When a crash kills their father and leaves them orphaned, Zelia knows she needs to protect her sister, Dylia. But before Zel has a plan, strangers app...moreWhen a crash kills their father and leaves them orphaned, Zelia knows she needs to protect her sister, Dylia. But before Zel has a plan, strangers appear with bizarre sensory weapons, and Zel finds herself in a safe house for teens who aren't like any she’s ever seen before. Teens who shouldn't even exist. Using broken-down technology, her new friends' peculiar gifts, and her own grit, Zel must find a way to get her sister back from the kidnappers who think a powerful secret is encoded in Dyl's DNA.
Control is dangerous and deceptive, a search for the truth in our genetic makeup and a mission to save family. But it's not that easy for Zel, her world soon becomes secretive, confining. Controlling. Despite being blocked at every turn, she still looks for the truth, but what is the truth? What will she do when she discovers it?
Zel is flawed and frail, the kind of girl who would surely become the unlikely hero of this book. She's a one-track mind kind of girl, thinking only of her sister and how she can save her. She's also battling (in a sense) against the residents of her hew home, trying to crack their shells and discover their secrets because she's been kept in the dark about why Dyl was taken and who they all are. But they're all tight-lipped, especially the intelligent angry guy who constantly glares at Zel whenever they're in the same room. She won't stop, though. Finding Dylia is too important.
Now, I will say first that I don't know a lot about genetics, I never studied it, but the science all sounded rather sound, plausible by science fiction's rules. I was willing to put my faith in the author's background when it came to all the talk of genetic manipulation, willing to believe that in the future, with the right knowledge and advances in technology, a lot of what Zel discovers could be possible.
Are there mistakes or accidents? Are the gifts of the teens Zel meets genetic quirks, or aren't they? If they are mistakes, what mistakes they are, and the lengths people went through to keep them hidden from the rest of the world are astounding. But if they aren't, if they were created on purpose, if there are no such thing as accidents, who created them? Why? What isn't Zel being told?
There's a moment where Zel apologizes for being selfish in her search for Dyl and I found myself not wanting her to apologize. She wants her sister back, she wants her family back, she's willing to do what it takes to get information. I don't blame her for acting the way she does, so focused and driven. After their father's death, all she has is Dylia. She craves what's familiar to her to provide comfort and support, and only Dyl can give her that. Of course, her apologizing means she's acknowledging that she's too focused on saving Dyl, means she's aware, but I would've been happy without the apology.
One of the shining moments of the book, besides Zel and her intelligence, is the science. It provides a technical feel, a serious tone, but also a bit of plausibility. Actual science is slightly tweaked, slightly twisted, by the author. It's still science fiction right now, but there's that possibility of it one day perhaps moving past fiction into fact that gives it weight. The knowledge that this is the first in a series also gives it weight, the weight of waiting for the next book.(less)
Sixteen-year-old Dusty Everhart breaks into houses late at night, but not because she’s a criminal. No, she’s a Nightmare. Literally. Being the only N...moreSixteen-year-old Dusty Everhart breaks into houses late at night, but not because she’s a criminal. No, she’s a Nightmare. Literally. Being the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for magickind, and living in the shadow of her mother’s infamy, is hard enough. But when Dusty sneaks into Eli Booker’s house, things get a whole lot more complicated. He’s hot, which means sitting on his chest and invading his dreams couldn’t get much more embarrassing. But it does. Eli is dreaming of a murder. Then Eli’s dream comes true. Now Dusty has to follow the clues, both within Eli’s dreams and out of them, to stop the killer before more people turn up dead. And before the killer learns what she’s up to and marks her as the next target.
The Nightmare Affair is dark, filled with secrets, spells, and hidden agendas. Dusty is the unlikeliest detective, searching the shadows for clues to a murder at her boarding school for magical teens, but she must be careful. Someone has plans rather sinister plans, and would hate for Dusty to ruin them.
Dusty is stuck in her mother's shadow, looked down on because of both her mother's less than savoury exploits and her own Nightmare abilities. Because she is feared, looked down on, avoided, shunned, her personality has its rough edges. She's very much her own person, there's little to no filter between her thoughts and her brain so she certainly has a way of cutting the tension in the room with a bit of snark. And she frequently denies that she's like her mother, when there certainly are some similarities between the two of them.
Her relationship, for lack of a better work, with Eli is intriguing. The connection between the two of them came about by circumstances neither of them had any control over. I liked that their relationship was often rocky, often filled with conflict, both between the two and between Dusty and her thoughts. They weren't forced to become friends, they weren't even told to become friends, and I liked that. It meant they had to work towards discovering the truth and stopping the killer while working through some apathy and animosity. It didn't feel easy, and it shouldn't have. If it wasn't difficult for them to search and solve the mystery, I would've been disappointed.
In a school like Arkwell, a boarding school for witches, wizards, and other magical beings, there are bound to be more than a few secrets circling the grounds. There was such a variety of paranormal creatures, plus there was the keeping them all in one place boarding school aspect, which meant there was a fair amount of teenage hormones and attitude roaming the halls. Having both sides, the dark murder mystery side and the teen angst side, brought on that hint of realism.
At times Dusty reminded me of a paranormal Nancy Drew with an extra trick or two up her sleeve. She was willing to search and get a bit dirty, willing to ask questions in order to get answers, but she had no idea what she'd stumbled into, how dangerous it would get. What kept me reading was Dusty, the self-acknowledged smartass, and the ways her curious and snarky personality got all mixed up and in all the secrets going around, the mystery behind the sudden murders. An entertaining start to a mysterious paranormal trilogy, I just hope the second book will be more of the same.(less)
Night of Cake & Puppets is a short burst of a story, a sweet and magical tumble into love. During Karou's search in Daughter of Smoke & Bone,...moreNight of Cake & Puppets is a short burst of a story, a sweet and magical tumble into love. During Karou's search in Daughter of Smoke & Bone, her best friend in the whole world, the puppet-maker Zuzana, decides to take action and claim the object of her desires, violinist Mik.
Taylor's prose is just as magical, just as lyrical and expressive and moving, as her novels. Reading her words is always a joy, they fill the pieces of my soul that crave fairy tales and monsters. But there's an added sweetness here that I feel is all Zuzana (and Mik as well, not to exclude him), all first love and falling snow and secrets lying in wait in the shadows.
This only serves to whet my appetite for Dreams of Gods & Monsters, for more Karou and Akiva, but also for more stories of Zuzana and Mik. I don't think I'll get the latter, but at least I only have to wait until April 2014 for the former.(less)
Plenty of teenagers feel invisible. Fiona actually is. An invisible girl is a priceless weapon. Fiona's own father has been forcing her to do his dirt...morePlenty of teenagers feel invisible. Fiona actually is. An invisible girl is a priceless weapon. Fiona's own father has been forcing her to do his dirty work for years, everything from spying on people to stealing cars to breaking into bank vaults. After sixteen years, Fiona's had enough. She and her mother flee to a small town, and for the first time in her life, Fiona feels like a normal life is within reach. But Fiona's father isn't giving up that easily. Of course, he should know better than anyone: never underestimate an invisible girl.
Transparent is a curious mix of contemporary and paranormal, entertaining and amusing while also fast-paced and dangerous. This is Fiona's first chance at living a normal life, with high school and classmates, but she can't help but be suspicious of anything and everything. Being the invisible girl means everyone knows who you are.
Fiona's story begins in a dangerous place. She's the prize tool of her crime syndicate boss father, the infamous invisible girl who can spy and steal from anyone he wishes. But a girl will only do so much in the name of familial love. She's tired of being used by her father. He feels no love or affection towards her, he only thinks of greed, manipulation, and control. Her and her mother leaving, hiding out in a small town, raise two new problems. They run the risk of her father coming after them, forcing his will upon them even harder than before, but they also have to keep an eye on the town they end up in. Who are the new 'friends' of Fiona's? Who must she watch out for?
What is it like being invisible? Fiona wants to be recognized as a person, as a girl, as a normal girl and not as an attraction or a tool. She's still existing, living, experiencing the world and all its ups and downs. She's right there. But no one can see her face, her expressions of happiness or sadness. No one can see the real Fiona. Even in huge crowds of people, she's all alone.
When you have a world where people have unique abilities, those with criminal leanings, with manipulative or controlling personalities, are bound to want to use those abilities to their own advantage. They're the wrong kind of people to have the abilities. With the abilities, they crave power and control, and when they have it, they want more. And they will go to any lengths to have it.
What hooked me initially was the book's premise, the escape from the criminal underworld to a small town with a paranormal twist. It means double the issues for Fiona: teenage real like plus the impossible invisible girl life. These are the books I enjoy the most, the ones that weave back and forth across the line that separates real and not real, realistic and magical realism. What if, on top of high school, family, and friends, life was just that much more complicated? I'm looking forward to the sequel, I'm curious as to what else is coming after Fiona.(less)
Seventeen-year-old Soren Bearskin is trying to escape the past. His father, a famed warrior, lost himself to the battle-frenzy and killed thirteen inn...moreSeventeen-year-old Soren Bearskin is trying to escape the past. His father, a famed warrior, lost himself to the battle-frenzy and killed thirteen innocent people. Soren cannot deny that berserking is in his blood--the fevers, insomnia, and occasional feelings of uncontrollable rage haunt him. So he tries to remain calm and detached from everyone at Sanctus Sigurd's Academy. But that's hard to do when a popular, beautiful girl like Astrid Glyn tells Soren she dreams of him. That's not all Astrid dreams of. The daughter of a renowned prophetess, Astrid is coming into her own inherited abilities. When Baldur, son of Odin and one of the most popular gods in the country, goes missing, Astrid sees where he is and convinces Soren to join her on a road trip that will take them to find not only a lost god, but also who they are beyond the legacy of their parents and everything they've been told they have to be.
The Lost Sun is a magical and dangerous journey across a land covered in sadness and loss, a coming of age taking place in a land both wholly different and very similar to our own. Soren and Astrid face a number of challenges on their search for Baldur and the reason for his disappearance, but the most important search happens inside themselves as they are forced to decide if they're willing to accept what fate has in store for them.
Soren is afraid of what fate may have in store for him. He's afraid of becoming his father, a berserker who lost control, killed innocent people, and was then gunned down in order to put a halt to his rage. After witnessing that as a child, Soren has spent years calming the fever inside of him, searching for a way to keep it buried where it will harm no one. When Astrid comes along with a proposition, Soren sees a chance to remove the part of himself he fears, the part he hates, but no one can escape the ties of fate for long.
Astrid can't, or won't, let her mother go. She believes her mother is still out there, somewhere. The journey with Soren is also a journey of discovering answers, but will they be the answers she seeks? Will they tell her what she wants to know or will she instead find something unexpected and unwanted? There's a fair amount of Astrid the reader doesn't see, her deepest thoughts and feelings, but that's because she's seen through Soren's eyes. The reader only gets Soren's opinions and assumptions of Astrid and her goals.
Soren and Astrid are kindred spirits, holding themselves back because of the past and fearing what the future may have in store for them. They think they're running from it, escaping it. They don't realize they're heading straight for it. What a curious and fickle creature fate is. Inescapable, fate is what binds each person in this book, especially Soren and Astrid.
The world-building is so spot on in this book, so creative. Norse mythology is rather underused in YA, what with Greek mythology being so popular, and I was pleased to read something new and different. What if the Norse gods existed? What an interesting concept. And because they exist, the history of the world is different, which means certain terms are different, like names, holidays, and days of the week. I imagine it must've been hard for Gratton to re-write so much history in order to create this world.
Tessa Gratton still astounds me. She's very much a storyteller, in my opinion, as well as an author. It's the telling of the tale that gets to me, the recounting of events and emotions, the revealing of what the reader needs to know slowly over the course of the story. This book has a different tone than her previous books, but I feel that's because the magic there was hidden, darker, more dangerous. Here it's not, it's very much out in the open for all to see, and it feels more immediate.
The journey is so important. It's rough, deadly, complicated. It can spin you around in all directions, make you dizzy, make you go backwards. But every journey has its end. Will the end be the one Soren and Astrid want? I'm very much looking forward to the next book and an entirely new journey.(less)
It's a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets int...moreIt's a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone. Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help. Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder—would they be better off staying here forever? Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won’t be the same people who landed on it.
These Broken Stars is a mysterious love story, a harrowing journey of survival, truth, and discovery. It is a very curious twist of fate that tosses Lilac and Tarver together, these teens with very different backgrounds, and it is because of that twist of fate that they must rely on each other for their very survival. There are many secrets to be found on the planet they crash onto, but what will knowing those secrets do to them?
Lilac lives by the rules of her controlling father. She knows this very well, and so she keeps her distance from those 'beneath her.' It's not that she sees them as beneath her, as less than she is, but she does it for their own good. She sees herself as toxic, as a poison that will ruin someone's life, all because of her father. She's a more than meets the eye kind of girl. She has her secret interests and her dreams, her genuine wants and desires, but she keeps them hidden away under a thin veneer of snobbishness.
Tarver, by contrast, is a working class boy made good kind of war hero. He's not necessarily a typical 'war hero' kind of hero. He's strong and intelligent, his knowledge gained from fighting on the front lines keeps them alive, but he still has his concerns, he's still emotionally connected to the situation. He has an honest and genuine personality, and focuses on the mission at hand while paying attention to both his and Lilac's needs.
The small interlude moments between each chapter were interesting. It's rather obvious from the line of questioning that this person wants to know every single thing about the crash, every little insignificant detail from when Tarver first met Lilac, like they'd planned it. The answers the insistent voice gets are rather intriguing, truth but not the truth, lies but not lies.
Survival is key. Once Lilac and Tarver crash onto the planet, they are forced together and forced to rely on each other in order to survive. They are pushed to discover what it takes to survive when the world comes crashing down on you, when you're in a place that's foreign and alien to you, when everything around you is dead and ruined. When the dark secrets that place holds are the key to your survival, and you must rise up above your fear and face it head on.
I was so pleased at how different Lilac and Tarver's voices were. For a dual point of view book, there were clear differences in their tones, personalities, goals, and inner thoughts, and that doesn't always come across well. Also, I'm not surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. I went into it hoping for science fiction, romance, secrets, and intrigue, a sci-fi shipwreck on a deserted 'island' with two characters tossed together and forced to rely on each other in spite of their differences. And that's what I got. And the romance happened naturally, it didn't feel forced or instant. With the next book in the trilogy featuring a different couple, I'm very curious as to where Kaufman and Spooner will go next.(less)
For Kitty Doe, it seems like an easy choice. She can either spend her life as a III in misery, looked down upon by the higher ranks and forced to leav...moreFor Kitty Doe, it seems like an easy choice. She can either spend her life as a III in misery, looked down upon by the higher ranks and forced to leave the people she loves, or she can become a VII and join the most powerful family in the country. If she says yes, Kitty will be Masked - surgically transformed into Lila Hart, the Prime Minister's niece, who died under mysterious circumstances. As a member of the Hart family, she will be famous. She will be adored. And for the first time, she will matter. But there's a catch. There always is. Faced with threats, conspiracies and a life that's not her own, she must decide which path to choose and learn how to become more than a pawn in a twisted game she's only beginning to understand.
Pawn is a glimpse into a certain kind of future, one where an all-powerful family reigns, where secrets and conspiracies are born and die daily, where young people are tested on what their future worth to society will be and how those low scorers will never have the chance to advance. Where people are not always valued or treated like people. Except for one girl. She's been given the chance to be someone important, to actually BE someone, but the price she must pay is a dangerous one. It means being a pawn in someone's scheme, and it means her deciding if she will be that pawn or if she will rise up and speak out.
Kitty has resigned herself to a dismal future, one where she'll be barely taken care of by society because her score was so low. She's a bit street smart but she can't read very well, her learning disability impacts her test score and so she's deemed to be not worth having a semi-privileged life, meaning a warm home, a good job, and one day marrying her boyfriend. Her new life as Lila Hart sounds glamourous, but she knows there's a catch. There's always a catch. Kitty just never expected this kind of catch, never expected a life of secrets, lies, and backstabbing, a life of near-constant power battles and the lengths some will go to in order to win.
The book is set in a dystopian future where the United States thrives because of one family, a family that picked it up from ruin and saved it. It's a society that takes care of all its citizens as long as you give it everything you have, as long as you work as hard as you can. Study, train, push yourself to the limit, and only then will you get the chance to be part of the elite. If you don't give as much, if you give the bare minimum, no one will help you. This society rewards the overachievers and punishes the weak, but the system is flawed. When only one kind of intelligence is tested, when only certain skills are desired, only a certain type of person will move on. And that type isn't always the best type.
Kitty is very much a pawn throughout the book. She never makes her own decisions, except for the first one, the one that starts everything. Once she's Masked, once she becomes Lila, she does what she's told when she's told. She's the Hart family's newest puppet, but she has good reason to be. It's play the role or be killed. It's play the role or her boyfriend will be killed. It's play the role or everyone she's ever cared about will be killed. And so she plays the role, but other plots and plans are still happening around her. She will be pushed to make a choice, the choice to continue the role or to fight back and realize she's not worthless after all.
Considering the large number of dystopian YA novels and series that have been published, I found the premise of this book to be intriguing. I was impressed at what Carter was able to pull off with Kitty. There are some overall similarities to other series, but it's the characters, the world-building, and other little details that set it apart. Every misstep could mean death. Everyone could be part of a secret group trying to change the world. Everyone has a hidden agenda. I'm curious as to what will happen next, which secrets are still to be revealed, and who the next person to use Kitty will be.(less)
After her near-fatal run-in with the Jack the Ripper copycat, Rory Deveaux has been living in Bristol under the close watch of her parents. So when he...moreAfter her near-fatal run-in with the Jack the Ripper copycat, Rory Deveaux has been living in Bristol under the close watch of her parents. So when her therapist suddenly suggests she return to Wexford, Rory jumps at the chance to get back to her friends. But Rory's brush with the Ripper touched her more than she thought possible: she's become a human terminus, with the power to eliminate ghosts on contact. She soon finds out that the Shades, the city's secret ghost-fighting police, are responsible for her return. The Ripper may be gone, but now there is a string of new inexplicable deaths threatening London. Rory has evidence that the deaths are no coincidence. Something much more sinister is going on, and now she must convince the squad to listen to her before it's too late. The Madness Underneath is what I've come to expect from Maureen Johnson in a good way. There's mystery, ghosts, murders, high school, teen romance confusion, and teen angst in general, and it all comes together in the best way. This book is back to Rory attempting to juggle all the part of her life, a life that sees London's ghostly past mixed with Rory's own odd and unique way of thinking. After being attacked by a ghost masquerading as Jack the Ripper, will returning to Wexford really be that easy?
Rory is quirky, eccentric, and sometimes just plain weird, but she's also curious and rather compelling. As I read this book I was fascinated with how Rory saw events play out, with her point of view. She's an intriguing kind of heroine for a ghostly murder mystery, seeing the world from a different angle. Sometimes it's like she's looking at it from the side, and it's clear that she'll be the one to decide what she'll do next as opposed to someone else. She's back to her school and her complicated possible thing with Jerome, back to her ghostly adventures with her team of Stephen, Callum, and Boo, and she's back to helping people. I think that's the biggest or at least the most important part of her personality. For all her weird stories and eccentricities, all Rory wants to do is help people with whatever problem they have. It's just unfortunate that it leans more toward the paranormal and death-centric side of things.
But it's not just Rory or Stephen or Jerome or the rest of the characters, it's also the setting that makes this book. The haunting streets and basements of London. The book is set right in the heart of hundreds of years of history, of war and bloodshed. Taking into account all those who've died in London since it was first settled, there are bound to be more than a few ghosts wandering around, and there are bound to be some angry and resentful ones. Will this be the time for Rory to put her new ability into action?
There's a definite mix of Rory's real/school like and her new dangerous ghost life. It's so interesting, watching them twist and twine around each other, how when they finally do intersect one will complicate the other in impossible ways. Rory now has to find a way to balance these two lives of hers, but it doesn't look like it's going to be easy.
This is Rory's return to where it all began, but what's to come? What's next for her? And will she be able to cope? She's part-dealing with the aftermath of old danger and part-walking into some new danger. One of the bigger changes for Rory now is her new ability, the one that goes beyond just seeing ghosts, but is that all there is now? Just ghost searching and stopping the evil ones from hurting innocent people? Or is there something more out there, more that she realized? I knew going in that the ending would be shocking and it was, even if I'd already guessed what it could be, but that doesn't mean I wasn't left yelling at the book once I was done, wondering when the next one will be out.(less)
Meet Meda. She eats people. Well, technically, she eats their soul. But she totally promises to only go for people who deserve it. She's special. It’s...moreMeet Meda. She eats people. Well, technically, she eats their soul. But she totally promises to only go for people who deserve it. She's special. It’s not her fault she enjoys it. She can't help being a bad guy. Besides, what else can she do? Her mother was killed and it's not like there are any other "soul-eaters" around to show her how to be different. That is, until the three men in suits show up. They can do what she can do. They're like her. Meda might finally have a chance to figure out what she is. The problem? They kind of want to kill her. Before they get the chance Meda is rescued by crusaders, members of an elite group dedicated to wiping out Meda's kind. This is her chance! Play along with the “good guys” and she’ll finally figure out what, exactly, her 'kind' is. Be careful what you wish for. Playing capture the flag with her mortal enemies, babysitting a teenage boy with a hero complex, and trying to keep one step ahead of a too-clever girl are bad enough. But the Hunger is gaining on her. The more she learns, the worse it gets. And when Meda uncovers a shocking secret about her mother, her past, and her destiny, she may finally give into it.
Cracked is smart, quick, and funny, all while being a dangerous race to discover the truth and not get found out or killed in the process. Anchored by a snarky heroine, this book is a twist on the classic good vs evil battle, it's about destiny, what we're born to do battling against what we're meant to do, because the two are not always the same.
Meda is the best part of the entire book. She's so funny. Filled with sass and attitude, her internal monologue/voice is so clever. She fills each page with lightning fast shots and jabs at everyone around her. Plus, there's the whole soul-eating part of her, a part she can't deny no matter what. It makes her slightly more villainous than heroic, but who said heroes couldn't eat souls? Villains are the heroes of their own stories, and this is Meda's story. She is rather manipulative, batting her eyelashes and lying her way into the 'good guys' camp so she can learn more about what she is and what she just happened to fall into, but it only adds to her snarky charm.
Now, Meda may eat souls, but she also has her morals and her own feelings about it, which is why she only eats the souls people people who deserve it, like murderers. She's not a typical heroine, but she's still compelling. She eats souls, but only those from evil people. She's manipulative and a liar, but because she wants to know the truth. She may not be the most sympathetic heroine, but she's flawed, she has good and bad traits, and what I want out of a heroine is someone with both good and bad traits. Paragons of virtue aren't interesting. Meda is.
This book is very much Meda's journey towards discovering the truth about what she is. She knows nothing about why she can eat souls, and neither does the reader. Both are in the dark about what she really is and what she's capable of, and both end up on the journey together, Meda an active participant and the reader more passive, waiting for the final reveal to strike and everything to be revealed. Even if what's revealed is something Meda never wanted to be exposed.
Meda, through some fault of her own, ends up in the middle of a classic 'good vs evil' kind of battle. The background battle of demons against their human hunters was intriguing. Both sides had their reasons for wanting Meda, for using Meda, for needing Meda to pick them. Of course, it was far more fun to see Meda manipulate the 'good' side and get into their complex. She doesn't necessarily respect them at the beginning, merely sees them as a way to get answers, and once she has her answers, she's perfectly fine with leaving them.
When the book started with Meda playing pretend in an insane asylum, when it started with her getting revenge and following through on her plan to only eat souls from the worst kinds of people because she has her standards, I knew it would be interesting. I knew the book would be fast-paced and rather quick. I didn't know that I would enjoy it so much.(less)
Colette Iselin is excited to go to Paris on a class trip. She'll get to soak up the beauty and culture, and maybe even learn something about her famil...moreColette Iselin is excited to go to Paris on a class trip. She'll get to soak up the beauty and culture, and maybe even learn something about her family's French roots. But a series of gruesome murders are taking place across the city, putting everyone on edge. And as she tours museums and palaces, Colette keeps seeing a strange vision: a pale woman in a ball gown and powdered wig, who looks suspiciously like Marie Antoinette. Colette knows her popular, status-obsessed friends won’t believe her, so she seeks out the help of a charming French boy. Together, they uncover a shocking secret involving a dark, hidden history. When Colette realizes she herself may hold the key to the mystery, her own life is suddenly in danger.
Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer is an entertaining journey across Paris, shining light on its famous landmarks, giving glimpses of a possible murderous ghost wandering along the cobbled streets. Both the city and the mystery keep the book exciting, but Colette's reliance on her shallow friends and their own terrible personalities bring everything down
Colette is in Paris to sight-see, to take in the history and the culture and the sensation of being the city. And she does, but she never expects to find herself involved in a string of murders. It's certainly something that would cause caution, being told right after landing in a foreign that young people are being murdered, their heads sliced from their bodies. As scared as Colette is when she sees the ghost of what looks to be Marie Antoinette following her, she's just as serious about looking back into the past to see what secrets were covered up during the Revolution.
The best part of the book is Paris itself, the history surrounding the city, the landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and the Palace at Versailles. The city's past is so well-known, a past glittering with royalty and drenched in suffering and blood. The sights and sounds of the European city come across so well on the page.
As I read on, I wondered what purpose Colette's friends served beyond filling the 'friend' role, because they don't seem like friends. Colette's using them to remember what her life used to be like before her parents split, when they had money and weren't living in a small apartment, but they're also using Colette. She needs them to make herself look good, and so she'll go along with almost any plan of theirs to party or sneak away from the tour. I wondered if her friends were supposed to look like modern-day versions of French aristocracy, the influential figures that wasted money on clothing, jewelry, and exotic food.
The city of Paris and the dangerous ghost story kept me reading, but I was constantly annoyed by Colette's vapid and self-centered friends. I thought this would be an interesting ghost story, and it was, but it also turns into more of a chance for Colette to 'learn the lesson of friendship,' that real friends wouldn't care about your wealth or status and that they would care about you for you. It felt a little more like a middle grade book issue than a young adult book issue, but I suppose figuring out who your true friends are happens at any age.(less)
Sophronia's first year at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has certainly been rousing! For one thing, finishing...moreSophronia's first year at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has certainly been rousing! For one thing, finishing school is training her to be a spy (won't Mumsy be surprised?). Furthermore, Sophronia got mixed up in an intrigue over a stolen device and had a cheese pie thrown at her in a most horrid display of poor manners. Now, as she sneaks around the dirigible school, eavesdropping on the teachers' quarters and making clandestine climbs to the ship's boiler room, she learns that there may be more to a school trip to London than is apparent at first. A conspiracy is afoot, one with dire implications for both supernaturals and humans. Sophronia must rely on her training to discover who is behind the dangerous plot-and survive the London Season with a full dance card.
Curtsies & Conspiracies is an entertaining, intelligent, adventurous hodgepodge of spies, evil geniuses, and steam-powered mechanical little dogs. There is just as much suspicion and intrigue as the first book, and with plots and schemes constantly afoot, one girl in particular must keep her eye on everything she can.
Sophronia's intelligence will get her far, as will her knack for observation and her direct approach, but she can be too direct, too blunt, and sometimes without guile when she needs to keep her cards closer to her. It's one thing for the teachers to suspect she's watching them (if most girls in the school weren't watching them, I'd be surprised, but it's quite another for her friends to know that. While it comes natural, why she sees it as keeping an eye on everything, like she's been taught as a future intelligencer, it makes her appear suspicious and unable to trust anything anyone says unless she sees it with her own eyes. It's unfortunate, really. Sophronia is the best friend to have at the school.
A return to this series is a return to creative and inventive world-building. The dirigible that pretends to be a finishing school for young ladies of good quality, the new inventions and various apparatuses that function because of advances in steam technology, the boys school of future evil geniuses, the packs of werewolves and the vampire hives. So much in the alternate England is familiar, but so much isn't, and that's part of the adventure of this series.
This series still seems to be an exploration of the class structure, of how the upper and lower classes know of each other but never mingle. There is polite society, the lords and their ladies, the young gentleman and the young misses, and then there is the working class, the tradespeople and the Sooties. As Sophronia watches everything, she is in contact with both the upper and lower class. It's not that she doesn't see the distinction, she does, she just takes every opportunity she can to gather information. She can see the true worth of some people, and sometimes intelligence doesn't come from classroom instruction.
Romance on the horizon for Sophronia? Heaven forbid, she's only fourteen, but that doesn't stop a boy or two from making an advance or two. I do hope that the romance doesn't take over the next two books. Considering how there wasn't any in the first book, I have hopes that the series will continue to be about adventure and schemes and secret codes without a lot of romance.
The series still straddles the line between serious and silly. The names of some characters and of the different tools and weapons are so foolish, but Carriger still runs with it. While the names and terms sometimes border on the outrageous, the tone of the book is rather serious. In this alternate version of England, at some point in the 1800's, everything is taken rather seriously. And so it should be, the young ladies are students at a very well-known school, looking very important and practical skills that they will, God willing, put into practice in the future, and use them successfully, but that doesn't stop me from laughing every few pages.(less)