The third installment of my very favorite fairy and steampunk series featuring my favorite cat ever and the cutest Gremlin alive ... I loved The Iron...moreThe third installment of my very favorite fairy and steampunk series featuring my favorite cat ever and the cutest Gremlin alive ... I loved The Iron King and just liked The Iron Daughter. The typical consequence following the law of paranormal trilogies would be that I tolerated The Iron Queen - for old times' sake. But no - I got to be surprised (although I sometimes feel so unsurprisable): In most parts I liked The Iron Queen almost as much as The Iron King and in some parts (i.e. the number of Grimalkin dialogues, the multiple, fantastic steampunk elements, the Puck-and-Ash-banter and Meghan's personal growth) I think it even surpassed it in my eyes.
Before reading The Iron Queen my guess about The Iron Knight/Ash's story was that we would be told some ancient story about his former self wooing Ariella or losing his soul or growing a heart or battling his brothers, but now I am pretty positive that Julie Kagawa is going to treat us with a narration of what happens after The Iron Queen - in Ash's point of view. I cross my fingers that I am right. There has to be a way.
And please, Mrs. Kagawa, write some awsome new series on the side, won't you? I bet it will relax you in the evenings after hours of tweaking Ash's musings and Puck's teasings.
Ohhh ... and I forgot: TBR Pile Reduction Challenge 2011, Book #8 (challenger = Jessica)(less)
"'Something really important came up,' he said. 'Something so important you didn't have the decency to give me a freaking ride home? What came up?' 'I...more"'Something really important came up,' he said. 'Something so important you didn't have the decency to give me a freaking ride home? What came up?' 'I can't talk about it.'"
So. Let's talk about 'Shifting', a paranormal Young Adult Romance debut about an orphaned girl, who has been handed from one abusive foster home to the next, and who has had some collisions with the police lately because of nightly nudity and kitty fights for pieces of clothing with local prostitutes in her home town Albuquerque, New Mexico. As the title already suggests, Magdalene Mae Mortensen is a Shifter, someone who has to shift at full moons and can shift into whatever she wants whenever she wants (kind of like Sookie's bartender boss Sam). A few months before the State's responsibility ends Maggie's social worker, Mr. Petersen, made the strange last-straw-decision to hand his toughest ward cookie over to his own mother in small-townish Silver City. The change of abode comes with a change of hair color(view spoiler)[ also Mr. Petersen's idea - to make her blend in. Shouldn't he rather try to make her feel comfortable in her own skin? (hide spoiler)], a change of social workers and a change of schools. Now Maggie Mae is in the hands of incapable, insensitive blabbermouth Ollie Williams, surrounded by mega-bullies and supposedly hot jerks, cared for by an old, naive and superstitious lady, who is not accustomed to keeping a girl safe and fed, and hunted by someone ruthless, dangerous and unknown. Sounds great?
No. I don't think so either. So do not ask me what made me put the title on my wishlist in the first place. Certainly part of the blame goes to the cover, which is a bit fitting, actually, although Maggie's black-dyed hair is always wet or filthy and the attempt to shift into a snake went freakishly wrong. Then there was the promise of a New Mexican setting and Native American mythology. What puzzles me in hindsight is, that I somehow managed to graciously overlook the accumulation of brightly glowing jerk-inside bumper-stickers on positive and negative reviews alike. Inexplicably the praise of one single reviewer, who was even more or less unknown to me, stuck and overrode all warning signals: She gushed about the fantastically normal guy filling the love interest spot. I should have taken the time to run a check on her favorites shelf before mustering the galls to even suggest to my friend Teccc a read-along! But guess what: He chuckled evasively and didn't say yes or no, but expressed himself to be partly curious. Luckily I did not pester him again and saved myself from having to perform some apologetic groveling. For "normal" is the very last word I would select to describe rich, snobby, aloof, smarmy, horny, self-centered, impolite, irresponsible, rude, one-eighth-Navajo-blooded Daddy's boy Bridger, beloved little shit, track star and French-fiancé-owning, mysterious Crown Prince of Silver City. Even a good month later leafing through the offensive quotes I've marked makes my blood boil with disgust, and I hate the heroine for relenting and forgiving and being turned on again and again: "Who was verbally beating me to pulp this time? I was straining my ears but couldn't separate one voice out of them all. Bridger frowned and stopped dancing. He took a step away from me and said, 'I'll be back in a couple of minutes. Want some punch or cookie or anything?'" Naturally Bridger does not return all evening. He lets Maggie stand among a group of harpies who identified her - beautiful - dress as being from the Wal-Mart clearance rack and wondered loudly if he wasn't embarrassed being seen with someone "so shoddy", but he does not see a reason to apologize the next day (see quote on at beginning). Prom Night is not the only occasion Maggie Mae has to run in animal form home to Mrs. Carpenter's house in the middle of nowhere because of Bridger's sudden change of mind. Once he chivalrously picks her up and says she shouldn't consider walking alone at night after her shift in the Mexican restaurant, but spontaneously shoves her out of his car because of a mysterious phone call. The incident on graduation day tops everything - although part of the disaster is Mrs. Carpenter's fault, who should have known better about Silver City hierarchy, since she had lived all her life among her rich and poor neighbors. She gleefully flaunts the information that her foster daughter plans to celebrate the end of school with their quasi-royal son into his posh parents' sour faces and then leaves the school grounds - and Maggie Mae, who is car-less and also phone-less - without a second thought. Cue for Bridger to make the following little speech: "I'm so sorry - I know we were going to hang out tonight, but my mom's made other plans. I've got to cancel. So ... I guess I'll see you around. I'll call you sometime. Or drop by and help you with the garden." and making a quick no-looking-back-exit that ignores her feeble "But ... I don't have a ride" protest. Shortly before Maggie is almost mobbed to death he quietly tells her to be careful, because "something might be up", but doesn't do anything to prevent her getting hurt. When he takes her "as a friend" out to a five-star-restaurant, where she stands out like pus on a model's face in her tattered second-hand clothes and bewilderedly discusses the unavailability of tap water with the condescending waitress, who fawns over Bridger (Hello, Twighlight's restaurant scene), but suggests to his date to "go eat somewhere that is better suited to trailer trash", Bridger nervously watches Maggie form a frown, yanks her out of the booth before she can decide to retort (new destination: KFC) and testily asks "Are your previous brushes with the law for fighting?" without even contemplating to put the waitress in her place for being rude to a paying customer. In addition, he invites poor Maggie to stay over, although he must have known how his parents would react after detecting an undesirable girl without money or connections under their roof, and succeeds, although Maggie's only friend Yana had warned her in time about his rich fiancé and his girl-eating habits: "Well, there's a problem. France is on another continent. So when Bridger's hormones rage, he finds someone local to use as a temporary replacement. And then he tosses her aside." By the way, I am positive Bridger is something paranormal, too. Something that needs invitations into houses, something at war with the dangerous species Maggie Mae seems to belong to at the first superficial glance: Skinwalkers. I did not venture in far enough to find out, but I am almost betting my battered Kindle on it.
The second obstacle, which quickly rubbed me sore, has been the unprofessional behavior of Maggie Mae's replacement social worker Ollie, who is officially in charge of Silver City's foster children. He talks to Mr. Petersen, Mrs. Carpenter and Bridger about Maggie Mae as if she wasn't present or as if she was deaf or stupid or had no feelings at all and accepts rumors circling "in the office" about her as the unquestionable truth. "'I've come to visit with Ms. Mortensen, too,' Ollie explained, holding my file up. '[She]'s been in the fostering program since she was five,' Ollie said. I wanted to punch Ollie. Wasn't my life, contained in the file under his arm, supposed to be private? 'Oh,' Bridger said again, studying me as if we had just met." Later on Ollie shows only minimal remorse when his niece Danni, Maggie Mae's number one bully, reads aloud from said confidential file and systematically riles up the mob to shame and punish "the prostitute" in the locker room. The teachers and the principal act and react almost as bizarrely and wipe the last bit of reality out of a story that did not have much life-like to offer in the first place.
Well. I conclude with saying that I am rather surprised that I made it until 56%. In my opinion the book did not deserve the time I spent reading it. So should you have a jerk allergy as severe as mine, do yourself a favor and avoid repeating my mistake. It's not good for your health.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I feel so bad about giving up, because "Dust City" is really easy to read and I would leaf through the remaining hundred pages in a blink. But I am to...moreI feel so bad about giving up, because "Dust City" is really easy to read and I would leaf through the remaining hundred pages in a blink. But I am too lazy to invest the time, because I know it will not chance my opinion - or my life, or even my day. It's too late for that after two thirds.
As we all had the same difficulties with the visuals: I imagined the evolved-towards-human-standards-intelligence animalia dystopian-fairytale-retelling-setting to be a nightmare-turned world of the Calico Critters, little jeans overalls with pre-fabricated tail-holes and all - although no LRRH-eating wolf family seems to be part of the available selection.(less)
I breezed through 'Outpost', the sequel to 'Enclave', in a matter of hours and I wish I could go with Deuce and her friends on her next frighteningly...more I breezed through 'Outpost', the sequel to 'Enclave', in a matter of hours and I wish I could go with Deuce and her friends on her next frighteningly dangerous journey through freak-infested territory by devouring 'Horde' right now. It doesn't happen so often that I am that contented with a second/middle volume.
I suppose, I definitely could do without the love-triangle - although it's not a very sharp-angled or annoying one since the heroine's preferences are pretty clear and remain that way. Another tiny blotch is the occasional use of words which Deuce with her cut-off-from-topside-life-and-civilization-background should not know yet.
The rest has been almost perfect: The post-apocalytic setting, the action, the mystery of the fast evolving zombie freaks, the extraordinarily wonderful heroine, her clashes with an equally strict, but completely different society - world, even - from what she is used to that do not cause her to cower or back down, but also do not tempt her into gloryfying her former life as a Huntress in the College enclave; plus I liked the the accute picture of how circumstances and good or bad experiences form or damage people and how important and necessary second chances can be.(less)
I am finally out of patience after 146 pages of actual reading and some half-hopeful page flipping - oh my, is that paper glossy and shiny; but I didn...moreI am finally out of patience after 146 pages of actual reading and some half-hopeful page flipping - oh my, is that paper glossy and shiny; but I didn't expect it to be otherwise since the publisher calls itself 'Planet Girl'.
Bluishly glowing, extraterrestrial, hyper-prickly boy with an expiry date fascinates rebellious, pouty school girl with a helper-complex living under a dome in the United Nations of Earth.
That is almost 600 pages of he-hates-me-he-loves-me, we-cannot-be-together and our-love-will-make-it-happen-against-the-odds-of-alien-nature young adult romance. Earth with its reduced population, reduced inhabitable space and its newfound we-humans-are-a-happy-family disposition just serves as a convenient, unripe, pseudo-futuristic backdrop for the cross-planetary love-story: That dome has to span a hundred kilometers and can just be opened and closed when the weather changes. People have flying vehicles, printed books, iPads, meat-sausages, tea and coffee, visit the beach cafés on dome-free days and protest against animal testing in the laser cosmetic industry, although birds and insects are about the only animals living around town. The dome is packed with buildings high into the sky around the middle and deep into the ground everywhere else, but nothing is said about how and where food is produced. There are credit-operated ice-cream-machines and waste-bins for the wrappers on the street, but the heroine blithely states that the environmental sins of her ancestors have been learned of and will not be repeated. Although English remains the sole language spoken on the planet, most of the surnames sound distinctly German. In spite of that no hint according to the location of the dome city is dropped.
It is also pretty unlikely that the future rulers of Earth - how peaceful and harmony-loving they might have become - would allow 300 refugees from a planet they have formed a kind of alliance with to immigrate without in depth scientific knowledge of that species' bodies. In this novel human-looking kids from a five-light-years away planet are distributed by an quirky, artisty social-worker-person into foster homes after vaguely spreading rumours about manifesting skin-colors, telekinesis-like abilities and dietary limitations among the volunteering teenage baby-sitters, who nervously ask their accademically gifted charges if they are possibly able to read minds. Nobody seems to know what kind of secret anatomy is hidden under the scarf every child firmly keeps around his or her neck. It could just be a reproductive organ, a thermometer or an artificial anus, but what if it is a biological weapon or something sensitive and life-supporting? No government would be that naive.
When I decided to put Cold Magic aside, after 67% of very little pleasure and a lot of struggle, I felt pretty angry and offended. Angry, because read...moreWhen I decided to put Cold Magic aside, after 67% of very little pleasure and a lot of struggle, I felt pretty angry and offended. Angry, because reading these 360 pages took a huge effort and did not dole out the tiniest reward. Offended, because the book, written by an author with quite some published writing to show as a proof for her skills, made me question my ability to focus, my ability to absorb and understand what I read and - for a short, shocking minute – the functionality of my Kindle’s page-turning buttons. I think I would have met the same experience with more detachment had I bought a glowingly praised debut cheaply at Smashwords. Probably I would not have stayed as long on board of the shipwreck, but I would have said with conviction: It’s not me. It’s the book. It’s unreadable, but it shows room for improvement. But how can I say that about a book which has 1.800 ratings that produce an average of 3.8 out of 5? How can I say that about a book that makes others buy the sequels for good money? You see my dilemma. But I refuse to take the blame. I rather dance the Cha-Cha with my fury as a partner. And because I do not want to appear as someone impersonating Rumpelstiltskin without a plausible cause, I am going to breathe in and breathe out and defend my sanity.
I used to say that to me an enjoyable story begins and ends with likable, complex characters and a believable setting. To my own astonishment I have to step back from that opinion now. For I liked paranormally gifted Catherine "Cat" Hassi Baharal, her cousin Bee, enemy and love interest Andevai Diarisso Haranwy, a powerful cold mage (view spoiler)[and Cat’s newfound brother the easy-going, shapeshifting ladies’ man Roderic (hide spoiler)]. And I admit that there are a lot of great ideas thrown into the world mix: A very alternative, slightly steampunky version of Europe, magicians, whose presence kills fire, a parallel spirit world, sabertoothed werecats, dragons, feathered lizard-like trolls. The combination should unquestionably trump superhuman jerks pursuing brainless, insta-love-seeking girls in front of a cardboard backdrop any day. It does not. For Cold Magic is not a story. It is a mess that needs to be chucked or rewritten from scratch.
Like most of the fantasy readers out here I am bored by long monologues meant to introduce the unfamiliar, fictional world and its inhabitants. I also find books that treat the reader like an old acquaintance, who is already in the know, pretty difficult. When I was reading Cold Magic I came to the point at which I desperately wished for the arrival of an enormous info dump to finally get me on track or for a scattering of some new and helpful puzzle pieces to add to my inner picture. Both wishes remained unfulfilled. In almost each chapter the same incomprehensible, unstructured information about the last millennium's world politics, the wars, the Hassi Baharal family, their niche in the world as spies, messengers, sailors, wandering scientists, sociologists and whatnot was repeated in different words, sometimes even by different means, like in a letter or as a part of a diary. But each repetition remained lacking, vague and foggy. If I were a drug user, I would surely have double-checked my dose. Instead I checked myself for lack of sleep, for symptoms of a beginning cold and for symptoms of beginning dementia. I hated these self-directed doubts, really hated them. And I have no reasonable explanation for the novel’s lack of structure. Maybe the author taught a beginners' creative writing class, threw the same keywords at each of the participants, had them write her heroine’s background, liked all results equally well and promised to use them all at some point of her next book? That cannot be, can it? But strange ideas like that flitted through my brains and messed with my sanity.
The aspects that made me look closer at my Kindle’s buttons were repetitions in the plot. I know that a normal road-trip plot contains some routine essentials: Scenery, clothes, food, sleeping arrangements. But a narrator could cut them short, if nothing important is to be conveyed by elaborating on them. For example, in each of the inns the carriage stops at the heroine is greeted by a detached, but matronly person and is then waited on by a red-haired, silent, young girl who brushes her long, black hair and praises it. Eventually I stopped reading in order to find out whether I really had made reading process or whether my Kindle had jumped to a scene I had covered some time before. My Kindle worked just fine. The book didn’t. And, as far as I know, there was no surprise reason presented later - like a flame-tressed wonder girl who could portal from inn to inn. Accordingly it is just senseless almost-cut-and-paste to emphasize how boring and monotonous a cross-country-trip can be? Or is it sloppiness?
In addition to those repetitions there is a lot of redundant rambling and straying from the straight, narrative path. Little Cat-Riding-Hood stops to pick flowers and chat with random wolves whenever she pleases, while the baffled reader stands aside nervously clutching grandmother’s lunch basket.
So, no. It’s not me, who is damaged. It’s the book. I am sure. And I believe that every reader who did not experience my discomfort has just been graced with a superhuman ability to effortlessly combine scattered puzzle pieces, find the odd herb among the weeds and straighten tangled stories in the back of her mind. Contented readers, you have my full admiration. Ordinary readers, you now have my warning. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)