I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we here at YAdult Review love Lisa McMann. I think one of the first things AOriginally published at yAdult Review.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we here at YAdult Review love Lisa McMann. I think one of the first things Ashley and I bonded over was our mutual love of her Dream Catcher series. And I must admit that going into this book, I was predisposed to like it. It takes place in a town about 10 minutes from my house and even closer to my work. But that’s not the only reason. To explain, I must go on a tangent. Ashley and I are BFFs (she’s a maid of honor in my wedding in August), but we really only communicate by email. We rarely text (Tina doesn’t text) and NEVER talk on the phone. So, one day at work, she texts me and makes me promise to answer the phone if she calls. I am wary, but I say okay. She calls a short time later and hands the phone to… LISA MCMANN. I made a fool of myself and cried a little bit, and then Lisa informed me I was allowed to tell everyone that she set her book in my neck of Cook County FOR ME. SO THERE, EVERYONE. Crash is MY BOOK. Ahem. Anyway…
Jules lives in Melrose Park, Illinois, and her family runs an Italian restaurant. They are in a very intense rivalry with the Angotti family, though Jules has been in love with Sawyer forever. He stopped being her friend in seventh grade (they’re juniors now), probably due to something his father said, but Jules never forgot him. He shows up early in the book, as do Jules’ visions, which are recent phenomena. Oh, did I mention Jules’ brother, Trey, is gay? It’s hardly worth mentioning in the beginning, that’s how normal it is in this novel. Another interesting thing: Jules’ father is a hoarder and has depression (his father committed suicide when Jules was young). The way McMann handles depression is so awesome, so non-judgmental, and Jules’ evolution of opinion about the whole thing was just really great. My soon-to-be husband’s grandfather was a hoarder, and after he died, it took nearly half a year to clean out his grandparents’ basement and garage. There were stacks upon stacks of the same things, a million typewriters, boxes of papers from the 1970s, things like that. Hoarding is a mental illness, and while there are shows I don’t watch that exploit hoarders, I found this inclusion in Crash very interesting. These are the kinds of things I love about McMann novels: they aren’t cookie-cutter in any way.
Jules spends the whole book freaking out, which is totally within her right, but she is also kind of brave. I’ve had crushes like Sawyer before, boys I hung out with in elementary school who weren’t interested in me come middle school, but… let’s just say those things never turned out well for me. I wasn’t brave like Jules though. I didn’t throw myself into the lion’s den, but then again, I didn’t have visions either. I was a little jealous of her, to be honest. (Middle school feels are the worst, but Crash is the best for evoking such a powerful response in me. Par for the McMann course, really.) I also felt a little sorry for Sawyer and Jules both, because it’s no fun (and also unfair) to be caught in a feud between your parents, to be forced to choose sides over a recipe for sauce. Have people learned nothing from the worst play of all time, Romeo and Juliet? I mean, really. This never ends well for anyone.
I can’t really reveal anything plot-wise without giving anything away, but this book made me laugh and cry and confront feelings I haven’t looked at for lots of years. Only a great author can do that, and Lisa McMann is basically my favorite author ever. So pick this one up. The romance is in the background and being in Jules’ head was a serious treat. Get on it, people!...more
When I first picked this one up, I was immediately reminded of Catherine, Called Birdy, which was one of my favoOriginally published at Nose in a Book
When I first picked this one up, I was immediately reminded of Catherine, Called Birdy, which was one of my favorite books as a middle schooler. It has the same tone to it, and the way Cecily talks reminds me a lot of Catherine. Cecily, however, thinks quite highly of herself and is rude and arrogant. She remains sympathetic somehow, maybe because she’s a girl who lost her mother, or because she’s just been uprooted from all she knows. She looks down on the Welsh, worries about being murdered in the street, and is horrified that servants dare look her in the eye. When she is forced to go to Baron Court for speaking harshly to a guard, she starts seeing that maybe things aren’t so great here for the Welsh. Notice I said “starts.” She still treats everyone like crap.
Cecily knows very little about life in Wales before she showed up, while Gwenhwyfar knows too much. Cecily is courted by a burgess; Gwenhwyfar is starving. Cecily worries about having enough gowns; Gwenhwyfar’s cow is repossessed. When Gwenhwyfar’s brother, Gruffydd, begins working at Cecily’s home, Cecily seems on a mission to ruin him because he dared look her in the eye. I have to admit, I hated Cecily just as much as I liked her, which says a lot to how well-written this one is. I felt like I was on a rollercoaster of emotion: from sympathy to disgust to horror to sadness.
When, as the summary says, things reach their breaking point, I was horrified. Cecily suffers a lot, not that I begrudge those her hurt her. She didn’t realize what she was doing, but she deserves to be punished for how she treated the Welsh. I was so relieved when I realized that there wouldn’t be a love story between Cecily and Gruffydd. The power imbalance would just be too much to overcome. It would be gross and creepy to read about. I’m all about rough ships, but not this one. This wasn’t about romance at all. It was raw historical fiction from both sides of this horrible war. I loved it. It was amazingly well-written, plus it was just such an easy read. This one is well worth your while, and I really think you should check it out!...more
So the summary on this one is slightly misleading, but that’s okay, because the book is so much cooler than theOriginally published at Nose in a Book.
So the summary on this one is slightly misleading, but that’s okay, because the book is so much cooler than the summary makes it out to be. Velvet is a teen who was murdered and stuck in Purgatory. She’s got a lot of anger, and she makes snap judgments of people and causes she knows nothing about, and she’s a slutshamer in the beginning (really, WHO CARES if a girl will sleep with anyone? Is that YOUR business?). BUT she is also awesome and basically the epitome of an urban fantasy heroine. I love YA urban fantasy, especially when it is actually UF and not PNR. I read on GoodReads that some people found Velvet “too masculine,” but honestly, she reminded me of Kate Daniels, who kicks ass and takes names and doesn’t back down from a kill. I liked that Velvet wasn’t Bella Swan, that this book and its plot wasn’t just a foil for the romance. I also vehemently disagree that the book isn’t easy to get into at first. I knew before I was even a quarter of the way through that I would like it. I also don’t agree that the “horror” aspects (which I thought were pretty tame, especially if you like zombie movies), the content isn’t appropriate for YA. I am also confused by people who think the plot was confusing. It was very clear and interesting to me. Different strokes, etc.
Enough defensiveness. I loved Purgatory and was kind of dying for Velvet to join the rebels. We had to meander through Velvet and Nick’s love story for awhile though, which was actually quite nice and I found myself enjoying it (and wondering who the hell I turned into). I saw a lot of accusations of insta-love, and it was kinda true, but I also see these kids’ situations as different. They’re not normal. They’re not even alive. They’re not going to throw away any opportunities by marrying/having children while still young (which is why we downplay teenage relationships in the first place, right?). They’re dead. If they want to believe they’re in love after 36 hours, that’s okay with me. And maybe they are. (I told my boyfriend I loved him after, oh, a week? And it’s been four years, just saying…) Death changes people, remember? Just look at Velvet. From gothy classic movie nerd to hard-edged, slightly sadistic, slightly crazy girl. Besides, Nick seems a little more self-aware than other YA love interests. This is just YA urban fantasy at its height. I loved the setting so much, how important paper was, how origami was used as political propaganda. I liked watching Velvet’s evolution too, because she is oh, so stubborn.
Marks has a way of writing so that everything hits you like blunt force trauma–they way they describe “body thieving,” what it’s like when someone “dims,” how Bonesaw disfigures his victims. Sometimes the descriptions are gross, but they work in their context. I actually have no objections to Velvet’s voice in this one (as I have in the past with books about girls written by men), because I think Marks nails it, and also manages to make other voices sound different from Velvet’s and Nick’s. Gay people are not erased in Purgatory; Velvet’s friend Kipper is the kind of loud-mouthed gay guy that I know so many of, though I am kind of sad he’s only a tertiary character. So far, two-thirds of the books I’ve read this year have had gay characters, which makes me really happy.
It’s true that Bonesaw and Velvet’s revenge are not the main focus of this novel, though I’m sure they would be if Purgatory didn’t have terrorists and an impending revolution. Velvet is busy, but she still thinks about Bonesaw whenever she has a minute. He has a new girl in his shed, and Velvet wants justice more than ever. There’s just a lot going on. I’m sure she wishes she wasn’t a Salvage leader so she could focus on haunting, but there’s a war coming! Velvet’s temper could be tiring, but really, it serves its purpose, especially considering where she ended up and how she got there. Can you tell I feel some affection for Velvet? Maybe because I was a goth kid myself not that many years ago (luckily, I made it out alive *rimshot*).
The action in this one keeps going, and I was never once bored while reading. I really hope this one is a series or at least has a sequel, because there was so much left unsaid! Manny! Aloysius Clay! Miss Antonia! I really liked this one, and you will too, if you like urban fantasy with a hardass teenage girl leading the way. Check this one out; it came out in October, so it should be available at a store or library near you!...more
I honestly didn't know what I was getting myself into when I started this one. You're kind of thrown into KamiOriginally published at Nose in a Book.
I honestly didn't know what I was getting myself into when I started this one. You're kind of thrown into Kami and Jared's connection, and the background comes later. Kami is Asian, and it's always nice to follow a POC around a novel, who communicates with a boy named Jared in her head. He's been there for Kami's whole life, though she keeps it a secret. When the Lynburn family moves back to Sorry-in-the-Vale, the voice in her head becomes a real boy-Jared Lynburn, himself. Jared is, of course, a leather jacket-wearing bad boy who Kami dislikes on first sight, mostly because he's an over-the-top jerk to her when they realize who they are to each other. I'm sure he has his reasons (like he's just trying to protect Kami from something, sigh, boring tropes are boring). I was sure Jared was such a jerk so we could see how nice his cousin, Ash, was by comparison, thus setting up the love triangle! Excuse my snark, but the beginning of this one didn't do much for me. Maybe I've read too much fanfiction, but that's what this reminded me of at first. (You must be wondering why I gave it five stars if I disliked it so much. Oh, ye of little faith! Read on!)
Eventually, Jared and Kami start hanging out, which brings us back to the plot: someone is killing animals in the woods near Kami's house, and she's determined to find out who and why. I really, really liked the conversations Kami and Jared had. They were both smart and witty, and it made the dialogue pleasant to read. I felt their spark, even if they fought it. Did I mention I was wrong about the love triangle? Wrong in the best way, really, as there is very little romance at all in Unspoken. You should all know by now how happy that makes me. Basically, try to go into this one expected and hoping for absolutely nothing romantically, and you should be just fine. In fact, I even started to like Ash a bit. It's a romance I'm willing to let burn slowly, throughout the series, let's put it that way. And oh, this one is funny. The interaction between characters left tears in my eyes from all the laughing. One of my favorite lines, out of context, is, "Oh my god, Jared. Don't tough-talk the lambs." The friendships between Kami and Jared, and Kami and Holly, and Kami and Angela were just so fluid and perfect in this book. That made me so happy.
Another thing I liked is how matter of fact everyone is about magic. You're confused and in the dark at first, but once it comes out, people are talking about it like it's no big deal. And I feel like maybe I should know better, but I like how dark and unsettling Jared is. That doesn't necessarily mean I personally like him, but his characterization was just right for me. He has had a tough life, and his whole family are like creepy wax dolls with very little emotion. You're bound to be messed up with that kind of life. So he grew on me, and so did angry, angry Angela. I liked Kami, Ash, and Holly right away. I love them all as a team so much. They're all so different, but they complement each other in myriad ways, and I just feel like I was always laughing (when I wasn't basking in this book's delicious subtle angst). I was dismissive of the romance at first, but it is truly bittersweet, and I just loved the way it hurt my heart to read about. They're teenagers, and they're so interconnected, they haven't had a chance to figure themselves out. That's what adolescence is all about, and they haven't been given that crucial developmental period. But they love each other. It's so heartbreaking that it makes me happy, which should tell you something about my cold, black heart. That's all I'll say about that.
The ending to this one kills me, as does knowing how long it's going to take for the next one to come out. This book is a must-read for all fans of Gothic, paranormal YA with magic, a bad boy, and witty dialogue all around. Definitely pick this one up!...more
I knew from the very first page that I would love this one. The dark tone reminded me of Grave Mercy, one of myOriginally published at Nose in a Book
I knew from the very first page that I would love this one. The dark tone reminded me of Grave Mercy, one of my personal top books of 2012. While I was immediately curious about Mal, I pretty much fell in love with the Darkling by the fifth chapter. He sounded beautiful and scary and powerful, and Alina does find him handsome. What can I say, maybe I never left my goth days behind me. I was really intrigued by the descriptions of the landscape, the monsters, the Grisha and their powers, and I wanted more. It was the same with Ismae and her killer nuns. I was sucked in right away by things I usually don't care about, like landscape descriptions! This is the kind of novel I love, dark and rich and wicked and frightening. I don't think I rolled my eyes at all during the first quarter of the novel and that is really saying something. I also really liked that things were hard for Alina right off the bat, and the Darkling was so very blunt and honest with her about her new role. I love the Darkling. And I love Alina Starkov.
This seems to be another coming of age tale, and we all know how those seem to be my kryptonite. This is very much Alina's story, despite the war raging around her. There are politics and intrigues, but Alina is learning about herself and her power, and exploring her feelings for many people. I was worried that this would be a love triangle situation, but it really wasn't. Mal represents comfort and safety to Alina, while the Darkling represents power and balance. Bardugo really takes pains to present the pros and cons of Alina's matching with Mal or the Darkling, and it was pretty impressive. I applaud her for how authentic she made the romances. I also liked the female friendship shown here. Alina has "friends," girls who smile to her face then talk behind her back, but she does have a real friend in Genya, servant to the Queen. I really liked how frank and honest Genya was to Alina. I think Genya helped propel Alina to a higher place. Alina starts coming into her own about halfway through.
And then? Mal shows up, and I find myself of two minds. I like Mal because Alina does and because she seems to want him, and when I had this thought, I was only two-thirds finished with the novel. The Darkling, on the other hand, is more my kind of anti-hero for reasons mentioned above, but I was right in that all is not as it seems with him. He disappointed me a little, to be honest. His plans were a little cliche, but I was surprised by a few of the reveals. I still hold out hope for the Darkling though. Why do I always end up on the wrong side of these ships? I did warm up to Mal though, because we didn't have time to get to know him at the beginning of the book. We start learning his side of the story here, and it made me happy, even thought it wasn't always pretty or even happy for Mal and Alina.
And then my heart was broken. The Darkling does appear to be a bad dude, no matter how hard I try to twist his intentions. Remember how I said he was honest to Alina about her role and it was refreshing? Yeah, not so much, it turns out. The way he speaks to Alina in the later part of the novel reminds of the way some love interests speak to some protags of paranormal romance. Which is to say I have seen authors salvage relationships from horror and abuse, and though I almost never agree with them, it can be done. I don't want it to be done here; I want Alina to stay with Mal.
This book is a beautiful, dark rollercoaster ride that will give you goose bumps and make you cry. It's a perfect debut for Bardugo and I will most definitely be reading the next in the series. I can't recommend this one enough. Get to reading!...more
Yay, a fairy book! I needed a little paranormal palate cleanser after my lukewarm feelings for both recent mermOriginally published at Nose in a Book.
Yay, a fairy book! I needed a little paranormal palate cleanser after my lukewarm feelings for both recent mermaid novels. Since I am the resident Lover of All Things Fae here at Nose in a Book, there wasn’t really any way I was going to pass this one up. The Dust Bowl period of American history is really interesting and also tragic, and Zettel manages to paint a really vivid picture of the pervasiveness of the dust. I thought, and other reviewers on GoodReads will disagree, that the story moved on really well. We weren’t sitting around waiting for six chapters for Callie’s mom to disappear, or for Callie to meet Jack. I wasn’t ever bored while reading this one, not at all.
I was a little leery of the race element in this book. I think the Seelie court is white, while the Unseelie court is black. Since this is the 1930s, there are a lot of potentially problematic elements that could have been used in this one. Callie, our protag, is half black herself, something she must keep a secret. I’ll have more to say on that later in the review. I liked how Zettel shook up the fairy mythology, with the Seelie court being the more evil when traditionally it’s vice versa. I liked the introduction of Shimmy and Shake, two Unseelie Fae who claim to be related to Callie. I ended up kind of enjoying the racial elements by about the halfway point. It’s an interesting juxtaposition, and I liked how Zettel handled it.
This story is very much taken up by the journey, and we don’t get many questions answered. Since this is a trilogy, that’s something to be expected. I liked the story of the journey, how Callie and Jack both confronted their personal demons while on the road, and how they dealt with each other. I wasn’t bored at all. I enjoyed reading about the Kansas City of the thirties, too. This first novel is very much a personal journey for Callie, learning who she is, who to trust, how to do magic. It’s very character-driven in this first one, rather than focused on the larger plot. That was okay with me too.
Meeting the Unseelie court was a lot of fun. I’m used to the Seelies being the lesser of the two evils, but I liked a relatable Unseelie court. Fairies, even in this backwards world, are never as they seem. Just because they’re the “good” fairies doesn’t mean they’re actually good. That’s what I like about fairies, really: their morality is not at all like ours. They do things for their own interests, and can therefore never be truly on the side of humans. These fairies are no different, including Shimmy, despite turning out to be a friend to Callie and Jack. (There is a twist, of course, involving the Unseelies.) They don’t reach California in this one, but I think I laid out all the reasons that doesn’t matter. If you like fairies plus a little historical fiction, check this one out!
(As a side note, I will be on vacation for 10 days starting Friday, so posts might be a little sparse. Don’t fret, we’ll be back in action on July 23!)...more
Before I start, I have a question. What is it about fantasy that makes every author ever decide their protagonist cOriginally posted at Nose in a Book
Before I start, I have a question. What is it about fantasy that makes every author ever decide their protagonist can't dye their hair? What is it about supernatural DNA that makes something supposedly dead resistant to dye? It's dead! It's not resistant to anything because it doesn't need to be! I don't pretend to be an expert on all the different variations of witch in YA, but really, this is a stupid inconvenience. Even if she'd been able to dye her hair, Jax is terrible at fitting in and "blending." Guys want her, girls are jealous of her. She's naturally stronger than most humans, she's a great artist, and she's beautiful. She's even used to attracting boys wherever she goes. I like that last part. She's used to male attention, so when she actually notices someone, it really matters. Case in point, the hunter, a guy named Keller. (Despite how it sounds, I liked the beginning of this book! Toni in particular is awesome.)
So the plot of this novel is basically "hope Jax's family doesn't find her," which means we focus on the romance. And I kind of loved it to be honest. I like Keller, he seems loyal and reasonable while remaining cautious and levelheaded. He reacts in what I consider to be "the right way" when he finds out what Jax is. I like Jax too, maybe because she has managed to find female friends and doesn't spend all her time calling other girls "sluts" (which is a change from a lot of YA, sadly). Despite Jax's utter failure at being normal, I liked her a lot and really rooted for her and Keller. When the inevitable "conflict" happens, I think they both handle it well, even though Keller hurts Jax's feelings. When they make up (and you know they do), it's cute and natural. So, while I may have issues with the name Keller (Neil Kellerman comes to mind) (oh god, I really showed my age there, didn't I?), I approve of their relationship. Maybe I should give up PNR for adults and stick solely to YA PNR. That way I'll only ever have to visit one section of Barnes and Noble!
Unfortunately, there is a moment where another witch, Egan the Male Witch in fact, brings Jax something, a book that is thought to be lost, and it basically answers all her questions. I find it kind of unbelievable that some teenage witches can figure out all these secrets while the adult are just drooling (evilly) in the background. I don't believe in a hive mind, so why is this one random teenager the only one not brainwashed? There's too much disbelief to be suspended in my case. So, while there is an important page missing from the book, it's sort of implied that everything will be fixed once they find the page. This annoyed me for about two seconds, but then I remembered how much I like this book! (Plus, they never find the page...)
Because you know what? This book does not end happily. People get hurt, both physically and in their hearts, and we don't know what will happen next. This is a cliffhanger the likes of which I've hardly seen, so I assume it's a series. That makes me super happy. This book is fast-paced and to the point, with characters that have believable (for the most part) personalities and emotions, an evil witch coven, and star-crossed romance. What's not to love?...more
How is it that I keep getting the most awesome YA fantasy this year? Everything is so dark and lovely, with assOriginally published at Nose in a Book.
How is it that I keep getting the most awesome YA fantasy this year? Everything is so dark and lovely, with assassins and Darklings and, now, dragons. I love the backstory of Goredd and how the peace between the dragons came about. As with Alina in Shadow and Bone, this is a focused tale on Seraphina’s coming of age. She has to hide herself, make no friends, suffer her father’s indifference, until one day she no longer can. She begins meeting others like her, and others with the capacity for acceptance, like Kiggs. She begins figuring out the legacy left to her by her mother, and is extremely close to her dragon tutor, Orma (who is an awesome character for his dry wit and sarcasm). Whenever I start a new fantasy novel, I really enjoy learning about the country and their customs, because, while most fantasy tends to be medieval, every place is new.
This book isn’t as dark as Grave Mercy or Shadow and Bone, but we still see Seraphina in both physical and emotional pain for a lot of the novel. She’s been isolated and unloved by her father for her whole life, and she finds out secrets about her mother that rock her world so extremely that she raves in bed for days. She’s had to hold her emotions in check for most of her life, so when she’s confronted with something like attraction or desire, she doesn’t know how to deal with it. I prefer her emotional suppression to most YA heroines who are just dumb about picking up on others’ emotions. One thing that worried me, however, was the seemingly looming love triangle between Seraphina, Kiggs, and Princess Glisselda, Kiggs’ cousin and fiancee. Luckily, this book is pretty light on the romance.
I love how aware of her actions Seraphina is throughout this novel. When she’s lying, when she’s pushing down her emotions, when she’s avoiding a topic, she knows what she’s doing. She isn’t baffled or confused all the time, she does what she has to do to keep her secret, and her Prince, safe. She’s very mature. I also like the depth of the sadness that goes along with the Seraphina/Kiggs love story. They are both very tied to duty and what’s right. Seraphina’s inner monologue continues to be sprinkled with humor, though, and that’s part of what makes this book so great. It has near-perfect balance. I’m going to go ahead and say that this is my favorite novel of the second half of 2012. It’s everything I’ve ever asked of YA fantasy....more
So yeah, I loved this book from the very beginning. It’s written beautifully, not really stylistically, but withOriginally published at Nose in a Book
So yeah, I loved this book from the very beginning. It’s written beautifully, not really stylistically, but with a nice formal feel. It reminded me a little of the way Jacqueline Carey writes the Kushiel series. It’s just so dark and gothy, and I love Ismae’s name. I mean, these women are like angels of death. How could I not love that? I am also a sucker for “your organization is lying to you” type plots, so when Gavriel Duval shows up, causing Ismae to question not only her organization, but her feelings about men in general…well, there was no going back for me. Something else of note: in the beginning we also meet Sybella, and when she disappeared after a chapter, I found myself wanting more from her as well as Ismae. Something I wondered as I was reading the beginning was, how can this girl, who flinches at every sound, every touch, possibly be considered ready for an assignment of this magnitude? I mean, I know it’s a novel and we wouldn’t have a story otherwise, but I thought it was a huge oversight on the abbess’ part. I was also slightly annoyed by the old “I don’t understand my body” trope, where the protag doesn’t get why her stomach feels funny whenever they see their romantic interest. Come on!
Duval brings up all kinds of good points. How does Ismae know the convent follows the word of Mortain and not their own interests? I started to suspect that Duval had a marque, just because he was so interested in them. And when we haven’t heard from Sybella since that early chapter, I decided I had a theory. The convent plans for treason and uses hurt orphaned girls to get it. Since we know Ismae will eventually be tasked with killing Duval, I don’t think that’s too far-fetched, especially considering what we learn around him in the beginning. When Ismae is faced with an accusation of treason against Duval, from one of his enemies no less, I was disappointed that she bought it so fast. Duval has a clearly antagonistic relationship with his mother, he is very clearly devoted to the Duchess, and there’s been literally no indication that he’s a traitor. Luckily, Ismae is not a moron, and confronts Duval as soon as she can. So I’m not tempted to spoil, let me just say that the twelve-year-old Duchess is amazing and hardcore and at the same time a sympathetic character. I liked her and her sick sister, Isabeau, a lot.
We do finally see Sybella again, but I want to save everything else for you to read! The plot really starts moving quickly around the three-quarter mark, and then we learn who Ismae is destined to kill. Things are so intense and I just felt for Ismae and Anne and Isabeau so much, but they didn’t need it. They were all so strong, and even though this one had its flaws, I think they were perfect. This book is so lushly written, and I usually hate stuff like that, but this one just worked for me. Maybe the gothy elements helped, since I was a bit gothy myself in high school, but I also think it was the story. I thought it was a strong one, with a few weak points, but I was so engrossed that I’m willing to overlook any weaknesses. I think this one is great, and it’s only my second five-star book of the year! If you like dark alt-historical fiction (the paranormal is so slight as to almost not exist), this one is definitely for you.
P.S. The next book is about Sybella! My face will be all :D all day now!...more
This book. This book! From the very first paragraph, I was sucked in and lost to the beauty that is Russia in the lOriginally posted at Nose in a Book
This book. This book! From the very first paragraph, I was sucked in and lost to the beauty that is Russia in the late 1800s. Katerina Alexanderovna, known to her friends as Katiya, is a young girl who is a part of the Romanov court, though she wants to be a doctor. She is dragged along to balls she finds silly and is happiest when she is given a book of anatomical sketches by Da Vinci. She is clear-headed and smart, and the world she moves through sounds ethereal, both beautiful and deadly. Because Katiya has a secret–she’s a necromancer. She lives in fear of her ability, which she calls a curse, and tells no one about it. Despite her secrecy, a few of her peers–some Montenegran princesses, who Katiya is convinced are witches–and some of the adults in her life hint around it. The Empress of Russia is also a Faery Queen of the Light Court (Queen Titania, anyone?), and Katiya’s mother is involved in supernatural activities and seances with the Dark fae, while her father is more practical. Katiya’s brother is in the military. Things are going swimmingly for Katiya (minus the meddling Montenegrins) until her cousin, Dariya, is poisoned.
Sadly, Katiya is no urban fantasy heroine, is really upset about her ability, and cries at the thought of killing anything. She believes in the occult one second, then thinks it’s all madness the next, even though she is proof that the occult exists. She can raise the dead, but she resists the idea that vampires could exist. This is more understandable in this historical novel than it would be in, say, a Kate Daniels novel, as Christianity is still a ruling power and science is just beginning to sink its hooks into the masses. Katiya, a girl who has loved science her whole life, has to try and reconcile her supernatural abilities with her devotion to science, all while balancing her belief in God. That’s tough, and she reacts accordingly. I never thought less of her for her reactions or thought her over-dramatic. I think she’s a perfect picture of the world at that time. The only thing that really annoyed me was when she was given a book on the history of necromantic powers, she refuses to use it. She thinks she’s raising the dead willy nilly without knowing how she’s doing it, but she refuses to read the book as it’s “unholy.” Girlfriend, you know your precious Tsar is in danger and you’re quite possibly inflicting revenants all over St. Petersburg, and you won’t even try? That bothered me a lot. She’s smarter than that, but she can be really self-absorbed sometimes.
One of the best parts of this book is the lush description of the landscape, particularly Russia in winter. I’m not normally a girl who loves description; dialogue is more my thing. But this book is different! The descriptions aren’t endless, so they actually contribute to your understanding of the story. I have a picture in my head of the Black Ball and it is breathtaking! The images invoked by descriptions of monsters is pretty awesome too. I like the idea of vampire being an overarching term, at least in this novel, for no real reason other that I enjoy the idea of beautiful women turning into large, moth-like creatures to suck the blood of men.
With any other novel, that second paragraph would have made me drop a star, but not this one. This one is compelling even when irritating. I couldn’t put it down even if I wanted to! I love it beyond words. If you’re a fan of the Romanov era, with Nicholas II as a teenager supporting character; if you love Victorian Russia; if you like lush descriptions and powerful magic, this is the book for you....more
Okay, I will admit that I resisted reading this book. I love dystopia, but I feel like we’re at a saturation pointOriginally posted at Nose in a Book.
Okay, I will admit that I resisted reading this book. I love dystopia, but I feel like we’re at a saturation point in the genre. How different can they all be at this point, you know? But finally, I gave in to a suggestion by my friend Beth, and I loved this novel. I was sucked right in by Day watching his family in the beginning. I knew right off that June would annoy me a bit, because she’s super intelligent, but she was conditioned as she was raised to be a good little soldier. I think she’s supposed to annoy you at first. She makes disparaging comments about beggars and generally acts like a snob. This is understandable, given her background, and I could forgive her for it at first, but I was afraid that it would really annoy me after awhile. (This never happened though. I loved June throughout, which is rare for a heroine.) I’m almost always on the side of the rebel at first. DOWN WITH THE MAN and all that. I liked Tess right off the bat too.
The first thing that really struck me about this new world is how elaborate the funerals are. I would say elaborate is too kind a word. It’s more like excessive, ostentatious, gaudy, all those synonyms. Who wears a freaking white corseted dress to their brother’s funeral? No one, that’s who, unless you live in June’s Republic. We soon realize that June is fully indoctrinated while Day is her exact opposite. Both are extremists, which means that neither of them are entirely right in their beliefs. To June, Day is a terrorist, but to Tess, Day is a freedom fighter. To Day, June is just another faceless, heartless government agent. Day sees the world in black to June’s white, but they’ll soon discover shades of gray.
There’s a plague in the Republic, and while there is a cure, there isn’t enough of it. Day spends this whole novel trying to save his little brother from the plague, and we learn through June that there are vaccinations for the rich. Dystopia indeed. June is undercover for the government, searching for Day in the poorest sectors, and when they meet, all I could feel was dread. This is going to be horrible, I thought. I couldn’t help anticipating the moment when June discovers who Day really is, because, in this kind of situation, it is always bad. June catches on so quickly too, which made me happy. She’s incredibly smart and militarily trained, of course she figures it out right away. It’s sort of heartbreaking the way she sells Day out, because she sells out his family, too. I wanted to hate her for this, for destroying a family as vengeance for her own, but I didn’t. If someone killed my brother in this kind of situation, I think I’d want vengeance too. It’s here, however, that I started to suspect that June was being used. Her “authority” means nothing. She realizes it, too.
And she’s growing. Whereas before, when she’s coming back from school with her brother, she says something like, “Can’t the beggars stay a little farther away from our vehicle?” and acts like a spoiled rich girl, June is now realizing the excess of her class. She’s wearing a dress covered in diamonds, and she thinks, “This dress could’ve bought a kid in the slum sectors several months’ worth of food.” She’s waking up, and this is a process I love to see. Lu does a great job of making the process painful for June and believable to us, the readers. And then the riots start, and we get a taste of what this Republic is really like. Earlier in the novel, they tell us the Pledge of Allegiance has been changed. ”Liberty and justice for all” have been removed, and we see how true that is. It sort of amazes me how dystopian dictators (minus President Snow) don’t get the idea of martyrdom because that is exactly what they turn Day into.
I just want to repeat most other reviews I’ve seen of this novel: the font color/size change when the POV switches to Day is horrible. It was distracting and hard to read and it took me out of the story more than once at the beginning. This novel doesn’t have traditional chapters, so this may have seemed like an innovative way of splitting the narrative, but it was just annoying. I got used to it eventually, but it looked really ugly on my Kindle. Otherwise, I loved this novel. I could forgive the inconsistencies and suspend my disbelief because these characters felt real to me. The love story is hardly a love story, which I like in dystopia. Who has time to moon around over some boy when there’s an evil government to overthrow? No one, not June, but it’s still there. It’s the beginning of something, and I can’t wait to find out more. If you like dystopia, evil governments, and badass heroines, give this one a try....more
I want to start off by asking a rhetorical question: why did it take me so long to read any Marchetta? Everyone seOriginally posted at Nose in a Book.
I want to start off by asking a rhetorical question: why did it take me so long to read any Marchetta? Everyone seems to love her and Saving Francesca has been on my TBR for awhile. I was feeling like some fantasy after a weekend of stats homework, and Finnikin was right there waiting for me. And I love it.
This is classic fantasy, all swords and magic and evil, imposter kings. Finnikin is fighting to recover his beloved land of Lumatere, a decade after the royal family was slaughtered and the kingdom closed by impenetrable gates and black mist. Lumatere is lost to most, but not to Finnikin and his mentor, Sir Topher, nor the badass novice, Evanjalin. Evanjalin is not all she seems, and this is her story as much as it is Finnikin’s. We see them fight to gather the old aristocracy, the ones loyal to the murdered royal family, and begin to make a resistance to the false-king of lost Lumatere. This is a fast-paced story that doesn’t languish anywhere even though the party travels through most of the novel. They are forced to fight, to steal, to cheat, to kill, all just to get back to the land of their birth. Evanjalin is supposedly promised to Balthazar, the heir who lived, but Finnikin has been hearing some freaky prophecy since he was a child, so we don’t know anything, really. There is a love story, but it is so subtle as to hardly exist at all (at least in the first half). Finnikin’s father, Trevanion, and his band of merry men King’s Guard are reunited eventually, and then things begin to get real.
I sat around at class, in my apartment, on the bus, and tried to tease this prophecy of Finnikin’s out in my head. I got to about chapter nineteen before I thought I knew what it meant. At this point, it is clear that Finnikin and Evanjalin are in love, but what is not clear is is the heir actually lives. The exiles begin to make their way home to Lumatere. At around this same time, Marchetta manages to humanize Froi, a character I haven’t mentioned yet. Froi is a Lumateran orphan who is basically a feral child. He steals from Evanjalin the first time we see him, and then he tries to rape her. I was hoping someone would kill him, or sell him to the Sorel slave traders, but Froi begins turning into something else, something I’m interested in seeing. Finnikin is fickle and has a tendency to turn on people, even Evanjalin, at the slightest provocation. Evanjalin, and even Froi, eventually, became the heroes of this novel to me. Evanjalin is stronger than all these men, if not physically then psychically and emotionally, and she manipulates them as she sees fit. Her manipulations, however, are not out of malice or a desire to hurt; she just knows what needs to be done to accomplish the goal of retaking Lumatere.
The twist is one I wasn’t expecting, though I may be in the minority here. It made me love the characters even more, but it made me feel even worse for Finnikin. He’s so rigid in his beliefs of what his purpose is, and he is challenged at every turn. He no longer knows who he is or where he stands. I love Froi’s voice as he narrated these chapters, and the love story is so immensely powerful after the twist is revealed. I hated everyone at the end–Finnikin, Evanjalin, everyone–because they’re all so hard-headed and wrong. They’re all wrong and right at once. They are self-righteous and stubborn, two traits that drive me up a wall. Finnikin is especially annoying, because he is at once self-righteous and plagued by survivor’s guilt. I wanted to scream at him to let it go, and Evanjalin can be no better. She has never really known how to compromise, and in her position at the end of the book, she doesn’t have to. All of that means nothing, though, because I loved this story to distraction.
This is a beautiful story of betrayal and darkness, love and victory, and it shouldn’t be missed....more
Okay, so I’ve decided to only review every other book in this series, because if I reviewed every one, I think tOriginally published at Nose in a Book
Okay, so I’ve decided to only review every other book in this series, because if I reviewed every one, I think they would get repetitive. Besides, this book is interesting because we have to deal with the fallout from Frost Bite: Mason’s death, the Strigoi, Lissa’s “uncle’s” trial, and a lot more. I cried like a little girl at the end of this book, and had to take a break before reading Blood Promise. Still, this one is my favorite yet.
I sort of love that the Moroi have elemental abilities and yet can’t wrap their minds around ghosts. It’s so silly. Come on, you’re vampires! Of course some people can see ghosts. Rose is haunted by Mason for a good part of this book, and every time he appears, he seems to want to tell her something. He can’t, of course, until it’s nearly too late, but let’s not talk about that. I also loved learning about what it means to be shadow-kissed and why Rose can’t seem to control herself anymore. I love Adrian something fierce as well. I don’t get the tortured bad boy vibe from him, I just get a sense of his need to put up walls to combat the spirit. It reminds me of Damon from The Vampire Diaries (though I never watched past the first season) and how he drank to combat his beast.
This summary annoys me doubly because this book is about a lot more than just Rose and Dimitri, though they are a big part. We meet Victor again and his presence is jarring, especially when he brings up statutory rape in the courtroom. Victor is sentenced, but I get the feeling he’s not going to go down without a fight, especially now that his illness is held at bay by Lissa’s forced healing. He’s a two-dimensional villain, I think, having watched as Lissa grew up, sustaining friendships with her parents, and then losing his mind when he realized he was going to die. He exploited Lissa’s talents for his own gains, and while he’s slimy and repulsive, I don’t think his motives are unrealistic. I don’t have a problem believing that Moroi have as much an instinct for self-preservation as humans.
Okay, let’s talk Rose and Dimitri. They’re in love. They have been for awhile, and we’ve known basically the whole time. I fangirl for them on a daily basis, BUT they had sex and it ruined everything. I’m mostly joking, but it was like a horror movie. The virgin has sex, but then her lover is not killed but made Strigoi, something between alive and dead, something that will not remember its former life. I cried and cried, like I said above, and cursed everyone who made me read this novels, but there are three left and I have high hopes!...more
Ugh, what do I even say? I bow down to the gods that are Lauren, Ashley, Sarah and Salma, because I did not want toOriginally posted at Nose in a Book
Ugh, what do I even say? I bow down to the gods that are Lauren, Ashley, Sarah and Salma, because I did not want to read this series. I read Mead’s first book from her urban fantasy series and really hated it, so I put off reading VA for as long as possible. Why, you guys? Why did I do this? I shot through VA in like six hours, Frost Bite in twelve, Shadow Kiss in ten. This is like the best vampire series I have ever read in my entire life. Do you even realize how many vampire series I’ve read? That is seriously saying something. Where do I even start?
Rose Hathaway, will you marry me? Rose is my perfect mix of sassy, badass, and contemplative. I love badass heroines with chips on their shoulders, and Rose fits the bill to a tee. Rose might even beat Janie from Wake as my favorite badass heroine of all time. She’s fully committed to protecting Lissa, but she’s also her own person. I really liked the politics of it–are dhampirs less than Moroi? They grow up thinking of their Moroi above themselves, but is that really freedom? I have only read the first three books, so I don’t know if that question ever gets answered, but it stuck with me.
I knew Dimitri was going to be the love interest without asking or knowing beforehand, so let’s move onto Christian, who I love. I don’t really care about Lissa, honestly, because her character seems so flat. I mean, we’re told she’s powerful and beautiful, but I didn’t really see any indication of either in this novel. Okay, I guess Lissa is somewhat powerful in this book, but she’s more just depressed and leaking power she can’t control. I don’t know how powerful she is. ANYWAY. Christian. He’s awesome. I like that Rose and Lissa befriend him even while being nervous about his parents’ Strigoi background. He’s sarcastic and cynical, but he’s also really smart. Rose is an asshole about him for the majority of this book, but I always liked him.
Okay. Dimitri Belikov. I’m not sure I can be coherent about him, but I will try. He is lovely, even though I am slightly squicked by a twenty-four year old making out with a sixteen-year-old. I mean, I got over it, but it still freaks me out a little. I have to remind myself that this is urban fantasy, that Rose and Dimitri have all kinds of things to talk about that we, in our world, would not, et cetera. Okay, anyway, I sort of imagine Dimitri as Ian Somerhalder and I’m not sure why, but it so works for me. Rose and Dimitri have a connection and the unresolved sexual tension is intense. And when the “spelled rose necklace” thing went down, I squealed.
This is quite the book. Mead has done light years better with this series than with her Dark Swan series, and there is no way I won’t be finishing. The world is accessible enough for us to recognize it, but it is clearly not our world. As I went back and skimmed parts of this book, I noticed foreshadowing of things that aren’t answered until book three. That’s the mark 0f a good author. I was engaged the entire time I had this book, and I returned it to the library the same day I got it (much to the librarian’s amusement). Read it. It’s worth it. It’s better than worth it, it’s almost perfect....more
I know everyone has been waiting for this book to come out, and I was no exception. I reserved it at my library befOriginally posted at Nose in a Book
I know everyone has been waiting for this book to come out, and I was no exception. I reserved it at my library before they even confirmed they were buying it, and I was the first to check it out. I read it in a single day and then spent the weekend recovering. You should be warned that, while I think this is a series given the author’s note at the end, this book does not have a happy ending. It’s a cliffhanger that gives no indication as to how the other books will play out. In contrast to that, the romance was so good that it made me, the queen of not caring about romance in YA, read several passages over and over out of glee.
So, in the beginning, Mara is waking up in a hospital bed, connected to wires and flipping out. Her best friend is dead and so is her boyfriend. The official story is that the building they were in collapsed around them, trapping Mara in an air pocket. Mara soon finds out it’s something more sinister, though. She convinces her parents to move them from Rhode Island to Florida, which sounds like hell if you ask me, and she and her brothers begin private school there in the middle of the year. Mara immediately connects with Jamie, a bisexual boy in one of her classes, and finds an enemy in Anna, one of those ubiquitous, horrible blonde girls who is somehow popular despite her obvious backstabbing. This is the only real flaw I found in this book: Hodkin couldn’t resist the call of the stereotypical, overused, bitchy blonde cheerleader trope that has infected almost all YA since Twilight. I’m tired of it, which is why I docked a star.
Mara is warned off of Noah Shaw more than once by Jamie, but Mara and I found ourselves sympathetic to him. I don’t think he’s as much of a bad boy as he’s made out to be. He’s slept with a few girls, which I don’t hold against any seventeen-year-old boy as long as he was smart about it*. He is an asshole for a lot of reasons, but I think he’s more cocky and unused to being challenged. He’s no Patch from Hush, Hush, that’s for sure. (I talk about him a lot, don’t I?) So anyway, I ship them, I don’t have a problem with Noah’s ways, and I think the love story is lovely and heartbreaking, especially considering what happens in the end.
The supernatural element in this novel is strictly related to Mara herself. There are no Fae, no witches, no vampires in this book. Mara’s powers are her own and they’re her secret. I won’t ruin the story for you, but only one other person in the book can possibly understand her power. That being said, despite a few deaths, the supernatural element isn’t really the main focus of the book. The book is about Mara and her family, and tangentially about Noah and his family. The writing is great, not overly descriptive but not too straightforward, and being in Mara’s head didn’t make me want to set my own house on fire. That’s a pretty glowing compliment, considering how I feel about most YA protags.
Okay, this got longer than I thought it would. Mara Dyer is totally worth your time and money. Check it out, buy it, whatever, just find it and read it!
*And by “was smart about it,” I mean, wore a condom. Is it just me, or is sex becoming less of a taboo in YA since Twilight? Not that I mind. Just an observation....more
Read this book right now! Seriously, stop reading this review and buy this book! RIGHT NOW! God, I loved thisOriginal review posted at Nose in a Book
Read this book right now! Seriously, stop reading this review and buy this book! RIGHT NOW! God, I loved this book. Cas reminds me of Ethan Wate, but I think I say that about every male narrator in YA. Ethan Wate is the best, but Cas Lowood is pretty amazing too. We start off with Cas killing a long-dead greaser who was beat up and killed for his money a few decades ago. We’re in Cas’s head the whole time, and what a head it is. He’s not whiny or annoying, and the first person POV didn’t make me want to murder everyone within eyeshot. Not a single person in this novel is Too Dumb to Live, other than all the people who are murdered, of course. Plus there’s a black cat, and anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE black cats (especially my boy, Yoshi).
Cas and his mother move around a lot, especially after his father is killed. They receive tips from Cas’s sources and move to the location to kill the ghost. Cas only kills ghosts that kill other people, not ghost who just harmlessly haunt. When they get to town, Cas immediately zeroes in on the popular girls, namely one Carmel Jones. He attends a party with her and her jock/cheerleader friends and gets them to tell him stories about local ghosts. This is when Cas first meets Anna.
Anna is terrifying and beautiful at once. She changes forms when she angry, and Cas calls her the Goddess of Death. She kills one guy that night, but not Cas, who she just tosses out the front door. Cas has also met Thomas, a psychic, at this point, and soon Cas, Carmel, and Thomas are working together to try to figure out how to kill Anna. While they’re doing this, Cas starts visiting Anna and grows more and more attached to her.
This story is truly original, I thought, and a really fast read. I don’t recommend reading this book alone at night, because I did that and it terrified me, even though I live in a house built after 1960. This book also lives up to its horror label, and there is talk of blood, guts, and missing eyeballs. It can be gross, but this is not about gore. The story that’s weaved underneath all the scary stuff is truly awesome and Blake fleshes out the three main characters while keeping Cas as the narrator. That is something that a lot of authors have trouble with, but Blake pulls it off perfectly.
Oh, my goodness, is that a person of color on the cover of a YA novel? It is! And she’s beautiful, and SandlerOriginal review posted at Nose in a Book
Oh, my goodness, is that a person of color on the cover of a YA novel? It is! And she’s beautiful, and Sandler is awesome for writing about women of color in a genre that is inundated with stories about white teenagers, their special powers and their absent parents. And that cover is beautiful by itself with all that green and blue. I would apologize for starting this review with a little politics, but seriously. This book is about two women of color (who were gestated in a tank) getting sent off to be slaves to other, higher classes. I mean, that’s a direct parallel if I ever saw one, sci-fi twist or not. So. Tankborn…
The racism apparent in this book seems to be internalized. The lighter the skin, the higher the caste, and so on. Kayla’s skin falls somewhere in the middle. She was made with unnatural strength, and it makes her clumsy and awkward. She has never felt comfortable in her own skin, which is unusual for a GEN, considering their aptitudes and interests (called skill sets or skets) are programmed into them. There is blatant discrimination of them (a trueborn tries to hurt Kayla’s brother with a big chunk of concrete, GENs are constantly called “jiks,” a term Kayla makes sure you know is an epithet), even as they’re being sent on their Assignments. Kayla’s assignment is in a large trueborn house, where, as soon as she arrives, she’s called a jik twice. But here’s where the real story starts.
Here, Kayla is brought face-to-face with Devak, the trueborn boy who saved her brother earlier in the book. She’s there to care for his great-grandfather, but Zul Manel has other things in store for her. The best part of this book is watching Devak go from idly racist to enlightened. Sometimes it’s hard for us to understand intense racism and hate, but I can see how Devak’s insulated trueborn upbringing could make him blind to the GENs’ plight. ”It’s for their own good”, “they like the way things are”, “resetting and realigning a GEN is in their best interest” are all common tropes that Devak has has drilled into his head since he was a child. It’s like some sort of benevolent slavery, with “benevolent” having a very flexible definition. Seeing Kayla changes him, and when he meets Mishalla, he doesn’t even blink.
Mishalla is vital to the story as well, though she’s not nearly as interesting as Kayla. Michalla is in a creche, taking care of ostensibly orphaned lowborn children. She’s frightened and easily cowed for the most part, but that just comes with being a GEN. I think the plot needed Mishalla to stay where she was for the story to be furthered, but Mishalla really is important. She overhears vital information and puts her life on the line to save children who, in a few years, would look right through her or call her a jik. That’s courage.
This book is bittersweet. I enjoyed it thoroughly, but it made me a little sad at the end. I wish this one was a series! Look for it next month!...more
Here we go again, back to Elisa! You can read my review for The Girl of Fire and Thorns here, but it has spoilerOriginally published at yAdult Review.
Here we go again, back to Elisa! You can read my review for The Girl of Fire and Thorns here, but it has spoilers, so fair warning! This book starts off with two attempts on Elisa’s life, one by an animagus and another by an unknown assassin. Elisa’s advisers are untrustworthy to the point of being suspicious, and take advantage of her while she is incapacitated, using the time to abuse their power and help their own machinations along. I hated them all, regardless of if they thought they were doing the right thing for their country. I wanted Elisa to order them all hanged. They raise taxes without her consent, and they murder a guard for basically no reason. They’re awful. But it all keeps coming back to Hector, who you must know Elisa is beginning to love. He stands by her through everything, doesn’t leave her alone with her treacherous advisers, and just generally provides moral support. I think even I started falling in love with him.
This book is a little different from the last one, in that there is much less adventure. There’s still a lot of intrigue, though, and Elisa is almost killed more than once. I loved her even more in this one, maybe because she is so unsure of her position as queen but she is still kind, true to herself, brave, and unafraid. Her maid, Mara, is a welcome addition to the cast as well. There’s some introspection in this one that we didn’t get during the first novel, and I think The Crown of Embers is better for it. I think I liked the sequel just as much, if not more, than the first. Elisa is learning things that challenge her faith, and yet she still manages to take things in stride, trying to do what is best for her kingdom. It was fascinating learning just a little bit more about the Inviernos, because before now they’ve just been faceless killers out to destroy Joya d’Arena.
Every scene with Hector and Elisa overwhelmed me, sometimes with squee, but I did cry at least twice, because their situation is a hard one. Especially given outside forces and their plans for both Hector’s and Elisa’s futures. The romance is so delicious though, because it has that thread of angst, that very good and simple reason why Elisa and Hector cannot be together. What made it even better is that Hector is so very aware, and enlightens Elisa as well, to the power his queen has over him, not only as her personal guard and Lord-Commander, but as a man in love with her. She could command him to do anything, and he would have to do it. He looks out for himself and for Elisa, and it was nice to see the power imbalance talked about for once. Another thing I liked was the openness about sex. Mara is instrumental in Elisa’s romantic education, and it was nice to see the topic talked about so freely, as if it were just a natural thing (which it is), without a mention of virginity or judgment. It was great. Carson outdid herself. Pick this one up right away and check back here in August/September for the review of the final installment of the trilogy, The Bitter Kingdom....more
I knew while reading the prologue that I was going to love this one. I loved Graceling, after all, and BitterbluOriginally published at Nose in a Book
I knew while reading the prologue that I was going to love this one. I loved Graceling, after all, and Bitterblue was one of the best characters. She also has one of the hardest journeys, from abused princess, to orphan, to eighteen-year-old Queen. Her advisers keep secrets and hide truths from her, and I suspected some trace of Leck’s Graced influence remained with his subjects even after he was gone. When Bitterblue goes out roving, and meets Saf and Teddy, she discovers all sorts of things that were shielded from her in the castle, and she starts unraveling little mysteries here and there. Teddy and Saf call her Sparks, and she keeps her real identity hidden. She saves Teddy’s life at one point, and then? Po and Katsa show up. I love Po and Katsa, and they are perfect in this novel, not just together but as themselves. We also see Giddon again, and he’s an interesting character too. There is a Council out to reform the seven kingdoms, and Bitterblue is a Council sympathizer. She has her own spies, but she’s still in the dark about a lot of things. Her memories of her childhood are sketchy because of Leck’s memory magic (which makes me think of Barron in the Curse Workers novels).
Everyone is on edge in this one. Po and Katsa are fighting, Giddon and Po are fighting, people are being killed in Bitterblue City. Someone is trying to kill “truthseekers,” people like Teddy, Saf, and their sisters. Bitterblue is more ignorant of how life works in her city than a commoner is. She’s spending her time rereading childhood books to regain her memories, while her advisers continue to keep secrets. Saf, who steals items Leck stole himself, becomes a confidante of Bitterblue’s and you can feel something forming between them before the inevitable happens. Saf is brought before the High Court for something he didn’t do, and he discovers Bitterblue’s secret. He’s understandably angry, thinking Bitterblue was manipulating him, lying to him, trying to ferret out his secrets. He even calls her a bitch, which Po doesn’t really like. He says a lot of things to Bitterblue that make her think, like about the reality of her station and wealth compared to that of Saf. Po says she broke his heart, and maybe she did. I felt for Saf a lot here, but I also feel for Bitterblue. They’re both lost with no real way of being found.
What really made me happy was how little Bitterblue moped over Saf. She hardly does at all, really. She’s eighteen, but she’s a queen and she knows it. She keeps her head on straight and does what she has to do. I hate the moping heroine trope (I almost set New Moon on fire, not even kidding), and I am so happy that strong, feisty Bitterblue doesn’t become a weeping mess over a boy. I missed Saf in his absence though. His banter with the queen was cute and interesting. I couldn’t dwell on that for very long though, because when the plot gets going, it really moves.
The ending kind of wrecked me, because it’s not exactly happy. It’s not sad either, but it’s not something you come to expect in love stories. This novel, of course, is no love story. It’s a tale of discovery, horror, lies, and adventure. I really loved this book, maybe even more than I loved Graceling. If you loved the first two novels in this series, reading this one is essential, but prepare yourself for a lot of heartache and tears....more
**spoiler alert** I’m just going to come right out and say it. I thought Elisa was a whiny little rich girl princess in the beginning of this book. We**spoiler alert** I’m just going to come right out and say it. I thought Elisa was a whiny little rich girl princess in the beginning of this book. We know that she’s a scholar, but she doesn’t have any real responsibilities. Her sister will be the next queen, so there isn’t any reason for Elisa to be involved in court activities. She has no one to answer to because, in her religion, she is sent from God and is a supreme being of sorts. She has to do her Service to God, and then she will probably die. She seems to spend her time eating and reading which, as a princess, is kind of an awesome life. Until she gets politically married to Prince Alejandro. He’s a widower, and needs Elisa’s father’s troops to fight off the encroaching Inviernos. Elisa hates her wedding dress (or, I should say, her body in her wedding dress), but finds Alejandro handsome and mysterious. They don’t consummate their marriage before leaving for Alejandro’s country.
Elisa is a whiner, and her focus is mostly on how hot she is or how uncomfortable her clothes are. I like that Carson used a heroine that could be considered fat, but really, Elisa hates her body. She constantly complains about how she looks and sweats. This isn’t really an empowered fat girl at all, but I can see how maybe modern girls can relate. Love your body, girls! /soapbox
Anyway, they’re attacked by Perditos near Alejandro’s city (where they’re arriving unannounced and unexpected). Elisa sees Alejandro surrounded and she saves him, stabbing a man in the chest. She agonizes about this for the remainder of the book, but not in an obnoxious way. I like my females hard (see: Kate Daniels) but I also like them soft, and Elisa is the epitome of soft. When they arrive, Alejandro introduces her as a guest, and tell her he doesn’t want anyone to know he’s remarried yet. This hurts Elisa, but she agrees. He also warns her not to tell anyone about the Godstone. Elisa flounces about for awhile in Alejandro’s antique castle.
WARNING: HERE BE SPOILERS
When she’s kidnapped, I almost felt sorry for her. Her husband isn’t really her husband, she’s in a new place with new people, and she really wants to help and make Alejandro love her. But she’s forced across the desert with a motley crew of young people: Belen, Cosme, Jacian, and, wait for it, Humberto. Guess which one is the potential love interest? You got it. Humberto. (What is up with these names? Humberto, and Tucker from Unearthly, and Patch from Hush, Hush. This needs to stop.)
Elisa ends up dropping a lot of weight on this forced desert march, something she is delighted about, and just one more thing I side-eyed. Like I said, fat pride wasn’t really a concept Elisa entertained. They reach a village and something about war and the Inviernos are coming and they can’t tell Alejandro about the Inviernos because he’ll make them evacuate. Et cetera. (I hate war strategies.) Elisa comes up with a plan to save these people from the Inviernos, but she has to reveal that she’s Alejandro’s wife. That makes Humberto sad. Elisa and her friends gather their stuff to observe the Invierno army. Humberto stays mad, but they talk when they find a cave and Humberto kisses her. And then the Inviernos come.
Elisa is caught, of course. Turns out Belen told the Inviernos where she was hiding. Elisa finds out that the enemy also has Godstones that they can use as a kind of magic. They’re called Animagi. Elisa kills one and escapes back to Humberto and her friends. Belen returns to tell them that the Inviernos are coming, and that a village will be destroyed when any resistance attacks the Inviernos. In the midst of this, Humberto wants to tell Elisa that she could leave Alejandro because their marriage hasn’t been consummated. Boys, I swear.
There’s this corrupt count they have to deal with before they go, so they try to set him up for a trap. It fails, they get imprisoned, and THEN MY MOUTH IS LIKE THIS :O FOR LIKE AN HOUR because….
RAE CARSON SLITS HUMBERTO’S THROAT! D: D: D: RIGHT? BUT KIND OF AWESOME TOO.
Elisa is kind of stunned and tries to cut her Godstone out, but Cosme stops her. Have I mentioned Humberto was her brother? He was. Sad. Like legitimately, I was sad, but that was a huge turning point in this novel. NO ONE has the strength to kill their own characters, and when they do, it’s someone so insignificant you just don’t care. But not this time. Carson does an awesome job capturing how raw and horrible this is, and Humberto dies so quickly. Elisa does not get to tell him she loves him. There’s no happy ending for them. And in this genre, that’s powerful.
I’m going to save the ending for you to read, but I highly, highly recommend this book. It’s almost perfect....more
**spoiler alert** Lady Katsa…siiigh. That was a dreamy sigh, by the way. I love Lady Katsa. She’s emotionally isolated, she’s feared by her uncle’s co**spoiler alert** Lady Katsa…siiigh. That was a dreamy sigh, by the way. I love Lady Katsa. She’s emotionally isolated, she’s feared by her uncle’s court, no one wants to be her servant, and she is badass, able to kill a man in one blow. She has friends, but very few. She is used by her uncle as a punishment of sorts, sent out to wound or kill as needed. She is also a member of the Council, Katsa’s own personal rebellion. The Council basically uses Katsa as vigilante justice, without the King’s knowledge, and Katsa does so willingly. On her most recent mission to rescue an old man from kidnapping, she meets Prince Greening (or Po) and he soon turns up at her uncle’s castle.
Katsa is uncomfortable with Po at first, but when she learn the rescued man is Po’s grandfather, she softens a bit. Because Po is Graced with hand-to-hand fighting, he and Katsa begin training together. They become friends, though Katsa’s friend Giddon doesn’t like Po. They grow close, and Katsa finds herself attracted to him. There are a few misunderstandings (and Po is not as he seems), but they don’t last long. Katsa has some trust issues, but most problems are ironed out quickly. When her uncle gives her an order she can’t complete, she leaves the court with Po.
Before I go any farther, I want to point out that this book is incredibly long, but so so worth it. It starts out moving slowly, but gets good really fast.
Katsa gets over her distrust of Po to the point that we get a nice fade to black around the halfway mark. After this, Po and Katsa are basically an established couple. They’re lovely and I love them and there is like ZERO fan fic for them. Not cool, people. So, Po and Katsa plan and continue to fight, and then they finally, finally, finally reach Monsea.
WARNING: HERE BE SPOILERS (but nothing too huge, promise)
They suspect King Leck of kidnapping Po’s grandfather, but they don’t know why. You pretty much know they whole time that it has to be Leck, and he turns out to be a medieval villain with an M.O. straight out of L&O: SVU. Creepy and gross. Kasta and Po arrive just in time for Po to see Leck kill Ashen, Po’s aunt and Monsea’s Queen. Po knows that Leck has seen the truth of Po’s Grace, and he also knows that Katsa is affected by Leck’s odd, scary Grace. They find Princess Bitterblue in the woods and spirit her away.
Po’s assassination attempt is a failure, and he’s injured to the point that Katsa and Bitterblue have to leave him in an abandoned cottage in the woods. In the end, everything resolves itself, but it’s very bittersweet. I’m reading the second book now, but I hear the third book, Bitterblue, has more Katsa and Po and I can’t wait!...more
**spoiler alert** In real life, I’m a pretty political person, though I rarely let that show through in my internet life and it almost never influence**spoiler alert** In real life, I’m a pretty political person, though I rarely let that show through in my internet life and it almost never influences my reading choices. Shine is different. When my friend Salma read it, she gave it five stars so I knew it was something I had to read. I am so glad I did and I love this book and its message, but be warned: this book is brutal and it offers no apologies or sugarcoating. Black Creek is a town that is dying due to economic collapse. It was never a wealthy town to begin with, but the closing of the local paper mill has everyone living in poverty. The inhabitants of Black Creek are rife with racism, homophobia, sexism, rape apologism, drug abuse, and suicide. This is not a book for the faint of heart.
Right at the very beginning, we learn that Patrick, a gay teenager, has been brutally beaten, tied up, and left for dead in the parking lot of that gas station where he works. This is the beginning to one of the twistiest tales I have ever read in my life. As Cat details her childhood with Patrick and his guardian, Mama Sweetie, we learn what kind of person Patrick is. He is kind and playful, always including Cat even though she’s a few years younger than he is. They’re best friends for their whole lives, and when Patrick comes out to Cat, it’s one of those situations where she’d always kind of known anyway.
WARNING: HERE BE SPOILERS
Cat hangs out with her older brother’s group of friends when she’s young. That is, until one day when the leader of the pack sexually assaults her, and nearly rapes her. No one comes to Cat’s defense. She knows her brother saw, but he did nothing. Her aunt can only say, “pretty girls get teased,” which goes a long way in showing how divergence from the path is frowned upon. Women get raped and it’s no big deal; gay teenagers are almost killed and the police to next to nothing.
This is a story not only of Cat searching for Patrick’s assailant, it’s a story of Cat finding herself after a self-imposed, three-year exile. Cat finds love and solace in a local college boy, and together they find Patrick’s killer. And that’s the twistiest part yet. I know a lot of reviewers knew who the killer was long before Cat did, but I found myself realizing it at the same time as she did, and it was intense.
This story is tough, and there’s a lot of talk about meth and its destructive effects, but also about drinking and cheating and lying. It’s a story that’s easy to follow and to understand, but it definitely teaches you something along the way. It’s one of those books that’s hard to review, partially because it’s hard not to give anything away, but also because it left me so speechless at the end. I definitely recommend this book to anyone, straight or otherwise....more
Okay, let’s first get the ridiculous name out of the way: HARPER FREAKING BLAINE. Harper is okay, and I guess Blaine is okay but together they are allOkay, let’s first get the ridiculous name out of the way: HARPER FREAKING BLAINE. Harper is okay, and I guess Blaine is okay but together they are all that is awful in the world. (Hyperbole? What’s that?) Secondly, this is a book that’s a little different from the others we’ve reviewed here. I even had to add a new tag: urban fantasy. This is my favorite genre because it’s a nice mix of fantasy and sci-fi, we get to see how the supernatural gets around all our technology, and urban fantasy has a lot of bad ass women killing things. What’s not to love? (And if you haven’t read Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series, you need to do that.) The supernatural element is high and so is the mystery, but romance is very low. Urban fantasy isn’t really a genre that lends itself well to romance, given all the weird things usually out to eat our heroine and torture her loved ones. Also, there are no teenagers in this book. Sorry, guys. Third, there will be NO SPOILERS in this review, because it’s just too convoluted to even attempt to explain. Onward!
This book is basically everything I’ve ever hoped for in a novel like this. Harper is independent and awesome, recovering really quickly after being murdered in the first chapter of the book. That part was really horrifying to read, by the way. One of the most gripping introductions I have ever read. Harper is quickly introduced to Ben and Mara Danziger, who are magical in their own way and help Harper navigate through her new world of the Grey. They are not always right and they get pissed at Harper a few times (and vice versa) but they are funny and two-dimensional and really good as sidekicks in a book like this (especially because Mara is a witch). We also meet Quinton, a hacker or something, who is very sweet and has an obvious crush on Harper. He helps her out at least three times in the book. (I also have my suspicions about him, but I won’t say anything here.) And there’s Will, the one-book love interest, who is human, but he and Harper can’t really get it together.
One thing I really liked about this book was that Harper didn’t spend her time moping around or shrieking, “This is impossible!” at the Danzigers like 75% of hero/ines in epic/urban fantasy. She has to get over her initial resistance, but she’s nothing like that girl from the Fever series who is, quite frankly, one of the most hardheaded “heroines” of all time. Maybe I should say “thick-headed,” but either way, Harper is neither of those things.
Harper’s big problem is learning to control the Grey. She falls into it without being able to stop it, and she’s gotten hurt in it before. While working this out, she gets a job from two clients: one looking for her son and the other looking for a family heirloom. There’s exactly nothing I can say about the first of the two because of spoilers, and very little I can say about the second, exceptt that the “heirloom” is a haunted organ. I laugh during (almost) every scene it’s in.
This book can be really scary as well. Vampires are vampires in this novel, and in two separate scenes, I had to put the book down for a second because my heart was pounding. Harper finds herself sucked into the Grey by a psychopathic vampire named Wygan, and I literally shrieked at the end of that scene. Like, so loud the cats jumped up out of a sound sleep and disappeared. This book is not for the faint of heart.
And now for my soapbox: This book would have gotten five stars if not for some serious instances of body shaming. There is a girl in the books who everyone calls “Lady Gwendolyn of Anorexia” and everyone seems to get a big laugh out of it, including Harper. That did not sit well with me AT ALL, especially after learning the poor girl’s history. And I mean, I know it’s really realistic for people to act like that and think it’s funny and say stupid things, but I don’t like it when my heroine agrees. Like, Harper doesn’t always have to take the moral high ground, but it would have been nice if there was some acknowledgment of wrongdoing after she meets Gwen face-to-face. And I guess there was, just a little, and Harper is kind of taken aback by Gwen but I wish that scene was done differently.
Anyway, in all, this book has Everything That is Awesome contained within: witches, vampires, mysteries, magic, ghosts, and a heroine who is, FOR ONCE, not too stupid to live. I will definitely be reading the rest of this series in the future....more