*** 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
Maura would say "That's the universe calling for you on line two, Orla" or something like that [...]. In the next room over, Orla was talking to eithMaura would say "That's the universe calling for you on line two, Orla" or something like that [...]. In the next room over, Orla was talking to either her boyfriend or one of the psychic hotline callers. With Orla it was difficult to tell the difference between the two sorts of calls. Both of them left Blue thinking she ought to shower afterwards.
”The Raven Boys” has been one of the books I anticipated so much that I placed a pretty early preorder on the hardcover. And, if you look at my status updates, you can see that I breezed through it in practically no time, because I did enjoy reading it and did not want to read other books in between in order to wait for my group of reading buddies to catch up.
Right from the start I loved heroine Blue Sargent, the likeably different non-psychic in a small-town, all-female household of delightfully wacky, but genuine tarot-card-reading fortune-tellers, without reserve and glued myself to her every move. Her family was like a mix of the Obermeiers in “Olfi Obermeier und der Ödipus” and the Delaneys in “The Secret Life of Sparrow Delaney”, but in contrast to the hero and the heroine in the before mentioned novels, Blue feels perfectly comfortable being her mother’s offspring and contributes to her family’s business, too: Her presence is like an amplifier for everything spiritual, magical and life-energy-related. Blurry visions get clearer, spirit voices get louder and ley line energy flows freely when Blue is in the vicinity. I looked extremely forward to the possibility of wonderful Blue falling in love with a boy and struggling hard against her emotions, because her cards again and again predicted the too-early demise of a boy she will kiss. I was eager to meet the mysterious boy who had only one year or less to live: The doomed boy, whose spirit appeared to Blue on St. Mark’s Eve on corpse road.
And here is where my rainbow-colored balloon was condemned to slowly deflate: Although mystery boy Gansey and his friends Adam, Ronan and Noah, who - like him - are Ivy-League-bound students of the prestigious, private boarding-school Aglionby, are far from being cardboard characters, I didn’t fall for them at all. Their sharp angles and their unique edges failed to evoke my interest and their Holy-Grail-like quest to locate the exact route of one of three criss-crossing ley lines, and consequently the secret burying ground of the corpse of the Welsh legend Glendower, seemed pretty random, forcefully molded to fit to the rest of the story and artificially constructed altogether. The use Gansey - and his evil competitors, too - had for the power granted to the person responsible for ancient Glendower’s reawakening was eventually explained, but it did not convince me as far as the degree of obsession and urgency was concerned.
In addition, there was - contrary to the book flap's promise - no true love in sight. Blue is described as a very sensible person, who is determined not to fall in love, because she does not want to be the cause of someone's death. Her frightened realization, that steeling her heart against love - which unerringly will find a crack to slip in anyhow - did not have the slightest effect at all, could have been an extraordinary drama to behold. But Stiefvater chose the route of lukewarm first attraction for one boy, whose attentions are kind of welcome and gratifying, and a curiosity-based, growing familiarity lined with bickering and headed towards a friendship between like-minded persons for another one, who at first seemed to be incompatible. In short, that means: No passion for Blue in volume one, but seeds in the soil for a solid love-triangle in volume 2.
By the way, volume 2: Quite a number of questions remained unanswered and quite a lot of puzzles stayed unsolved. I do not mind a book that leaves room for a sequel. (“Shiver”, for example, has been such a book for me. I could read “Linger”, if I ever felt like it, but I do not have to.) But I resent books that make no sense on their own. “The Raven Boys” does not really end on a cliffhanger, but you cannot fail to notice that the story is incomplete.
I guess I will enjoy reading the sequel eventually. But I can assure you that nothing will seduce me into preordering the hardcover. My hardcover copy of “The Raven Boys” is back on the market, by the way. I see no sense in keeping it. A lovely cover alone does not earn my precious shelf space. All in all: A good read, but also a disappointment. ...more
I would shelve Theo Lawrence’s young adult debut Mystic City as Futuristic Romantasy, if I had to be precise. It takes place in a future, but alternatI would shelve Theo Lawrence’s young adult debut Mystic City as Futuristic Romantasy, if I had to be precise. It takes place in a future, but alternative version of Manhattan. The plot relies heavily on its fantastic elements, namely on the existence of Mystics, who are people who have magic, which is used as energy, as the stuff which makes skyscrapers float high above the flooded landscape with its crumbling, moldy buildings, and as the basic ingredient of a wonder drug called Stic. And the story definitely concentrates more on the stormy and unquenchable forbidden romance between the offspring of bitter, political adversaries than on the glitzy-glossy Mafiosi mystery. That tendency was more transparent in the novel's working title, which had been "Your Heart Like Quicksilver". Like every other futuristic publication aimed at teenagers, Mystic City comes pitched with a comparison to The Hunger Games, which seems to be obligatory these days – plot and setting nonwithstanding – and which nobody takes seriously anymore. My pitch would have been "A cross between Gossip Girl, Blue Bloods and Exodus".
I’ve rated Mystic City three stars, which means, I enjoyed reading it, all in all. There has been a lot of eye-rolling, a lot of 'Yes-Buts' and a lot of "Do-You-Think-I-Am-Dense", which I will explain shortly, but the heroine was thoroughly likable and brave, the hero attractive, super-powered and mysterious, the romance – although instantly there and super-kitschy – pretty romantic, the villains villainous, the action plenty and rapid and the world-building – although unbelievable – vividly painted in rich, sparkling detail and rather creative (view spoiler)[I want a rebellious boy fetch me from my penthouse balcony on his magic motorcycle, too. Maybe that would heal my fear of heights. (hide spoiler)] - although I was a tiny bit disappointed about the lack of progress in communication technology: Mobiles are called TouchMe, MP3-players AMuseMe and people still use Short Message Services and E-Mail. However, my inner eye has been able to pull-up scene after scene and my mind has been sufficiently entertained and managed to stay on track until the book ended – on a half-cliffie.
I do not want to gloss over the two major bothersome things I have hinted at:
A) The predictability. I hate it, really hate it, when I am constantly quicker at grabbing the loose ends than the mystery-solving main character is, because everything is more or less obvious but continuously gets ignored by her, when I have to impatiently look behind me screaming “Come on girl, switch on your brains, morron. You’ve almost said it yourself a minute ago.” I had to wait until past the 50% mark for Aria Rose – who is not meant to be helpless Miss Clueless - to finally catch up and get a whiff. And even then it took her a long time to put the missing pieces of the jigsaw into the right places.
B) The sloppiness. I think the author chose the easy road by integrating magic as a ecologic and economic factor into his or her post-melted-polar-ice-caps era tale. But that is perfectly acceptable. What did peeve me was that apart from some water in the streets and rather warm air the climate catastrophe does not seem to have changed the weather or the living conditions in a noticeable way. Aria’s parents suggest that she goes to Bali on her honeymoon trip, which had me thinking if much of Bali would be inhabitable then. Aria confesses to Hunter that she never saw a real tree or even grass before, which had me thinking where all the fruits on the Rose family’s table came from and how the air is still breathable. And finally, Manhattan. Manhattan’s buildings are standing 30 feet deep in water and the governors detonate unsafe buildings in regular intervals – upper-class people watch the destruction of houses like fireworks, champagne in hand. But the rebellion’s headquarters are below ground in abandoned Metro stations, where individuals have converted old vehicles into homes. How can that be? If living in the lowest floors of street level houses isn’t possible anymore, all Metro stations should to have turned into slimy, concrete-lined aquariums, too!
I am not sure if I want to read the sequel, but I can say I had a rather good time tinted with a bit frustration and a little “Don’t-kid-me-and-don’t-shit-me”-vibe. And I really love that cover. The skyline, the darkness and the rich, delicate girl. It fits. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I have read 226 pages, I adore the heroine - childish, yet ancient, communicative, yet lonely, educated and clever, yet limited to her snowglobe-sizedI have read 226 pages, I adore the heroine - childish, yet ancient, communicative, yet lonely, educated and clever, yet limited to her snowglobe-sized world. I truely enjoy her voice and her half-vindictive, half-yearning dance with her two older, superficial sisters. But after having passed the middle of the book, I find that I am getting fidgetty and a bit bored by the mystery story-line, which is actually not such a huge surprise. Except for Veronica Mars or Columbo or the paranormally criminal elements in my favorite urban fantasy serieses (i.e. Rachel Morgan, Sookie Stackouse and Kate Daniels) crime-solving plots do not excite me much in general. They never have.
Consequently I leave the world of the de Luce family in Buckshaw to its own devices, before reading on turns into a chore.
I am very sorry, Janina, for abandoning your present half-way through. Believe me, I am very grateful that I had the chance to have a go....more
If I were a fan of young adult psycho-thrillers "Unraveling Isobel" would surely represent a jackpot:
High School Senior Isobel, who has just moved witIf I were a fan of young adult psycho-thrillers "Unraveling Isobel" would surely represent a jackpot:
High School Senior Isobel, who has just moved with her girly and gullible mom from Seattle to a small island, because her mother decided to marry recently widowed mansion owner Dick, pardon Richard, after a mere three months long internet-based aquaintance, narrates the Northanger-Abbey-touched story with much spunk and verve and an altogether cheeky, slightly angry (understandable) and very funny voice. Stepbrother and potential love-interest Nathaniel ads a deliciously creamy layer to the Far-away-from-my-best-friend-help-I-am-recruited-as-a-cheerleader-by-the-queen-bee/bitch drama (Really, he is cute enough to eat), and ghostly apparitions at night throw some wholesome thrill in the mix.
But to me Isobel's helplessness and insecurity, when her new set of "parents" starts to accuse her of being mentally ill - like her father, whom her money-and-fame-crazed mom quickly shoved out, when he couldn't hand her the perfect future she had wished for - without caring or listening a tiny, little bit, plus the slowly crawling, yet ungrappable danger of the mansion Morrigan and its former and recent inhabitants were definitely too "thrilling" and too severe for me to enjoy. Though I should not leave the fact unmentioned that neglectful and blatantly selfish parents in children's and young adult fiction always give me, personally, the boiling blisters (view spoiler)[I'd like to turn Isobel's mom into minced meat (hide spoiler)]. For other readers the psychotic thrill might be only lukewarm and the mom-caused reader's rage young adult standard fare.
Should you happen to like your young adult romances paired with haunted mansions, crime, manipulation and looming possibilites of craziness, "Unraveling Isobel" might become your next favorite.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I've finally read the almost unobtainable young adult novel Fury by the wonderful Australian author Shirley Marr (You see what I mean when you encountI've finally read the almost unobtainable young adult novel Fury by the wonderful Australian author Shirley Marr (You see what I mean when you encounter her in one of the discussions here on Goodreads. Shirley is one of thoses authors who also dare to stay readers with their own opinions on books and the world, which means - like you might have noticed - being among the very last of an almost extinct species.)
Since crime-focused fiction is usually not my cup of tea, my rating (3.5 stars altogether) means that I do recommend the book to readers who spend their time in the the criminal thriller corner more often than I do.
And that is because Fury is very dark and excellently structured. Marr uses the a story-within-story concept (if you have read the adult thriller The Earthquake Bird by Susanna Jones you know what I mean): The outer layer has the stubbornly evasive heroine sitting in a police questioning room with an officer - or in Eliza Roberta Boans' case a youngish, attractive humane psychologist employed by the police - who tries to pry out of her what really happened prior to her arrest under suspicion of murder by knife, the inner layer tells the heroine's story in her own pace, meaning that she withholds the information which interests patient Dr. Fadden and the reader most (how many were murdered, who was murdered, what are the reasons for the deed and is the heroine really responsible or even sane enough to receive a punishment) for a long, long time, feeds choppy bits and hints along with random episodes of her school life, of her childhood and of her ueber-rich and sheltered neighborhood in the ditch-lined suburb East Rivermoor. This choice of narration keeps up the reader's attention without fail - it had even me turning the pages with only a dinner-break in between - and makes us hunt frantically from clue to clue. I wondered who much calculation and how many burned brain-synapses were necessary to sprinkle just the right facts into the story in the right places and in the right order.
What forces me to rate the reading experience lower is the almost complete lack of connection between most of the characters and myself. I did not mind Eliza to be a spoiled teen who has it all and expect it all. I did not mind Eliza to be probably a murderess who might or even might have not a good reason for having wielded a knife. But I did mind Eliza to fail at winning me over to her side although the potential was there: Absent father, indifferent and perpetually traveling high-society mother, utter loneliness, the feeling to be unimportant and overlooked in spite of many efforts to get attention in school by smart and not so smart means. No, Eliza and I simply did not click. But at least I was able to puzzle together a vague picture of Eliza’s personality during the second half of the story, to anticipate what she would feel or do; and I admired her sassiness in the interrogation room. As the rest of the cast, Eliza’s friends, her parents, teachers, classmates, neighbors and the authorities of East Rivermoor, were concerned, I simply found no familiar handle to grasp. Half of the time I did not understand at all what they were doing and saying or why. Yet I guess the complete intransparency of the character set has been assembled intentionally to create a certain eerie atmosphere. The reader is supposed to be at unease, to enter unknown territory, to feel the need to constantly turn uncomfortably around in nervous circles.
Unfortunately in order to thorougly enjoy and adore a book of any genre I, personally, need solid, life-like and likable characters who also show the notable promise of some development. While reading Fury I felt like I was trying to sift plancton out of a vast ocean using my own clumsy hands. I felt that I kind of hated Ella Dashwood, the new and newly-rich girl, right after she was introduced, but I could not pinpoint why. Something about her just did not add up properly. With Eliza’s other friends I could not even say if they were really friends or only a pupose-focused group with Eliza as the self-declared leader, if they actually liked Eliza or if they descpised her. Although I have experienced a friendship with a manipulative control-freak in primary school myself, I had no chance to understand the dynamics of Eliza’s triangle. Lexi and Marianne are beautiful. Lexi is obsessed with weight and is maybe kind of kind, Marianne is gifted and obsessed with school and is sometimes a bit mean or spontaneous or snarky. One of them is blond, I forgot who. Sometimes two or three of them bonded, sometimes they did not. They were friends or enemies with some boys at school and some girls, too. The principal of the private school had zero interest in really changing his students’ behavior for good, the school councelor turned out to be a mischief and gossip lover without an ounce of work ethics, the teachers declared openly which students they prefered or spent their lessons watching the clock with propped up feet. In addition there was Eliza’s childhood-friend Neil, an intelligent trouble-maker, whose relationship to Eliza and Marianne was also undefinable and who I would not be able to describe properly. And finally the unfamiliarity of East Rivermoor itself: The suburb had a fantasy-like sheen to it. Eliza hints at the difficulty to leave, at the ditch and the wall surrounding it, at disappearing girls and a strict curfew on work days. The only “normal” person in my opinion was Dr. Fadden, although I did not understand why he would risk his job by letting his criminal charge out of the questioning room.
Sooo... If you like dark crime-stories involving strange places that play with your mind and make you thoroughly uncomfortable - and if you do not mind that the quirky characters are nothing like you and the people you know -, do try to get hold of a copy of Fury. For those of you who speak and read German: The soon available translation might be easier to obtain than the Australian original. ...more
“Forget everything you think you know about merpeople. Forget that freaking Ariel, think Silence of the Lambs, think Friday the Thirteenth."
How happy“Forget everything you think you know about merpeople. Forget that freaking Ariel, think Silence of the Lambs, think Friday the Thirteenth."
How happy I am that I still have not given up on mermaid books. The strong imprint of my childhood’s obsesssion is still keeping my hope up to find a gleaming mother-of-pearl-treasure among the ocean floor rubble now and then. Rare finds like Anne Greenwood Brown’s soon to be published Lies Beneath justify my unbroken tenacity: Skilled writing, danger, mystery, romance and under-water-action combined with unsettlingly inhuman creatures who - in spite of their inner and outer difference to mankind - do not muddle up the plotline into something illogical or unconceivable, but still leave plenty of room for the reader’s empathy and involvement.
Brown’s mermaids are hollow, envious creatures. Monsters. Like vampires are craving human blood these tail-bearing shapeshifters are addicted to human happiness. They drain couples in love or people enjoying to sail their boats completely of their aura and discard them dead and empty, because they have no means to generate their own bliss and resent their victims for effortlessly flowing over with it.
In addition, they are bound creatures: Physically bound to water – a day-long absence makes their skin crackle and split, visibly bound to their species – by a blueish ring etched into the skin of their necks, magically bound to their family and their family’s territory and mentally bound to fulfill given promises and agreed-to deals. Apart from the mentioned bindings the long-living, alluringly beautiful and super-strong beings are completely amoral and more or less uncivilized: Heroe Calder and his three sisters regularly return to their home, Lake Superior, but when they are not hunting human prey or seafood in the cold water, they sleep in unfurnished caves or drive to places in cars that are not more their own than the clothes on their skins. Calder takes up some work now and then because he prefers to spend his winters alone in warmer waters and needs some money for the plane fare. Calder’s yearning for a solitary life makes him a freak among his own kind. He more or less successfully explains his unusual disposition by the the fact that in contrast to his sisters he has been made not born: His mermaid mother chose to save his life and turn him when he was three. But the thing that really disturbs Maris, Pavati and Tallulah is Calder’s resolve to refrain from killing people as long as he can stand.
Calder’s new aversion to killing has to be quickly overcome, because this summer is the summer of the long-awaited revenge: The Hancock family, whose recently died grandfather is said to be responsible for Calder’s mother’s death, has returned to their house on the shore. Now Calder is supposed to lure one of the Hancock daughters into danger in order to make an easy kill out of their father. Parallel to Calder’s growing conscience his awareness for other aspects of human existence awakens. Partly responsible for Calder’s changing personality is Lily, the older Hancock daughter, who mesmerises Calder with more than just her peach-colored aura.
Contrary to my earlier apprehension I loved reading the story from the male mermaid’s point of view. It made me quickly grow fond of Lily and Sophy, it kindled my fear for Calder's capricious sisters, it offered the right pacing for the mystery around Hancock Senior and Calder’s mother to be unraveled and it drew me to Calder’s side, strange and unfamiliar as it was. I extremely enjoyed Calder’s observations when he ptetended to be a normal human boy, who already knows how to behave at a family dinner: “Lily scooped some spinach salad onto my plate and passed me the salt shaker. I looked at her gratefully and shook it liberally over everything.“
Also I keenly felt his distress and his inner conflict. If you do not look at him too closely, Calder could be described as an ectotherm Edward. Beautiful, torn, self-tormenting and slightly in love with the wrong girl. I liked Lily’s curiosity and fearlessness, which did not make her behave sillily. She represented a strong, spunky, happy and loving counterpart to the paranomal heroe who is constantly fighting depression and self-loathing. And am sure she will also keep the sequel from drifting into unbearably dark waters.
Apropos sequel. I would love to get my hands on it now. And I wouldn’t mind owning a physical copy of Lies Beneath. The blood-soaked streak of water following the live-like mermaid looks so fitting.
Thank you, Netgalley and Delacorte Press for making a mermaid lover happy. See my contented, apricot-colored aura? That is definitely thanks to you ... and certainly the wonderful author, Anne Greenwood Brown.
"Yucko"". That is the heroine's favorite word. And it fits, a bit. However, if I were to blurb the paranormal sleutheress boarding-school romance ""To"Yucko"". That is the heroine's favorite word. And it fits, a bit. However, if I were to blurb the paranormal sleutheress boarding-school romance ""Touch of Frost"" I would say ""Likable, but in the direct vicinity of 'meh'"".
I feel a little bit like venting, but I am in bed with a cold. So, please excuse me for amassing random thoughts here instead of a structured review:
- English is not my mother tongue. Therefore I am always happy to pick up additional tidbits that help me to understand and use it better. While reading ""Touch of Frost"", I learned that ""purple hoodie"" is actually a composite word. The same might be true for ""violet eyes"", a narrower term being ""my violet eyes"". The broader term can be found sixteen times within this series' starter volume. Both can be used in sentences of remarkable literary value, i.e.: ""So I just stared at him, my feelings for him so obvious in my violet eyes."" The only way Gwenny could be so unwaveringly sure of the expressability of her Frost-Familiy-Brand-Eyes in PANTONE 261C is extensive self-study via mirror... or it might be that the author still has no idea how a first-person-narration is successfully implemented. That might also explain the long, long and kind of repetitive analytical monologues the heroine has in her mind - preferably in the face of imminent danger.
- Connected to the point-of-view is a lot of meta-information that gets dumped on the reader, which is either the result of judging the readers as being too dense to spot the author's applaudable ability to stick to certain paranomal romance or sleuthing-story formula on the dot on his or her own or it is a tell-tale-sign of parodistic writing. I tend to go with the first possibility. Gwendolyn actually tells us ""Everything about Logan screamed bad boy, from the thick, silky, ink-black hair to his intense ice blue eyes to the black leather jacket that highlighted his broad shoulders."" A thousand things just feel ""off"" to the heroine, which certainly makes her investigate. But then she misses some important clues. And in case the reader has not just noticed that things are a tad too obvious here and the heroine has a plot-lengthening moment, she emphasises her own being behind: ""I felt a memory stirring in my subconscious. Something to do with illusions. Something that I'd seen or heard or read or thought about in the last few days. Something that was important."" Well, duh.
- In addition there is the ""let's-have-a-paranormal-heroine-but-how-on-earth-can-we-make-use-of-her-powers"" dilemma. In ""Touch of Frost"" it is not as bad as in, for example, Clarity. But if the heroine would play her cards, or rather abilities, right, there would be no need for her to admit repeatedly that she is no Veronica Mars. Gwen, whose gift is ""touch magic"" - having visions when touching people or people's objects -, breaks into a room to find clues about a murder, but actually tries to avoid touching most things in there. She takes out a book with a sticky note tacked to a rather relevant looking paragraph, but a day later she has still not tried her power on it. Gwen's reluctance is feebly explained away by her fear of reliving horrible moments or learning secrets without the consent of people she respects, but in the light of solving the case - and the fact, that Gwen earns money by locating lost and sometimes embarrassing stuff - that sounds far-fetched.
- The heroine's ""I-avoid-touching-people"" strategy certainly works beautifully with the ""Save-the-heroine's-virginity-for-the-last-installment-or-forever"" rule most paranormal young adult romance sticks to. Gwenny is even of the unkissed sort and ohhh does she want to make out with the bad, but life-saving boy, but then she would compromise him by learning all his and his family's dirty secrets and probably his hot and dirty thoughts on top. Therefore she takes down her open arms in time, makes a double morron out of herself verbally, has the love interest's half-melted ice-eyes turn to popsicles and does not get a third chance in the end, because by then we have - just in time - switched to the moody-broody ""I-cannot-have-you-know-my-dark-secret-and-my-utterly-ugly-side-yet-although-I-crave-you"" part of the required plot development. Who would have guessed, huh?
That would be all for now. Before you say it, I have to bring it on the table myself: I cannot successfully explain what made me read a paranormal boarding school romance again after so many disappointments. Must have been the high average rating plus the enthusiasm of several of my friends - or my indestructable hope that Enid Blython and J. K. Rowlings cannot be the only ones who were able to pull off addictive stories set in boarding school environments....more
I stopped reading the pretty bland and washed-out appearing urban fantasy romance about a hypochondriac, who gets tricked into a situation of permanenI stopped reading the pretty bland and washed-out appearing urban fantasy romance about a hypochondriac, who gets tricked into a situation of permanent magical service and physical dependence, after stomping through 42% of it.
What bugged me most was that the author, narrator or heroine - whoever is to blame - is not capable of holding on to one line of thought for the length of a simple scene or situation. There is a lot of drifting-off and random-babbling going on without anybody declaring that a foggy, vapid brain is part of the poor girl's condition. To me all those huh??-moments triggered a string of headaches and irritation and finally capitulation....more
The first three quarters were 2.5 stars, the ending was definitely 3 fully-colored ones.
+ The story was not boring. I had no urge to stop. At no pointThe first three quarters were 2.5 stars, the ending was definitely 3 fully-colored ones.
+ The story was not boring. I had no urge to stop. At no point. (But I wouldn't have searched for the book either, should I have mislaid it somehow.) + The heroine is likable, a bit clueless, yes, but intelligent enough and likable. + And the hero is hot and a bit self-loathing. + There were some very funny scenes woven in. Two or three times I even contemplated the possibility of extracting a quote, but my lazy side won. + The sex-crazy unicorn is cute, but if it were not for its crucial part in the plot, which required some witty talking, I would have loved it better had it kept his snout(?)/muzzle(?) shut. For your visualization: I imagine Phineas the Unicorn to look like a chihuahua-sized off-white "My-Little-Pony" with a sparkly horn, a firm little pouch from slurping too much bacon and cereals, lazy, half-closed eyes and pinkishly blue male equippment. + I loved the last scene before the very last. I have to admit I am a sucker for those heart-broken guys who have to come to terms with the fact that they have fallen for a girl but do not feel entitled to act on it. I enjoy the pain in their faces. Even more if they are the usually cocky types. If this scene was not there I would have rated the book 2 stars only. - The world-building needs some final strokes. - The plot is choppy. - A lot of explanations do not really make sense. (For instance, why are all these Fairies, Angels and Demons running around in Portsmouth if they do not have a human TouchStone yet. Is it a requirement to exist among humans or not?) - A lot of scenes are very random, partly enjoyble, witty or sexy, but pointless. I concluded that they were written first and then aimlessly connected with the rest of the story because the author or editor did not have the heart to throw them out. My friend Kim from Belgium tried to make her not-being-a-native-speaker responsible for her irritation while I first thought I had blown some fuse while turning the pages. Kim, we are both not to blame. I am positive. - The instant attraction (Dreameater meets hyperdreamer, who has an overflow of nightmares. Let's shout B-I-N-G-O.). I've had too much of it. - The evil ones are oh-so-evil.
So this is not going to be my next favorite urban fantasy series. And I will not mention it in one breath together with the Rachel-Morgan-Series, the Kate-Daniels-Series, Mercy Thompson or Sookie Stackhouse again. But it was worth the try and the time was not wasted. I had fun. ...more
A lot of creepy suspense, an interesting heroine - who I in spite of the first-person-narration never really got to know - and a certain Veronica-MarsA lot of creepy suspense, an interesting heroine - who I in spite of the first-person-narration never really got to know - and a certain Veronica-Mars-in-Private-School feel, but a not so very unexpected mystery, a lot of repetitive scenes, a half-hearted boy-girl friendship, a half-hearted romance and a half-hearted, truly deflatingly unsatisfactory ending, which I really didn't like. ...more