This was a retelling so awful that I deleted the file on my e-reader without checking whether I had managed to read 25% or 30% before combusting. One...moreThis was a retelling so awful that I deleted the file on my e-reader without checking whether I had managed to read 25% or 30% before combusting. One spontaneous, annoyed click and the free Kindle version was gone without a trace (The order still lurks in my Amazon account history and mocks my bad taste. This year will be better, I am sure.)(less)
*** 1.5 stars ***Emery bursts into the kitchen [...]. Her golden curls flap in the air as she runs toward us, hugging her Spaceship around Saturn pil...more*** 1.5 stars ***Emery bursts into the kitchen [...]. Her golden curls flap in the air as she runs toward us, hugging her Spaceship around Saturn pillow to her chest. "Do you think they'll sign it? I need a Sharpie! Chloe! I need Sharpies!" She screams the words into my face. Her eyes get all crazy, like a taxidermy laughing hyena.
"American Girl on Saturn": I don't know... The title immediately sounded appealing to me. Probably, because it reminded me of "All American Girl" by Meg Cabot, which I loved for its realistic characters and its humor in spite of the rather far-fetched set-up (a teenager saves the US president from being shot by a lunatic assassin, is invited to the White House for her bravery and begins a boy-girl-thing with the First Son). Also, the description mentioned that the heroine Chloe Branson would be annoyed to hear that five spoiled Canadian boy group members have to hide in her secret-service-parents' house turning her glorious plans for a carefree summer upside down. I usually enjoy those stories that start with a lot of fight and bickering between two opposites who reluctantly have to succumb to their mutual attraction. They are, in my opinion, extra-entertaining when the girl has the upper hand and whips the formerly hard-shelled boy into shape before he knows what is happening to him.
Well, the annoyance, the reluctance, the bickering, the attraction and the spoiled-brat-behavior (on both sides, unfortunately) were all present to some degree, but the story and the characters felt atrociously off and unbelievably fake and sweet - right from the start.
Later, when I came to read the author's acknowledgements, I understood the bigger picture, but this understanding made me feel rather cheated, betrayed. I know, that many authors write a story for themselves or for a friend or a relative (remember Twilight?) in the first place and are persuaded to pester the publishing industry afterward. Nicci Goodwin wrote "American Girl on Saturn" for her sister to remember their teenaged days, when the two of them were as boy-band-crazy as you can be, concocting all kinds of hare-brained scenarios that would put their feverishly worshipped idols into their reach - at best at reach without the opportunity to flee. I, personally, never plastered my walls with posters of actors or musicians, but I used to spend much time daydreaming. I dreamt of uncountable situations in which the boy I was crushing on could not help but notice me in an ultimately positive light. "American Girl on Saturn" is such a dream transferred one-to-one to paper: raw and unfiltered, unbearably enthusiastic and unchecked against reality both in the character and in the probability department. I can imagine what kind of fun the writing and reading must have been for the sisters. But for me, who had to fork out real money to digest the fluffy, star-struck stuff in condensed form and in huge doses? It was a paid-for eye-rolling-and-groaning-fest that could easily have been kept from happening by a big, glittery sticker warning to "Consume only, when boy-group-worship is or used to be your life."
As I mentioned, the reality-breach begins right in the beginning, when the assassination attempt on the five Canadian boy-men on American soil is declared to be a matter of national security and can only be solved by hiding the paparazzi-chased band-members inside the head-of-security's family home, which boasts a stay-at-home-mum, cleaning staff (temporarily dismissed because of the shhh-factor), a pool that conveniently cannot be seen from beyond the fence and a handful of comfortable guest suites. A home that houses the craziest and youngest fan, or Saturnite as they say, alive. That this private arrangement is the only workable solution to keep the boys temporarily of the media grid, because witness protection depends on unknown faces, sounded improbable enough. But that the whole plan depends on two teenagers and a five-year-old maniac keeping their mouths shut during social phone calls and a parentally prescribed pizza night with some extremely nosy friends, was just too much. Much too much.
Pre-schooler Emery creeped me out in a major way, anyhow. She is five. And she regularly hyperventilates on the brink of losing consciousness, she screams, she talks of marriage, she made me feel icky all over. And her parents do not show the slightest signs of being overly alarmed nor do they admit that something must have happened that shaped their baby daughter's mind into something horribly wrong for her age, promiscuous even. I remember a colleague who had to accompany her 11-year-old daughter to a Tokyo Hotel concert, were she hung out for several hours with others sharing her gruesome fate as a groupie-mom in a room especially set aside by the management for the likes of her. Even the report of infatuation-inflicted pre-teens sounded strange to my ears, but, well, there are bragging friends and afternoon television and BRAVO magazine. But little Emery? Her parents should supervise her media input and offer alternatives to star-stalking via Youtube instead of buying her merchandising and concert tickets.
And 18-year-old, immature rock chick Chloe? She quickly converts to unconditional fandom during the first eye-to-eye or elbow-to-elbow on her living-room couch: Who knew the guys of Spaceship around Saturn are actually ten times hotter in person than on Twitter?! [...] He nods toward the armrest, and I quickly jerk my arm back toward myself. He eases onto the armrest, and the scent of his body wash makes my head swim. Can you faint from awesome boy scent? [...] He never once tweeted that he smells like heaven or has eyes the color of the caramel inside of a Milky Way candy bar. These are the kinds of things girls need to know, Milo! They start to flirt, for life is short.
Naturally there are problems, but not those of the sort I had anticipated: It wouldn't even be an issue if he was just some guy from school. Then it'd be completely normal to be obsessing after a week, because I'm a girl and that's what we do do! But he is famous, and I'm nothing. The problem is - after a huge game of cat-and-mouse, that partly revolves around Chloe's explosive sister Aralie and the question who of the remaining four princes she is secretly into - miraculously solved (view spoiler)[ and sanctified by the mother, who is - after all- used to accepting star-crazy offspring behavior: "From what I gather," she says, "You're not 'just a memory' material. He said you were special." Mom has that voice, the sing-songy voice that Emery used when she pointed out that Milo and I were both wearing white with a touch of black." And, oh wonder, in the end, after the girls have gleefully www-posted all their private pictures of their new best friends and lovers, Dad has enough security at the hotel to keep me safe from a nuclear bomb. Our entire floor is blocked off. Which made me asked myself, why does he employ this kind of secret-agency-power when his concert-visiting daughter needs her privacy, but not when a couple of famous boys have to be kept in a "lockdown" to evade a dangerous stalker, huh? (hide spoiler)]
Too much, much too much day-dreaming and almost no realness. Creepy, icky, silly. Oh, yeah, long live Benji Bikini. Favorably far away from me, on Saturn or Pluto. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
*** I've given up after reading 36% and fast-forwarding to the cliffhanger ending *** Goodness. After reading the initial volume I would NEVER have tho...more*** I've given up after reading 36% and fast-forwarding to the cliffhanger ending *** Goodness. After reading the initial volume I would NEVER have thought that I would pull the brakes on this series. Never. The mature heroine working in a LIBRARY, the hot, but unjerkish love interest, the refreshing incidents of swearing, the action, the friendship, the angel lore.
But, now I realize that none of the supportive cast except Jude and Daniel have left the slightest imprint on my mind since reading and sufficiently enjoying volume 2, and that the in-minute-details-related, uneventful plot in the Rephraims' Italian Sanctuary that took longer time to read than it took the characters to live (36% covered about 3.5 hours of Gaby's life) swaggered between making me antsy, because I hoped to get a grip on who of all those clonish-and-sexless-seeming half-angels, monks and bikers was who and was pro- or anti-Gaby and did what, and making me feel a painful sort of boredom, because there is one point-of-clueless-and-pissed-off-view, one location including a garden, a mess hall, a shower and a gym, a probably-alive love interest far, far away, almost no monster in sight and a kind of waiting-room-feel to it all (where's my lukewarm coffee and the magazine kiosk?).
Plus, I REALLY thought this would be end of the series and would provide stuff to fill the blanks in Gaby's head (three volumes is enough in most cases, as I am concerned. Move on, authors, move on, already!), and suddenly I had to discover that the drudgery third I had been ploughing through was just the beginning of a filler volume somewhere in the middle of the saga. Thanks a lot.
Good for me that I only invested in the cheap Kindle version. Nobody seems to know the series here in Germany. That means swapping or reselling a paper copy would surely be a pain in the brain.(less)
'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...more'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. (less)
"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...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 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.(less)
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 eith...moreMaura 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. (less)
“Slipping my clothes off, I took a minute to check myself out in the mirror. [...] Damn. I may not be Jessica Alba, but I could probably have been her...more“Slipping my clothes off, I took a minute to check myself out in the mirror. [...] Damn. I may not be Jessica Alba, but I could probably have been her body double.” You got to love a heroine like Hadley Bishop, at least according to the author’s agent, who gushes that the main character of Life's a Witch “is impossible not to like”. Well, I seem to possess special abilities, for not liking Hadley turned out to be very, very easy. In fact, the heroine’s personality is one of things I disliked most in this debut, which has a lot of potential to get a spot among my personal five worst reads of 2012 and which should have been titled better “The Witch is a Bitch” in my opinion. But I will return to Hadley later.
I read Life's a Witch during the short time span it had been available as a cheap and self-published Kindle version on Amazon – that is after its supposed stellar success on the novel writing platform Wattpad.com, and before Simon and Schuster, the new licence holder, made the author take it off again (makes sense) – but after the success story of the acclaimed internet novel aimed at young adults was suddenly mentioned everywhere – including Publishers Weekly and Wall Street Journal. Since there are other – in my opinion much more talented – self-published authors making the leap to be represented by major publishing houses, too, I chalk the strangely broad media coverage down to the fat foot the author already had inside the publishing business’ door due to her former position as an editor at the magazine American Cheerleader before it was sold. I also glimpse with lots of skepsis towards the 15 Million readers the novel boasts to have attracted and satisfied as it was born and developed on the writing platform Wattpad.com. When I had a look, only 900 comments were attached to the entry – and a lot of them reactions of the author to every praise and question. I admit I am not familiar with how the community works, but I guess readers rather mean clicks, because A) I certainly have been tempted more than just once to stop reading and to delete the file from my Kindle with a flourishing gesture, and B) because I had never heard of Life's a Witch before and I believe the fame of a novel loved by 15 Million readers would have reached us here at Goodreads no matter what format.
Do you fear this review will be getting far too long? Do not worry. The plot is easy to summarize in a few sentences, because it does not include a lot of turns or characters or layers and unfortunately also not a lot of world building:
Hadley Bishop, the eighteen-years-old high school queen bee and member of the self-declared “good” witch coven “The Cleri” gets to know that the “bad” witch coven - nicknamed “The Parrishables”- has murdered all the parents of all students in her weekend spell-training group including her own mother. Because of her god-given ability to manipulate and lead, she quickly whisks away the complete group of twelve to her family’s magically hidden and enforced summer cabin and trains them to stop the bloodthirsty and powerhungy witches on their path to world dominion as if they were her cheerleading troupe from school (repeat, repeat, repeat). On her day off, when everbody else is trying to stock up the cabin with basic necessities (“Maybe my priorites were a bit ass-backwards, but I figured I could live with whatever food they came back with; finding the right shoes to match my future outfits while also being nature-appropriate was a tougher feat entirely.”), Hadley falls in love with a mysterious and beautiful boy who has either been stalking her, because of her irresistible girl qualities (Hadley’s guess) or because the bad witches sent someone attractive out to get a better angle on what is left of their enemy coven (my guess). Apart from some flashbacks, some group-dynamical outbursts, some ghostly Mom-action and certainly some fighting that’s it. Because of the final question, if dead means really dead when you are a witch, there is still room for a sequel or two.
I believe the author of Life's a Witch is an avid connoisseur of chicklit and – like most of us – a huge admirer of the Harry Potter series (the bad witches, who are returning and have to be fought by teenagers, the silly pseudo-latin spells like “Immobius totarium”). What she probably did not enjoy so much were the Twilight books. Therefore she has made the effort to create a heroine who is the exact opposite of Bella Swan: A truely beautiful and physically fit girl who is popular, because she wants to be popular. Someone who knows her own potential and flaunts it with all her might. Someone who is sure of her own superiority, her magical powers of persuasion and the infailability of her own opinion and judgement. Someone who is unfortunately very conceited, self-centered, domineering, power-hungry, patronizing and condescending, but thinks she is the universe’s answer to her generation’s prayers.
Here is a choice of quotes out of many to illustrate Hadley’s opinion of herself. Enjoy:
“As class president, I made decisions based on what would be best for my classmates. I told everyone what to vote for, what they should care about and set the standards of excellence among my peers. When people didn’t do what I wanted them to, I convinced them to see the errors of their ways.”
“If I had to leave the school in someone’s hands after I’d graduated, I’d want it to be someone like me. Fair, commanding, but friendly. Sofia was all this, which made her a perfect number two.”
“I personally couldn’t care less what anyone thought of me here at Astor as long as I was still the most influencial girl around.”
„I could tell they were all waiting for direction from me. It was clear on their faces. And I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. I was the oldest. I tended to take control of every situation. I was popular, powerful and pretty, everything that usually afforded a person the attention of their peers.”
Hadley does not have friends at school; she has subjects and she behaves in front of them – and in front of her magical training group, too, like the dictator of a small country. She makes all decisions, as random as they often are, by herself and distributes information about the situation, the revealing dreams she has and the magical cabin only in a very filtered way and only to the older teens. She expects blind trust, but at the same time she cares only half-heartedly for the fate of the kids she had made her responsibility. My jaw dropped a mile, when she announced that she wouldn’t share her parents’ room in the cabin with anybody, and a few miles further when she explained the group's sleeping arrangements in retrospect: “It was sort of first-come, first-serve around here, which meant that some unlucky individuals were always stuck with the floor in the living-room or on a row of uncomfortable chairs lined up.” Hadley is the only one who had time to pack a duffel bag before fleeing their town, but she does not consider sharing her toiletries or teaching the others the skin-cleaning spell she had invented. And I couldn’t believe how everybody put their lives into the hands of a girl, who – even after years of weekend group sessions – does not remember every member’s name: “Sonya, I think her name was. I’d never actually talked to her, but I’d seen her around for years. So, if I didn’t know her, it was pretty fair to say she didn’t know me either.” After a small mutiny Hadley promises everybody a chance of involvement, but solves the tiny attack on her single-handed rule by soaking her prep talk with persuasion magic, which makes everbody enthusiastic, hopeful and finally willing to follow. Unbelievable, but true: The heroine’s personality does not evolve during the book.
A second thing that bothered me was Hadley’s perception of the younger coven members, like 13-years-old Penelope, who readers of the novel should identify themselves with: “And now, the younger girl had permanently attached herself to my lower half. [...]“Please don’t leave us again,” she whispered. Her voice was inaudible to anyone else but me.” How small and young and needy does the author think 13-years-olds are? How big is Hadley supposed to be? An Amazon of Hulk-like proportions?
The last aspect that was pretty unacceptable to me was the ostensibly easy distinction between “good witches” and “bad witches”: “Bad witches” use their god-given powers “for personal gain or wrong-doing”. The villain witch in this novel is confidently condemned without much ado: “His heart is black, so is his soul, and when it’s time to meet his maker – which I anticipate will happen soon – he will be punished for all he has done. The otherworld does not take kindly to those who defy its laws.” But I thought, how much does his behavior really differ from that of his “good” counterparts? Hadley’s Dad is a fundraiser. He spends his persuasion magic “for a good cause” – but what if somebody forks out money, because he or she can’t help it in spite of having had different plans for the cash? Hadley’s Mom sells magical perfumes and Hadley herself worked herself up the high school social ladder by manipulation, by putting designer-clothes-illusions on her everyday wear and by bespelling her skin to glow. The “Cleri’s” solution to keep everyone’s power-hunger in check is teaching less and less useful spells, but later Hadley finds out that all her peers had been busy inventing their own spells to facilitate their lives. When I was reading the verbal exchanges between Hadley and her adversary, it reminded me of countries at war, who both feel their case is right and just and who are both only different sides of the same coin.
There is not much to say with respect to the severe case of instant-love the reader gets served. Maybe it is easiest understood by a short quote: “I could no longer deny it: we were meant to be together. But I still didn’t fully trust him.”
Here I rest my case. As you can see, I do not recommend to read this book. But if you feel the urge to try, I won’t scowl at you. It always comes down to personal taste. I liked Bella Swan in spite of her shortcomings. Maybe you like Hadley Bishop because of hers. (less)
Birdie folded me into her arms and said into my ear, 'I know why you're so reluctant, Silvermay. You still think yourself in love. Well, this is your...more Birdie folded me into her arms and said into my ear, 'I know why you're so reluctant, Silvermay. You still think yourself in love. Well, this is your chance to show how strong that love is. Go with them, so the ones he loves will live to make him happy.'My motivation to read 'Silvermay' had been the pretty cover with a bit of 'Aussie Author Awe' thrown in - for the description sounded pretty confusing and non-descriptive to me and held me back instead of rushing me to the Fishpond's expensive shores. My motivation for writing this review after giving up the book at approximately 40% is that the only two-star-review consists of about two sentences. I understand perfectly. Writing something with a bleeding heart, giddy happiness or a boiling anger in tow comes pretty easy to me. Expressing my mildly irritated indifference or boredom so others can nod with made-up minds is a rather difficult task.I think, I start (and probably stop) with breaking down that confusing description / back flap copy to the more or less bland plot the reader faces when braving the pages. Maybe that will do the trick: Silvermay Hawker lives in a harsh, feudalistic world. Common folks in the villages are farmers, innkeepers, miners, game hunters or healers who are forced to share - and not just to tithe a tenth, but as much as the wyrdborn enforcers randomly tell them to - with those lording over them. It seemed peculiar to me, but the Wyrdborn, who you can imagine like invincible, super-strong brutes with heightened senses and both the 'gift' and mind-frame of Kristin Cashore's villain Leck, are seldom in a Lord’s position themselves. Usually they are employed by one in sets of two, who jealously keep each other’s appetite for power in check. On harvest collection days those wyrdborn guards tend to ensnare a couple of pretty young bed warmers on top, who they return as mindless wrecks without memories after growing bored of their services. In spite of that frightful practice no one tries to hide away their female offspring or to send them safely out of sight, when the tithe wagons roll in. The villagers just watch and lament the drama and then look down on unwed mothers as if those poor things have had any chance to prevent being abused. The remaining lot of the kingdom’s population lives in Vonne, the capital, earning money as spies/thugs/assassins ... whatever. So far, it's annoying, but business as usual. So far? Well, it stays that way:Wyrdborn Leck-look-alike Lord Coyle gets notice of a prophecy about one of his newborn bastards and sends out his greedy minions to get hold of his last pretty plaything Nerigold. Perpetually weak Nerigold and her solemn baby Lucien turn up in Silvermay's - think ‘Merida’ without a castle and without wealthy suitors - village with the mysterious, perfect and hyper-attractive Tamlyn in their wake, who poses as her lover, makes a feeble attempt at hiding his name and a quick, flirty beeline towards sixteen-year-old Silvermay's fluttering, boy-hungry heart. Silvermay's parents, a hawker and a healer, are the strangest lot. Lacking a son they have taught her youngest daughter to master the bow and the bird of prey, but not with particular changes to the usual female career in mind. They - just like that and notwithstanding the talk of starving in winter - take in disgraced Nerigorld against the elders' wishes - without any kind of consequences, too – and later insist, that their precious, immature and inexperienced daughter accompanies the couple on their journey, although Tamlyn announces, that they will be hunted by ruthless killers and have only a small chance to survive them, and although they know that Silvermay harbors a crush for the unavailable guy. Someone has to care for the baby, they say. To complete the samaritan picture painted of them, they part with their strongest bow and their only sword in order to outfit the doomed trio properly. Silvermay does not know much more about her future travel companions than her family – apart from the fact that he has a kind and yearning face and a cold and calculating one and that she loves her baby. But she feels their goodness and she cannot bear to part from them. So, farewell, Silvermay! Don’t die, honey!I endured a rather long road trip with descriptions of feeding the baby and resting and feeding the baby and shooting a rabbit and feeding the baby and mortal danger and resting and some affectionate touches and discoveries of love and secrets and feeding the baby, all the while unsuccessfully waiting for the inevitable moment when Nerigold is finally too weak to take the next breath of air. The – first - trip temporarily ends with the revelation of the prophecy - which is thanks to another point of view already known to the reader - and a lot of anguish. But that anguish also was expected and bland and boring and ... they were feeding the baby I am desperately trying to remember: In which other book does a baby suck all the life force out of its mother? The title lurks in a corner of my brain. . And I stopped reading. I was very, very confident at this time that nothing the remaining half of the novel would present had anything to offer that would manage to grab my interest. Nerigold has to die, the prophecy has to be stopped. A lot of traveling and touching ... and feeding ... will have to be done, while Silvermay grows a personality and starts to battle for Tamlyn’s hardened heart of gold and the first declaration of his unusual, kind of inappropriate affections. For it will come. Whether in volume one, two or three is certainly unknown and wholly uninteresting to me. But it will come. Apropos things to come: I think it is absolutely futile to have the heroine state in the prologue that she had to murder a baby by smothering its face with a cloth, when the title of the trilogy's third volume consists of said baby’s name. *Disappointed sigh*(less)
Brenna's story and the matching character set annoyed the hell out of me. I would have to poke my inner me to elaborate.
Fact is, I had to abandon it...moreBrenna's story and the matching character set annoyed the hell out of me. I would have to poke my inner me to elaborate.
Fact is, I had to abandon it after just reading 11% although I applauded her choice to use her bike as her main means of transport. But in different light ... what is so special about it and why was everybody so concerned about the weather and the bad, bad people wanting to mug school girls pedalling homewards? Never heard of mittens and mufflers?(less)
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)
Abandoned after reading past the 25% mark. I have simply read too many of those. And better ones, too. Really. Superspecial heroine of world-saving pr...more Abandoned after reading past the 25% mark. I have simply read too many of those. And better ones, too. Really. Superspecial heroine of world-saving proportions made aware of her new life and destiny has to face mean monsters, thrilling dangers and hot, mysterious boys that sort themselves into the no-no-category. Yawn.(less)
"Ashes" is a uniquely-set example of zombie dystopia that manages to keep the reader on her or his toes with a lot of action, a compassionate, brave a...more"Ashes" is a uniquely-set example of zombie dystopia that manages to keep the reader on her or his toes with a lot of action, a compassionate, brave and stong heroine, a cute-kid-sidekick, who repeatedly puts a strained smile on the worried reader's face, a loyal dog and a likable, but difficult-to-grasp kind-of-love-interest (Forget what the book-flap says. Don't expect a romance novel, please.):
After two years of chemo and nano-pebbles and other ineffective treatments seventeen-years-old orphan Alex has given up on fighting her tennis-ball-sized brain tumor. Armed with some gear and a heavy case (I pretty much guessed from the beginning what it contained, but it was kept a secret for three quarters of the book. (view spoiler)[If you want to surprise the reader, don't put the secret into the title, dearest publisher. (hide spoiler)]) she sets out to hike through the wilderness toward Lake Superior.
She has just shaken hands with an an old guy on a fishing-trip and his whiny eight-years-old grand-daughter Ellie, when something later identified as an electromagnetic pulse kills off all electronics - including Jack's pulse-maker and a lot of birds and game. Interestingly Alexs instantly not only gets back the sense of smell her tumor had previously eliminated, but is able to use it at a superhuman capacity, too. In addition she loses the slight tremor in her left hand and shortly after that - because of Ellie - most of her outdoor equippment and food. After surviving a couple of kids who were gorging themselves with the intestines of a lone camper, Alex starts to develop alarming theories about what happened to whom, in which perimeter and why Ellie's and her own brain did not turn them into juvenile cannibalists. But there is not really time to ponder, because the girls are attacked by a small pack of wild dogs and later by another "brain-zap" - who gets shot just in time by the youngish soldier Tom. Tom claims to be on holiday leave from his duty in Afghanistan and seems to have his own difficult past.
At this point the road trip/hell ride really takes off, takes some shocking, some ruthless and some unexpected turns and finally lets us hang on a real, stomach-droppingly, fist-in-the-mouth, blink-blink-blink-do-not-mess-with-me cliffhanger that costs my rating a fully filled-in and carefully lined star. (view spoiler)[I can stomach not knowing about Tom. But Ellie? The author deliberately made me love Ellie. How can she not tell us if she survived and if yes under which circumstances? (hide spoiler)]
Otherwise I liked "Ashes" (at least the first, "road-trip-style" part) quite well. But not well enough to rate it five stars (if you put the cliffy aside, I mean). And not well enough to buy the sequel, either. Some strange things about the settlement "Rule" and the relevation about it works bothered me a lot in the last third, but I am too exhausted to pull them out of the fogginess of my setting-saturated mind. Maybe I will prod/study some enlightening reviews later.
If you consider reading a rather interesting, no-filter-gruesome Zombie dystopia, "Ashes" is definitely no bad choice. But if you asked me, I would in all likelihood say: "Buy Enclave first!", because it was simply better rounded, had a far stronger pull on my emotions and a hero that stole a larger chunk of my heart. Still, "Ashes" is better constructed than the also fast-paced, pretty similarly-set, but city-based, romance-induced and self-published monster apocalypse Released, which is to be had as a Kindle version for almost nothing.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(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.
During the first chapters there were only some things that rubbed me the wrong way:
- the language in general and certain expressions that in my point...moreDuring the first chapters there were only some things that rubbed me the wrong way:
- the language in general and certain expressions that in my point of view did not match the high fantasy setting, - the forced fairytale vibes - including a carriage that looked like a hollowed pumpkin and letters sent out within an instant to advertise the princess' hand in marriage to the bald and bumpy -, - the heroine speaking of her mother as Renata while Renata always addressed her daughters as "Daughter", - the heroine making sudden presumptions based on absolute nothing - just to push forward the plot's main mystery (I can imagine that it takes a lot of effort and skill to make a heroine's unraveling a riddle seem natural and smooth, but still. I scoffed and snorted repeatedly, but a little more irritated each time), - the pet-eagle on the heroine's arm (I looked it up: There are indeed species that weigh only a pound, but most eagles lug around a few kilos) as if it were little parrot.
Later I got annoyed by Princess Zeraphina's hypocricy (i.e. she expresses displeasure when she is served peacock, because peacocks are so decorative and should in her opinion be treated as no-food-decoration. But on the other hand she secretly craves blood and hunts in her spare time with a bird of prey), her general contempt, her bad mood and her limited view ... and I noticed that I was bored and had begun a calculation in my head about how much more time I would have to spend in this world before I could delve into the next one.
A few pages before I decided to pull the emergency brake (around page 150) the romance started to show first hints of bloom, but I already disliked the characters too much to get roped into a heart-throb-mode.
I am so sorry, dear Booker friends, for not loving the book like you do. And sorry for speaking ill of your new favorite. But I am also so relieved that I managed to cancel my order, because a friend intervened and offered to lend me her copy. 'You can always buy it later', she said. She is right. I can, but I won't. Thank you, M.!(less)