother tried to abort her with poisonous herbs is due to the common believe that foeti who refuse to succumb to their mothers’ efforts to get rid of them have been fathered by Mortain, the breton god of death, himself and are indistructible and dangerous.
When Ismae is fourteen and has just been married to a younger and even crueller version of her father she gets abducted and thus saved by worshippers of the old gods/saints (In Britanny the seven leaders of the Keltic immigrants, who came from Britain in the 5th century, have been worshipped as founding saints, but Grave Mercy makes them 12 in number and older than Christianity). Having only met brutes like her father and her almost-husband Ismae unwaveringly chooses to become an obedient assassin in Mortain’s service instead of picking the alternative, which is leaving the convent as the wife of the good and gentle man the convent's abbess would set aside for her. Her schooling takes about three years during which Ismae spends much of the time she should attend fight, etiquette or history classes in the poison maker’s workshop because of her unique gift, which makes her immune against each and every poison. Yet, in spite of her comprehension of her country's political situation having holes as big as Normandy, in spite of her childish impatience, her lack of refinement and her inability to take care of the simple spy work that should precede a kill, the convent's fishy abbess singles Ismae out to accompany the blue-blooded Gavriel Duval as his mistress to court, where she is to find out if he is loyal to his country and to kill whoever is marked by Mortain. Level-headed Gavriel is not overly excited to have a coarse Handmaiden of Death among his travelling baggage and is pretty honest about his doubts concerning her being up to the job.
This would have been the moment I would have liked the story to take off. I would have extremely enjoyed a kick-ass heroine who shows the haughty nobleman what a little training and some awesome genes can do to a farmer girl. A dropped jaw and some groveling on his part for seriously underestimating her would have been a bonus. But no! Hot and haughty was perfectly right: His friends at the first inn on the road immediately uncover richly-clad Ismae as what she is: A barely educated, pouting brat from the country. They do not describe how they knew, but I guess it had been her gawking, her her accent, her lack of vocabulary, her rustic table manners or a combination of all four. Scenes like that make me squirm and wince. Assassins should – like thieves and spies and agents – be able to play any role, to blend in and be invisible or - if required - to shine and dazzle. They should be able to think, to understand subtle changes in a situation, to lay low for some time or to strike in the spur of the moment. Our star of the story, narrow-minded Ismae, gets quickly antsy and irrational, because apart from sticking a knife or some poisonous things into brightly-marked people there is nothing she is really fit to do. She makes some half-hearted attempts to find out things to write home about and to act inconspicious, but her clumsiness is painful to watch.
Some reviewers think that the overweight of political schemes may intellectually overwelm the action-loving reader. I was occasionally bored out of my socks, but I do not believe that happened because I am an action-junkie. I have read and enjoyed my fair share of character-, description- or problem-driven books. I think, for me it is like my friend Teccc expressed it so well: I felt severely cheated. There is a magically gifted heroine who went through some elaborate, specialized training. She even owns a wooden chest full of wonderful killing goodies. But when push comes to shove all that training and all the giftedness is practically useless. (view spoiler)[The heroine is given a magical knife that belonged to Mortain Himself, which effortlessly kills a person as soon as the skin is grazed (hide spoiler)]. Every low-class killer could do her job. My guess is, the author had too much fun planning her medieval, magical boarding-school – pardon me: convent – as a foundation for her debut novel. At the same time she already had the romantic and political outcome of the story fixed. Intertwining the novelty school idea with the spy plot proved to be a lot more difficult than expected, but it was too late to let go of either of her babies.
What irked me apart from the heroine’s lack of skills and brains was her chaste prudishness and her being so affronted by having to act as a mistress: "Mistress. The word whispers through me, taunting, beckoning, laughing. That I will have to pose as such is almost more that I can bear." What is so despisable and complicated about pretending to be a mistress, when it is part of your job description? Or, what is so bad about being a mistress at all? By the time Ismae leaves the convent she is 17. She claims to have intimate knowledge about sex from living in close quarters with her turnip farmer dad. Yet she almost blows her own cover by being reluctant to do something harmless like snuggling up to her supposed lover at a picnic or having him stay in her rooms overnight. I did not think Ismae’s behaviour was cute. Only exceptionally annoying and lacking the much-needed farsightedness of someone of her profession. For me her different character traits do not make sense or add up.
The under fact 2 listed religious-fanatic-dilemma got a bit diffused by love interest Gavriel’s own critical stance about it. He repeatedly questions Ismae’s blind devotion to both her saint and her abbess and addresses the question if serving the country means automatically serving the country’s favored deity. Apropos Gavriel. Ismae uses a lot of her inner monologue to ponder about his loyalty – which the convent’s abbess thinks to be not real - and his motivation. But there is no way that he is not part of the good guys. Therefore the heroine’s fretting in that department gets boring quickly, too.
Is this the third time I used the word bored or boring? It doesn’t really matter. I did not feel well entertained and my brain did not feel busy. Even trudging through the remaining 45 percent felt like too much effort. Maybe the second volume, which concentrates on another young assassin, will be better. But I am not interested to make up my own opinion about that. I’ll just wipe the last trace of the first installment off my Kindle.
Kill, clean and out. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I loved Kate's voice. Period. I even dreamed of her tonight. And I do understand why Melina Marchetta chose to blurb this story about growing up, growI loved Kate's voice. Period. I even dreamed of her tonight. And I do understand why Melina Marchetta chose to blurb this story about growing up, growing apart from and close again to your family, and about finding friendship growing in unexpected corners. There was a certain rawness to the feelings conveyed, a lot of truth and also a measurable quantity of warmth. Ah... And certainly there were seedlings of romance. Painful and exhilarating as it can be when you are fifteen and unsure of yourself....more
Who doesn’t like mermaids? All right. A lot of people don’t. But maybe they cherish the idea of tiny folk leading their small but eventful lives unbekWho doesn’t like mermaids? All right. A lot of people don’t. But maybe they cherish the idea of tiny folk leading their small but eventful lives unbeknownst to our big, clumsy unobservant selves in our direct vicinity. Maybe they also used to speculate if Jill Barklem was right and one simply had to look for fragile whisps of smoke curling skywards among the brambles or blinks of candle-light flickering in the many folds of an ancient oak tree’s bark to find a well-to-do family of mice living in victorian style inside the trunk. I, for my part, desperately whished there was a Nils Karlsson-Däumling waiting inside a hole underneath my bed for a certain someone to donate her comfy dollhouse furniture to him, say “Killevipps", shrink temporarily to Thumbelina-size and join him to feast on a cookie crumb. And I would have welcomed any Borrower trying to nick stuff from my parents' messy household without hesitation.
Therefore this picture book featuring my favorite magical creatures as a seahorse-sized variation which evades the too loud observer piqued my interest as soon as I spotted the cover in the Netgalley picture book selection. I admit, I did not even read the description before requesting a review copy. If I had simply studied the title and the cover employing one or two of my precious brain cells more, I would have understood what The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Mermaids’ aim is (which it fulfills quite beautifully): To turn a seemingly boring and dull future stroll along the seashore into an adventure, a quest for hidden mermaids or - to be more precise - a hunt for traces of their games, their businesses, their daily life: You have found these shiny things. And you think they are just a seashell? Think again! You’re holding a mermaid’s surfboard in your hands. Look closer and hold you breath: Maybe its owner is still hiding behind that little rock over there ... The illustrator used photographs of a boy and a girl and a sunny strip of beach and pasted drawings of round-bellied and spindly-armed, fully-clothed mermaids into them: The drawings are easily conceived as not being part of the photographs. They look cute and sassy, but not convincingly real to the adult me. They create no illusion of magic. I had to leaf a second time through my e-copy to feel the charm of the book, but I finally came to appreciate the message and also the uniqueness of the collage style. I guess I would always prefer a real story with characters who are introduced by their name and a distinguishable personality to a fauna-guide-style-feel-good-book that is suppose to trigger a child’s imagination by separate and anonymous scenes. And I am pretty sure my opinion would have been the same 30 years ago. But then I always had enough imagination. Activating something that is already running at full throttle seems to be a pretty silly endeavor anyway. But for any child who dreads being dragged across the dunes and sees only water and boring miles and miles of sand, the The Tiptoe Guide might indeed be the the perfect "eye-opener".
*** The review may contain some spoilery concerning the first half of the plot ***
Finally over. *sigh*
That short outburst above had been my "review" r*** The review may contain some spoilery concerning the first half of the plot ***
Finally over. *sigh*
That short outburst above had been my "review" right after I had finished reading the book, and as far as my Goodreads.com account was concerned I planned to leave it at that. Now, more than three months later, I have accumulated enough emotional distance to deal with the story again.
I do not remember the exact wording, but when I was handed Alma Katsu’s debut The Taker in March, it came with the promise to be something like Die for Me aimed at the slightly older young adult reader. "Today" the line would probably use the words "A New Adult Die for Me" instead. The ambitious novel has unquestionably its merits and strong points, which I will come back to later, and will appeal to a certain target group – which I to my shame have not been able to label yet -, but it miserably failed the above mentioned pitch in both aspects: The only things The Taker has in common with Amy Plum’s successful paranormal romance are that it deals with the idea of immortality and that part of the plot takes place in Paris. And although two of the three narrators focus on the respective hero’s and heroine’s teenage years, I would never hesitate to sort the novel into the "regular adult" section next to dark books on the blurry edge to paranormal like The Gargoyle or thrillers about mentally unstable killers, who tell their own story in hindsight and drift off to their grandparents’ unhappy childhoods while they are at it. It should go without saying that I would never discourage a teen from picking up books from those shelves. I would say: Read what you want to, but know what it is you are wanting. And that is why I am sitting here to elaborate.
The Taker could be called a gloomy thriller, dark historic fiction or a book about alchemy and magic. But furthermost, as the title hazily suggests, in its core The Taker is a frightening study of obsession in different ugly forms. The story is arranged in three chronological, but interwoven layers told from three points of view.
The most recent layer shows us middle-aged, jaded small-town surgeon Dr. Luke Finley, who is divorced, lonely and extremely weary of his future in the unfriendly town St. Andrews, Maine. When a beautiful murderess is brought in by the Sheriff for the medical check-up that has to precede her police interrogation, he immediately falls so hard for the young girl and her weird explanations of being immortal and having done her companion a favor by ending his much too long life, that he risks everything to help her flee across the border in a "borrowed" car and becomes an accomplice without even looking back.
In the course of the middle layer killer Lanore McIlvrae tells Luke the story of her youth in a partly Puritan, party Catholic wood-cutting settlement in Main around 1809 and of her fateful move to Boston at the age of 17. All her life she had – like all the other girls and women in her village – been feverishly craving the undivided attention of rich and otherworldly beautiful Jonathan St. Andrews, who graciously admitted her to become his friend-like confidant, but who was too obsessed with himself and his unstillable sexual needs to bestow any kind of affection on her her or one of his uncountable married and unmarried bed-partners. No means to gain possession of Jonathan had been to dangerous, too evil or to stupid for Lanore, but eventually her parents had to send her to a Catholic convent in Boston to birth and hand over her out-of-wedlock offspring. Right off the boat she fell into the hands of immortal Adair's street hunters, who provided his drug-laden house parties with fresh, dispensable material, helpless girls meant to be fucked to death by the master of the house or his guests. Inexplicably to me – and to Adair's cold-hearted household staff as well – Lanore felt grateful and excited towards her kidnapper for deigning to to save her from bleeding internally to death by making her immortal, and strived hard to become his favorite mistress and to learn the art of seduction from him in order to be able to contribute to the household by luring in prey herself. In fact, her fascination with him began even before her life was out of the danger zone: "Despite my illness [she refers to her shredded intestines and her miscarriage], he had me that evening and I let him, surrendered to the thrill of his weight over me." Adair’s own obsession seemed to concentrate on beauty and perfection at first.
The deepest layer of the three-tiered story narrates the misery of his 14th-century youth in a third-person-point-of-view: His father, a Romanian nomad, sold his teenage son to a creepy, old alchemist employed by an entertainment-crazy Hungarian Count. Along with sympathetic Lanore the reader learns a lot about his complete loss of freedom, his utter loneliness, his purely sexual relationship with the physically and mentally disabled maid, his quiet hate for his unspeakably brutal, immortality-seeking master and his step-by-step foray into satisfying his sexual urges by sleeping with the mutilated corpses of village wenches, who his master regularly raped to death in his private dungeon and had him bury in the forest afterwards.
Yes, there is a lot of sex in The Taker. But, as already stated, the book is no paranormal romance and does not promote love. It doesn’t get very graphic, but it also does not hide anything: There are no glistening drops of fluid dancing on silky body parts to the rhythm of a sensually throbbing loin area. There are hiked-up petticoats in dirty barns, iron chains and primal screams in mouldy underground chambers, bruises and mortally wounded vital organs, there are forced threesomes and frantic, unexpected couplings in motel rooms. Although I can safely say that the romance-novel-style-overdose of sexual visuals is more often than not something I could do without, I would gladly exchange the corpse-groping and all the loveless abuse for some mushy minute-details-narration of how Lord X expertly leads Lady Y to her first orgasm ever. Honestly, I abhorred every single sexual encounter in The Taker, but I guess others might not. But what appalled and enraged me the most is the description of rape victims getting unwillingly aroused while being sexually abused and beaten to pulp. Partly the strangeness of Adair's sexual preferences is put a little into perspective when the secret around his narration's point-of-view (view spoiler)[which I, by the way, guessed much, much too early (hide spoiler)] is revealed, but, still, scenes like that do not sit well with me.
Another thing that stood between me and the ability to enjoy the book were the characters themselves. I did not remotely like any of them. I despised Lanore and her parents, Jonathan, Adair and his minions and certainly the alchemist, but I also did not get Luke, his unhealthy, illogical fascination with selfish Lanore, and his willingness to overlook that she is using him for her means in a very calculated way.
In addition, some of the facts that open Lanore's eyes are not logical at all, and the plot unnecessarily drags in places. I even contemplated giving up during the first third of the book. Plus, I felt as if the author wanted to mislead me in purpose by using elements that make the well-read fantasy reader associate "vampires": In the beginning it seems like Lanore has the ability to read thoughts and Adair's staff member Tilde is described as having sharpened teeth. But both hints turned into dead ends without a later explanation or apology.
Apropos end: The novel's ending points out dangerous things to come. Dangerous things Luke and Lanore remain unaware of. So you close the book with a lot of unease in your guts although you might not feel the urge to pick up the sequel. Do you like that? I definitely don’t.
Yet, I should not hide that although I easily anticipated most of the important plot mysteries, I think that the story-within-story-within-story structure has been well-planned and well-executed, that both historical eras seem to haven been well-researched and intricately depicted, that the writing shows talent and promise indeed. Savour, for instance, the novel's very first sentence to get a taste: „Goddamned freezing cold. Luke Finley’s breath hangs in the air, nearly a solid thing shaped like a wasp's nest, wrung of all its oxygen.“ That is beauty in the midst of mess, isn’t it?
"He stuck his shovel defiantly in the ground, then took off his little red hat and held it in both hands. 'You have a name?' 'Twinkle.' 'Twinkle,' I s"He stuck his shovel defiantly in the ground, then took off his little red hat and held it in both hands. 'You have a name?' 'Twinkle.' 'Twinkle,' I said slowly. 'The Destroyer,' he added. 'Your name is Twinkle the Destroyer?' He nodded. 'Of course it is. Why wouldn't it be? Okay, Twinkle the Destroyer, I take it you guys have been popping my tires?'" Who doesn't love fierce, little garden gnomes named Pip the BriNger of Pain, Gnoman Polanski or Twinkle the Destroyer? And who doesn't think that Lish McBride’s dialogues between her mellow necromancing hero Samhain LaCroix and multiple, wackily paranormal or frighteningly normal creatures like Pello the dread-locked, beer-bellied, leery satyr, who enjoys to attend council meetings clad neither in glamour nor in anything else that restricts his manliness, huge, vegetarian, strangely sexy bigfoots bursting with mating pheromones, vampire dandies with parasols, popker playing minotaurs, the human underdog Frank, the weregrizzly Ramon and ... last but not least the most interesting pukis in literature, James Montgomery, are prizeworthily funny, clever and naughty? Well I, for my part, I do. A lot of scenes in this sequel to the exciting and entertaining "Hold Me Closer, Necromancer" provided me with blissful moments of mirth.
In spite of that I believe the novel to be superfluous as a novel. Usually I am one of those readers who make a wide berth around short-story anthologies and anouncements of prequel 0.7 and sequel 1.5.2. But in the light of the material presented in "Necromancing the Stone" I am sure a couple of shorts titled "How to Mailorder a Chupacabra", "Bare-Assed Hiking with Pello", "Social Security for the Sexy Bigfoot", "Puking on a Pukis", "The Day Frank Became an Honorary Gnome" or "High on Goddess Juice" would have done the trick very nicely indeed.
See, the problem is the real plot. It is simply not enough around of it to fill a whole book, and the arc of tension – if you insist of looking for one – resembles rather a limp fishing line than a taut string of a bow ready to snap. The narration is split up more or less betweeen Sam and the evil, evil, evil, evil necromancer Douglas, who is a bit dead, but preparing to resurrect and reclaim everything ... and certainly to take revenge, but who has magically stored a fragment of his soul in a object (see title), which is in unsuspecting Sam’s hands but is needed in Doug's to get the action to full throttle. So there is a warning (*yawn*), some dreams, that reminded me of a young Tom Riddle, a little murder (*yawnyawnsob*), some bonding, some council-this-and-that, some re-woeing of Bridgin, the pigeon – ehhr, no, werealpha-in-spe -, and a flashy 5000 Watt bulb anouncing the final solution of the final kind-of-battle precisely at the 39% mark. That meant: enough potential to drive me nuts with boredom between the giggles.
I am not sure whether I want to read the third volume or not. But I do not want to miss out on any new attempt the author throws on the market in the future. For she is a talented one. I won’t go back on that. ...more
If this book was a muffin I would say that it contained too much topping and that it dripped with artificial aroma. If this book was a muffin I wouldIf this book was a muffin I would say that it contained too much topping and that it dripped with artificial aroma. If this book was a muffin I would be nauseated after swallowing 30% percent of it and I would be craving a simple scone after letting the rest drop into the bin. I do love muffins, but there has to be some dough besides all the fudge and the fruit and the icing. Do you know what I mean? If not, you are invited to read the rest of my review:
Between The Land And The Sea is a mermaid book. It starts with a prologue in which a surfer is saved from “an efficient eating machine, emotionless and methodical”, a vicious shark “on a lethal mission”, by a powerful, otherworldly beautiful mermaid and precedes to tell the story of Marina, a girl with “water in her eyes”, who spends her last year of school in a small town by the sea with her father’s sister and her cousin in order to catch up on the social experiences a normal teenager indulges in – like dances, romance and friendship. Before the school year has started Marina has become friends with the social outcasts of her grade – her cousin and his best friend –, a homeless lady, a mysterious Asian-looking fisherman with “ancient eyes” and Lorelai, a mermaid whose face mirrors her own on the dot, who speaks a language only Marina can understand, who calls her sister and who has not been detected by anyone yet in spite of her habit to frolic around with the sea lions under a tourist attraction ship wreck. In addition, the heroine is overcome by a severe case of instant attraction to the school’s top catch, surfer and gardener Ethan. Hunky Ethan falls backwards into a rosebush, when he first catches sight of Marina, and the oracle with the fishing rod mumbles “Very good match, Earth and Water,” concerning the heroine and her love interest. So, if I got this right after almost a third of the book, Marina has been conceived in a harbour (therefore her name), when her father was overcome by a mermaid’s inhuman screeches, whereas Ethan has to be the offspring of an earth-bound troll or garden gnome. His smell certainly backs up that theory.
So far, so good. This is sadly standard Young Adult Paranormal Romance and nothing to complain about. As a mermaid book lover I still might have enjoyed the story and the mercreature-related scenes to come. Even a muffin from the supermarket can melt on your tongue with the help of some Earl Grey. But there is that unfortunate case of topping overflow:
Marina’s Dad is a university professor who develops new kinds of crop - rice or wheat which thrives under bad weather and water conditions in less optimal soil. Marina has accompanied him all her life to the various countries where he researched and planted his stuff. Marina is supposed to be a girl who places family before a plush living, someone who knows the world and its customs, someone who recognizes from which part of Thailand a dish is and who bows, palms pressed respectfully together, saying ”Kob kun kup” when necessary. She is super-smart and super-educated: ”The private tutors I’d studied with had put me beyond American high school level in most areas. Traveling with my father was an education in itself, and I’d read so many classics that there wasn’t one textbook on the syllabus that I didn’t already know.” On top Marina excels in art, because she ”had taken art lessons at museums and galleries in the city” and has an art studio in her San Francisco apartment. The private tutors, the art studio and also the immediate effect a threat to contact her apparently well-known father had on her teachers made me wonder how much money an US university professor, who is into third world research, earns. German professors are surely well-fed, but I doubt that they could afford a San Francisco penthouse apartment next to a wealthy widow, who owns an underground car park full of vintage Rolls Royces, has her own chauffeur, spends her days shopping for designer clothes and financially boosts startup artists, designers and pop-stars. Said widow, former super-model Evie, is the artificial crutch that lets sophisticated and seemingly down-to-earth Marina be a rich kid without being rich herself: Every piece of cloth inside of Marina’s extensive wardrobe has been provided and chosen by “Aunt Evie”, who has an eye for fashion and never goes wrong. Marina’s father does not mind his neighbour spending hundred thousands of dollars on his daughter’s look. And Marina is now a best-dressed girl and fashion expert, who can entertain her new class mates with tales from the dressing room while laughingly denying to be loaded or snobbish. And when Marina mentions her desire to learn to surf, her personal tooth fairy sends two boards and a designer wetsuit. Because of being daily immersed in Gucci and Pucci Marina sees at one glance that her cousin Cruz has a glowing future in fashion design. And certainly it goes without saying that the other outsider Marina befriends, pudgy Megan of the gorgeous hair, is ”incredibly talented” in song-writing, has a voice that makes the heroine ”blink away tears” and needs to be introduced to Evie. I really thought that more talent and more specialness was not possible to integrate in such a small place as Aptos, but I was mistaken: Wise-eyed fisherman Lue Khang turned out to be a former CIA agent who had been working undercover in Vietnam. *Yuck*. My virtual teeth really hurt when biting on that final frosted violet on the plate. Too much is too much. The book had to go unfinished.
I deeply apologize to my brave and disciplined read-along buddy Teccc, who said that he came to hate Aunt Evie as the plot progressed, for persuading him to read the book with me. The next book will be better, Teccc. Promise.
And I thank the author, Derrolyn Anderson, for sending me a free Smashwords coupon in exchange for this honest review. ...more