Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third is not so Heroic - at least not by Viking terms - despite the fact that he’s the Hooligan chief’s only heir. WhatHiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third is not so Heroic - at least not by Viking terms - despite the fact that he’s the Hooligan chief’s only heir. What he is is very, very clever, an attribute overlooked in a society revering such skills as Shouting, Senseless Violence, Badd Sppeling, and Advanced Rudery. (Well, with a clan name of Hooligans, what did you expect?)
Hiccup is Heroic by my standards though. He reads and observes and studies, and uses that brain of his to make decisions for the good of his tribe - even if it means he looks more than a bit useless in the process.
How to Be a Pirate finds Hiccup learning Swordfighting at Sea with both hilarious and catastrophic results. As he showed in How to Train Your Dragon, Hiccup is more than willing to try, try, try again. He’s also not too afraid to speak his mind when the adults around him are about to do foolish things (adults can be rather silly) like open a cursed coffin or trundle off on a suicidal hunt for legendary treasure. He manages to keep his head in scary situations, and he stands up for what he believes in. Admirable traits indeed, resulting in a character we want to root for.
Hiccup’s companions don’t really fit in with the Viking norm either. His best friend, Fishlegs, has “a squint, a limp, numerous allergies, and no coordination whatsoever,” not to mention an utterly inept dragon. But he’s loyal and smart and supportive of Hiccup - what more can you ask for in a friend? Hiccup’s dragon, Toothless, is small and contrary and demanding as heck; he’s constantly giving Hiccup a hard time. However, he’s the only dragon in the whole Hooligan clan who sticks around when things go arseways. Though he may complain bitterly about heading into danger, he’s actually a faithful little thing who helps both boys when it counts. These three are not well-loved by their tribe, but it doesn’t matter much since they have each other.
Since the rest of the characters are beefy, battle-hungry Vikings, How to Be a Pirate includes a fair amount of fighting and bullying. This is balanced against Hiccup’s distaste for such behaviour, taking the glamour out of the violence. As the story unfolds, Cowell’s message of brain over brawn is abundantly clear; I don’t think kids will have any problems discerning which route is preferable.
The illustrations are horrible…in a good way. Simple, unrefined pencil sketches, they give us an idea of what the characters look like while providing amusement. They look like doodles more than anything, adding to the feel that we’re reading Hiccup’s personal diary.
The pacing was great: brisk, with several cliffhanger chapter endings to keep kids eagerly flipping pages, yet Cowell still managed to incorporate lots of character development, too. For a chapter book, I’m surprised at how well Hiccup’s personality is described. Rather than coming off as a mere template, he possesses depth, making the lessons more poignant. I imagine this also makes it a more enjoyable read for the adults involved in storytime.
How to Be a Pirate is a silly book. It will make you chuckle and smile and shake your head in exasperation. At the same time, it presents a valuable message without ever seeming preachy. I think young readers will be immensely entertained - so much so they won’t even notice the lessons on being selfless and thoughtful as they sneakily seep into their brains. ...more
These books are extremely entertaining. There’s appeal here for both kids and adults alike. Children will be fascinated by Hiccup’s exploits: his VikiThese books are extremely entertaining. There’s appeal here for both kids and adults alike. Children will be fascinated by Hiccup’s exploits: his Viking training sessions, his interactions with dragons of all shapes and sizes, his marvelous ability to outsmart smarmy characters. Adults will enjoy these aspects, too, but may be even more impressed with the emphasis on brains vs. brawn, Hiccup’s determination to be his own person, and the main characters’ willingness to work as a team when it matters.
Add to all of these qualities a healthy dose of easy humor and Cowell’s series is excellent so far.
How to Speak Dragonese ends with a charming epilogue from the point of view of the present-day Hiccup. This may have been my favorite part of the book, though I’m not sure how it will go over with the kiddies since it’s more adult in tone. It’s a moment of reflection and summary that reminds us of the important things:
"However small we are, we should always fight for what we believe to be right. And I don’t mean fight with the power of our fists or the power of our swords…I mean the power of our brains and our thoughts and our dreams. And as small and quiet and unimportant as our fighting may look, perhaps we might all work together…and break out of the prisons of our own making. Perhaps we might be able to keep this fierce and beautiful world of ours as free for all of us as it seemed to be on that blue afternoon of my childhood."
Secrets is the best read of the series thus far. While Vic’s relationship with Jacob often took center stage in previous installments (not that I’m coSecrets is the best read of the series thus far. While Vic’s relationship with Jacob often took center stage in previous installments (not that I’m complaining), Secrets perfectly combines all aspects of the series into a cohesive, thrilling whole.
Vic and Jacob continue to engage me. Vic has many adjustments to make in trying to be the best boyfriend he can, but none of these deprive him of who he is. Instead, his new life with Jacob allows him to explore and confront subjects he’s been avoiding for too long. I love that this relationship plus his growing list of friends grant him the stability and the courage he needs to delve into his traumatic past. We’ve seen hints of what Vic went through during training, but I find it appropriate that JCP built up a support system around him before delving into the nitty-gritty. That support system becomes all the more solid in this book. Lisa reappears, Carolyn becomes a little more fleshed out, new partner Zig is confirmed as a decent guy, and Crash - well, Crash is complicated, but as an empath with a good heart I foresee him putting aside his Jacob-jealousy in an instant if need be. Jacob, though he has a nasty little habit of omitting certain things, is all about protecting and helping Vic. All of these characters give Vic the sounding boards and support he’ll need to explore the frightening topic of Camp Hell. Very nice set-up for the next installment.
As for this one, Vic and Lisa find themselves aiding Jacob and Carolyn in their latest case. There are some interesting discussions of abilities, as all the Psy factions give opinions on how much is too much - what limitations they’re comfortable setting on the use of their powers (both for the police force and friends). It presents an interesting perspective, allowing us to understand how difficult it might be to deal with such skills. The case itself is a creepy one, pushing some characters to their moral limits and making us wonder if they’ll go too far in the search for justice. This is balanced against the titular secrets Vic starts to uncover and I’m fascinated by what he’ll find out.
Although this installment broaches more serious topics, there’s still a lot to smile over. Vic’s humor is understated and stellar; I found myself chuckling more than ever. Jacob and Vic have some very steamy moments and I’m enjoying all of their newfound kinks. More than their sex life though, I especially appreciate their ups and downs. They have a more realistic relationship than many I’ve encountered, slowly learning about each other’s wants and needs and adjusting accordingly. And as I’ve already said, having Jacob by his side gives Vic the security he needs for some self-exploration - more drama and intrigue for us!
Secrets ends on a mini-cliffhanger. Not a Holy Shit! More of an…Ohhhhh, Snap sort of ending. It definitely makes me want the next book, but it’s a moment of logical progression rather than a cheap tactic. I’m torn between wanting to snatch up the next installment right away, or taking a little break so I can savor the series - I’m going to be sad when I’m all caught up and can’t get my instant Vic fix!...more
An in-between story that gives us a Puck update and a visit from Grim, but centers mostly on the trip to the Winter Court and Ash's conflicted feelingAn in-between story that gives us a Puck update and a visit from Grim, but centers mostly on the trip to the Winter Court and Ash's conflicted feelings. Although he is duty-bound to deliver Meghan to Queen Mab, Ash's personal loyalty to the girl is strong. I foresee problems and betrayals ahead!
Kagawa's particular skill is economic yet highly-detailed descriptions. Just a few sentences and she had me perfectly envisioning the icy landscape of Tir Na Nog. The only thing I could have done without was the repeated reference to Ash's beating heart and Meghan's forbidden love. Too angsty. If there's a lot of that in the next book, I'll quickly set this series aside....more
Drink Deep is a hard book to review without issuing spoilers. Forgive me if this ends up on the vague side.
I bought the book at this week’s New Y*3.5*
Drink Deep is a hard book to review without issuing spoilers. Forgive me if this ends up on the vague side.
I bought the book at this week’s New York Comic Con, only realizing once I got home that I’d beat the general release by two weeks. Yay for publishers exhibiting at cons!
The last installment of Chicagoland Vamps left fans reeling. It was a game-changer, and although I wasn’t surprised by the events of that book, I was anxious to see how Neill would play things out.
The answer is…a little awkwardly.Drink Deep is all about balance - or rather, the lack thereof. Merit’s world is askew and she’s desperate to find her footing. Cadogan House is in upheaval because of a GP investigation. Mallory is erratic due to the stress of sorcery exams. The political climate of the city is volatile at best. There isn’t a happy medium in sight, and it all comes to a head when Chicago’s landscape itself goes completely out of whack: rivers and lakes turn a motionless black and the sky takes on a bloodred hue. In short, everyone and everything is just plain off.
The pacing seemed rather slow at times, with Merit asking lots of questions but making zero headway. Meanwhile, there were a few connections she could have made but didn’t, forcing me to despair at her inability to see the forest for the trees. As a former grad student of English lit, I’d expect Merit to be a tad more aware of the abundant foreshadowing present in her own life.
Because our girl spends most of her waking hours conducting fruitless interviews, there isn’t much time for action. Swordplay is nonexistent in this one and I found myself missing the bad-ass side of Merit. There are some reveals of new supernatural players - I look forward to revisiting them - but on the whole Merit doesn’t do much in the course of her investigation. What few altercations she does have seem forced. I got the notion I was sitting around listening to a warm-up act. A relatively good warm-up, but I’m still waiting for the main event.
Let’s call this a bridge book then, with all the expected characteristics thereof, and move on to the characters.
Mallory. I hate her. She’s proven time and again that she’s a selfish little bitch and the message comes across even stronger here. She’s unnecessarily rude, a drama queen whose Me Me MEEE show was already tiresome and has crossed the line to intolerable. Merit frequently refers to Mal as being closer than a sister, but from the beginning I’ve been hard-pressed to like the girl. She seems to think it’s perfectly acceptable to take her frustrations out on anyone in proximity. What’s worse is she doesn’t own up to her nastiness after the fact, preferring to hold grudges and utilize emotional blackmail to make Merit (and probably Catcher) feel disproportionately guilty over imagined slights. I would not put up with her antics; I’m continually surprised that Merit and Catcher humor her.
Catcher. He’s got such an unrelenting chip on his shoulder. The sorcerer is another malcontent, constantly throwing vitriol Merit’s way. I much preferred it when he was merely Merit’s tutor - at least then I didn’t expect more of him. His “friendship” with Merit is largely one-sided and I’ve grown tired of his gruff attitude.
There isn’t much page-time for Jeff in this installment, which is a shame. I realise now that the shifter’s easy-going nature off-set Catcher’s nastiness, allowing me to see the sorcerer’s better qualities. Another entry for the Off Balance list I suppose.
Then we come to the vamps. I enjoyed their part in this. Although under extreme pressure, the Cadogan House residents never take their frustrations out on one another. They're a unit, supportive of each other as their world falls apart. They give Merit the encouragement and motivation she needs, in a way her other friends never do. Add to this the support of Jonah and the Grey House and you have a grouping that beats all others when it comes to getting the job done. And they don’t whine and complain while doing it, either.
That makes me wonder: does the positive portrayal of the vampires indicate a reality, or is it the biased result of Merit’s acclimation to her new life? I’m inclined to think the former, since Merit’s voice hasn’t changed drastically over the course of the series. Still, it’s interesting that the vampires are the only competent, accommodating characters from Merit‘s POV.
The ending. Again I felt the events were forced, as if Neill knew where she wanted to end up no matter the craziness she had to throw at the story to get there. There’s a lackluster face-off with the enemy, including people materializing out of a fog and spouting platitudes pulled straight from the intervention handbook. This is followed by a belated Us Against the World, Vamps Unite! scene, the tone of which conjured memories of after-school specials and feel-good movies. Though it’s fun to speculate on the aftereffects, getting there wasn’t half so entertaining.
While I like the set-up of Neill’s world - the supernatural beings, the politics, the hurdles to establishing vampire-human relations - too many of the secondary characters are irksome. Their continued presence in Merit’s life makes me question her discernment. The overall plots are intriguing but the execution is a little choppy, incorporating too many moments of self-reflection and too few instances of Merit actually figuring things out for herself. She’s tenacious in her search for answers, but I wish she was more adept at fitting the pieces together.
As I mentioned, this is a bridge book. It’s my hope that the next in the series will return to the action we’ve grown accustomed to and restore the balance to Merit’s world. Neill has some interesting concepts in play, but I wish she’d spend less time on Merit’s personal ruminations and more time on the universe she’s created. I’m going to continue reading, but book six may make or break my fanhood....more
Though I’m growing a little tired of this series, Bite Club has enough action and change to keep me reaching for the next one.
I’d noted in my reviewThough I’m growing a little tired of this series, Bite Club has enough action and change to keep me reaching for the next one.
I’d noted in my review of Ghost Town that Caine needed to shake things up for Morganville to remain engaging. The last book brought certain storylines to a close; Bite Club does much the same. It ties up more loose ends, forcing Caine into an interesting position: existing adversaries have been dealt with, leaving us little to speculate on when it comes to the next conflict.
Since I was unsure about continuing with Morganville, I’m actually quite pleased. When it comes to long-standing series, there’s nothing more welcome than change.
With a title like Bite Club, I’m sure most readers can make a solid guess at the plot. And they’d be right. What makes this book different is we aren’t stuck solely in Claire’s POV. Caine frequently takes us into Shane’s head where we learn of the frustration and rage borne of his experiences, and of the protectiveness he feels towards Claire. Putting this side by side with Claire’s observations upped the tension and was a good method of keeping Shane sympathetic when he lashed out. However, it raises a concern: I would hate for a naïve teen reader to perceive an abusive friend/boyfriend as someone who just “doesn’t mean it” or who needs to be “saved” without outside help. Without the presence of Michael - and his vampire healing and reflexes - the situation would’ve been dire. And Claire allows herself to be manhandled because of her certainty that the people she trusts won’t take things too far. A foolish notion, and one I wouldn’t want to encourage in real life.
As always, the most amusing and thrilling interactions are between Claire and the resident vampires. Amelie becomes more intense with each installment, and I look forward to discovering how recent events impact her rule. Myrnin is…Myrnin. Crazy, endearing and dangerous, he’s the one character of Caine’s who never fails to engage me. He’s quite the enigma, and his antics make me chuckle. Although he gets a good amount of page-time, I continually find myself hoping for more.
I have my misgivings as to the life of this series, but the air of Out with the Old is promising. It allows me to justify picking up the next release. Fingers crossed that I won’t be disappointed....more
Awesome short. I love seeing things from Curran's POV, and getting more details on both his relationship with Mahon and how the Pack works is always wAwesome short. I love seeing things from Curran's POV, and getting more details on both his relationship with Mahon and how the Pack works is always welcome. ...more
It's so much fun to get the occasional glimpse into Jacob's head. Here JCP shows the first time he lays eyes on Vic - awkward Vic with his disgruntledIt's so much fun to get the occasional glimpse into Jacob's head. Here JCP shows the first time he lays eyes on Vic - awkward Vic with his disgruntled appeal. We also get a conversation with Carolyn. She strikes me as less stern with Jacob than she does from Vic's perspective. Inside Out is a great treat for all PsyCop fans. ...more
It's been quite some time since the last Chance book, but I find her writing just as engrossing as ever.
Chance creates fabulous, fully-realised characIt's been quite some time since the last Chance book, but I find her writing just as engrossing as ever.
Chance creates fabulous, fully-realised characters. It makes re-visiting her world a remarkably easy feat. There's always some scene - either insanely funny or heart-stoppingly emotional - to associate with her leads and secondaries, branding them unforgettable.
Those touchstones are necessary, because Chance's other trademarks are whiplash-inducing action and brain-frying plots, both of which are evident in Fury's Kiss.
Oh, the action scenes. Fast-paced and dizzying, yet I can envision every aspect. I can feel the terror and the adrenaline coursing through the characters. I get punch-drunk with them. And when Chance throws a moment of the mundane or ludicrous against that flashy backdrop it's brilliant. Brilliant, because I believe real people caught in vulnerable situations would see and do things, have random thoughts, just as dopey as these characters do. Surviving true chaos is not slick endeavour. It's personal. It's desperate. And sometimes it's bizarrely funny.
When it comes to the plot, Chance enjoys throwing in lots of seemingly disparate events. It can be maddening trying to sift through it all and find the connecting pieces, but I like it nonetheless. It keeps my brain whirring, and I have faith that Chance will pull it all into cohesion by the end. It allows me the satisfaction of guessing some elements while still leaving room for surprises - and I was certainly surprised towards the close of this book. I was also excited at the new developments and I'm so very eager to see how they'll shake up both this series and Cassie Palmer's.
Apart from the familiarity and hilarity, separate from the fighting and politics, there's another aspect that draws me into Dorina's world: the emotion. Chance likes things messy and raw, and Fury's Kiss treats us to many gut-wrenching moments: Horrible, hysterical fear for loved ones. Impotent rage at dwindling hope. Desperate, soul-dragging loneliness. Fierce pride and speechless wonder at a friend's devotion. And the bittersweet, shattering, strengthening realisation of love.
It all packs quite a whallop.
And it guarantees I'll keep coming back for more.
(view spoiler)[One issue: LC, Dorina, and the child escaped the lab together. The child was separated from her when they were all blown free of the portal. Why wouldn't LC have looked for it? How did it scramble off that fast with so many vampires around? (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
These books are quite delightful. Terribly loud, rude vikings storm around, yelling and fighting and insulting everyone, whilst poor Hiccup proves himThese books are quite delightful. Terribly loud, rude vikings storm around, yelling and fighting and insulting everyone, whilst poor Hiccup proves himself by embodying the exact opposite of everything he's been taught. He's an admirable character, and all the others seem ludicrous by comparison.
Our loyal and determined Hero sets out on an improbable quest to find an antidote, dealing with ridiculously large dragons, particularly nutty barbarians, and potentially fictional vegetables. As usual there are many giggles to be had, but How to Cheat a Dragon's Curse stands out as the most emotional of the series so far. There are several moments when Fate doesn't seem to be on Hiccup's side and his fear and disappointment are palpable. Since this is a kid's book, we adults will calmly reassure ourselves that everything must work out in the end, but children may not be so certain.
Once again, I was most enamored of the epilogue. The words of the aged Hiccup serve to reinforce the lesson that being clever and fair bear greater results than employing brute force and malice. I found myself getting all misty-eyed over his gratitude and wonder. Hiccup never takes his good fortune for granted - mostly because he works damned hard to earn it.