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 feeling...moreAn 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.(less)
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...more*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.(less)
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 review...moreThough 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.(less)
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 w...moreAwesome 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. (less)
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 disgruntled...moreIt'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. (less)
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 charac...moreIt'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"]>(less)
These books are quite delightful. Terribly loud, rude vikings storm around, yelling and fighting and insulting everyone, whilst poor Hiccup proves him...moreThese 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.
I have one major issue when it comes to the cozy mystery: just a blink of the eye and I suddenly realise I've spent the better part of an evening comp...moreI have one major issue when it comes to the cozy mystery: just a blink of the eye and I suddenly realise I've spent the better part of an evening completely engrossed in mischief and murder.
It's been awhile since I last visited Agatha, yet I found it easy to get sucked back into her not-so-quiet world. She's a strange little woman, one I'd dearly like to shake into feeling more self-assured. If only she could picture herself as others do...but I suppose that's true of all of us and it probably makes the abrasive Agatha more relatable a character.
As is common with a cozy mystery (the good ones, at least), The Potted Gardner brings back a cast of familiar characters and makes me feel right at home amidst the village intrigue. The usual question also occurs to me: with so many people getting murdered in this "idyllic" locale, why on earth do people stick around?!
Agatha is endearing in her ridiculous way, her neighbours delightfully peculiar, and the murder so oddly executed that I was comfortably entrenched from start to finish. I do wish the resolution of the mystery had a bit more wow factor, but again this is often the way of the genre - lots of clues, liberal splashes of local color, and then the answer suddenly arrives wrapped up in a tidy little package.
But we read cozies specifically for their comfort value and Agatha Raisin delivers that in spades, along with a welcome dash of humor. The Potted Gardner is an amusing addition to the series, making me anxious to discover Agatha's next embarrassing manoeuvre. And the next murder victim, of course.(less)
Another neat, fast-paced mystery centering on ghastly murders in an otherwise ideal setting. When a rambler (hiker) from a nearby town...moreOh, my. Oh, my!
Another neat, fast-paced mystery centering on ghastly murders in an otherwise ideal setting. When a rambler (hiker) from a nearby town is found dead in a field, Agatha is called upon to dig up all the info she can.
Of course, investigations are far more exciting with James Lacey in tow. And how much more exciting still to go undercover with the chap - as a married couple!
Though the mystery has its fair share of plausible, unsettling suspects, the highlight of this tale is the interaction between Agatha and James. Beaton finally throws them together in an inescapable way, forcing the two to sort out their feelings.
Since so much of the book is devoted to their relationship, I can't help but note that I don't view them as the best romantic match. James is too adept at seeming indifferent, whilst Agatha is so caught up in her paranoid misconceptions that she can't see her own worth. I find myself wishing she'd forget about a man liking her and instead focus on liking herself. It's irking me more as I read further installments.
The ending serves up lots of game-changing moments for the series - tons and tons when you consider how short a book it is. I'm certainly going to keep reading, hopefully wishing that Agatha soon learns some lessons about men - and herself - before she's the one committing murder!(less)
Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage is probably the best installment yet. Emotions are high, bodies are piling up, and A...moreOh, Agatha...tut tut tut.
Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage is probably the best installment yet. Emotions are high, bodies are piling up, and Agatha herself has some near misses with the grim reaper. Though it was the pleasant, easy read I've come to expect from Beaton, the pace was faster and the characters better represented.
This book accomplishes something the previous four did not: it gives James Lacey a more distinct personality. Previously, he came across as a cardboard cutout of the attractive yet distant bachelor. Though those descriptors still apply, Beaton manages to flesh him out more. Interesting that this coincides with Agatha's rose-coloured glasses losing a bit of their tint.
The mystery here is of a personal nature for Agatha, leading her to elaborate on her downtrodden past. I already knew she was ambitious and determined, but her backstory proves she's quite the survivor.
As always, village life plays a major role in the story. At times in this series I think it is the story, with the mysteries merely providing structure for the residents' conversations. This is shored up by the fact that Agatha does more blundering than investigating. As friend and police officer Bill Wong comments: "I don't know if she exactly solved those last crimes, but she made things happen by poking her nose in; otherwise we'd never have got to the murderers." (p.89)
My opening line is in response to the final pages. For all her business aptitude and ballsy attitude, Agatha makes some disastrous decisions - never more apparent than in this volume. She makes a fabulously horrible one towards the end, setting us up for more emotional turmoil and mayhem. What one earth will she be poking her nose into next?(less)