The Last Dragonslayer is the tale of 'foundling' (orphan) Jennifer Strange, and a re-imagined 'Ununited K...moreAnd Jasper Fforde does it again. What a book.
The Last Dragonslayer is the tale of 'foundling' (orphan) Jennifer Strange, and a re-imagined 'Ununited Kingdoms', a UK much similar to one we know, but divided into feuding kingdoms; a place where magic exists, but is dying.
Jennifer works at one of the last two remaining wizard agencies: talent agencies representing wizards. It's a bizarre place, filled with hilarious characters, unpredictable magic, and a Transient Moose.
The world, the characters--the creatures--are characterised by Fforde's typical brand of charming absurdism, and The Last Dragonslayer is genuinely one of the best children's novels I've encountered in a long time. Imagine you're a 12 year old, and Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett (both of whom I'm forever comparing with Fforde) write about a UK where dragons and magic still exist, adults are even weirder than they already are, and you can have a pet that's one part velociraptor, one part kitchen blender, one tenth golden lab, and eats tin cans for breakfast. Wow.
Fforde tells a magical story of corrupt government, corporate (and individual) greed, lobsters, personal sacrifice, values, and it's one where the good guy wins--but at a cost. The story is intelligent, yet never condescending. There's a very strong moral message in the book, butit's not at the cost of a marvellous story.
I often find Jasper Fforde's writing quite dense (not a criticism--just an observation), so it was very interesting reading this, as, while his trademark humour is still there, his writing is much changed for a younger audience.
The Last Dragonslayer deserves to be up there with Harry Potter and The Philospher's Stone and Artemis Fowl--and should appeal to fans of both.(less)
"[What happens in Vegas, stays in vegas]... except for tatoos and STD's."
I enjoyed Killing Rocks, but it felt a little off.
Jace Valchek has always bee...more"[What happens in Vegas, stays in vegas]... except for tatoos and STD's."
I enjoyed Killing Rocks, but it felt a little off.
Jace Valchek has always been shoot first, questions later; running headlong into one disaster after another. She's ballsy, tough, and flawed. One of her faults is trying to do everything herself, and maybe being a (more than a little) bit reckless. In Killing Rocks, it feels like she's just following new character Azura (Avatar! Azula! Azula!) around and uncharacteristically not questioning what's going on. I did enjoy Azura, though. I hope we'll see more of her in the future.
"You're not fooling me. You're Satan, with... with perky breasts."
I know the situation she's been thrown into is bonkers, but no matter what was happening before, Jace has always been in control. Maybe not of the whole situation, but she had a plan, a direction. She's NOT for most of Killing Rocks.
Charlie's absence in book 3 creates a big hole. I miss Doctor Pete, though Tair is interesting. I miss Gretch, Eisfanger, Xandra and Gally (though I guess the point is that Hace does, too). I miss Cassius, whose appearances in book 3 just didn't feel right--like have a skim milkshake, or sugar-free chocolate. It just doesn't quite SATISFY.
Still fun to read, but dissapointing off the back of the first two books in The Bloodhound Files.(less)
I enjoyed Web Of Lies, but it's not without its issues--the same issues I had with the first book. Repetition, repetition, repetition.
In the first boo...moreI enjoyed Web Of Lies, but it's not without its issues--the same issues I had with the first book. Repetition, repetition, repetition.
In the first book, there was a lot of Gin explaining events that happened prior to the book (again and again), or events that had just passed.
In Web Of Lies, we get a recap of Spider's Bite's events, of Gin's attraction to Caine, of Fletcher's Death, of her family's murder, but it's repeated numerous times. I understand that Estep wants to keep readers up to date--it's a series. A recap is fine by me, hell, even an info dump, but she doesn't do it just once. It's reading the same thing over and over that ticks me off.
IMO, this book is redeemed by its second half. By this time, Gin seems to think we've got an idea of what's going on, and gets on with what she does best: the kicking ass and the killing.
There's a discussion between Gin and good cop Donovan Caine in the end of this book which I found really interesting. You don't realize how completely off Gin's moral compass is in these books, because you're in her head. If she has a problem, she has a one-size-fits-all solution: kill it. Caine points this out--Gin doesn't even consider trying to solve an issue any other way, and she somehow manages to completely rationalize this way of thinking. Until Caine really questioned it at the end of the book, I'd been convinced, too.
(view spoiler)[It also looks like we've seen the last of Donovan Caine, and I can't say I'm sorry. I don't care if he's moralistic--I get that he's supposed to provide a counterpoint to Gin. But rather than providing an interesting foil, or making me care about his inner turmoil, he just comes across as a callous, whiny ass, bitch. In addition, his presence in the book makes me dislike, and lose respect for, the protagnist, because, for all his whiny ass bitching, he sometimes has a point. And why the EFF does Gin keep throwing herself at him? Not only is it bad for her, but I mean, respect the guy's boundaries, don't play on his weaknesses. It makes Gin come across as a bitch herself. (hide spoiler)]
Any ways, Web Of Lies: just as good as the first book, but just as irritating, too.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I was pleasantly surprised by Venom: it seems a real step forwards in terms of quality and style (if not story, which is really much the same formula)...moreI was pleasantly surprised by Venom: it seems a real step forwards in terms of quality and style (if not story, which is really much the same formula) from the first two in this series.
While still not perfect, the issues which frustrated me in the first two books (mainly constant repetition of previous events), while still there, are toned down to a reasonable level, rather than every few pages. It allowed me to get involved in the story without having to force myself not to skim ahead in frustration.
Venom also benefits from the absence of a certain, rather unlikeable, detective, who's been replaced with a new, and far more interesting love-interest.
My only serious gripe is that Estep risks Gin becoming a bleeding heart if she continues on the road she's following, and the silly flaws I find in the story. Gin's a super-secret, highly-skilled assassin, right? But she's so flip, and rarely takes any precautions to protect her identity, and those of the people around her. She risks exposing Jo-Jo and Sophia to discovery, and from there, she's only one (rather simple) step of logic away from being discovered. She leaves files on targets and various people lying around, along with all her weapons, and she'd be caught in her own web. I wish she'd be more careful, because it creates a more believable, and more immersive, story.
Neverthless, for the issues I have with this book, and its predecessors, it seems like the Elemental Assassin series is improving, and I enjoyed this installment.(less)
Wish Upon A Star, a Christmas themed release from Sarah Morgan, is actually divided into two novellas: one following Christy and the other Miranda. Th...moreWish Upon A Star, a Christmas themed release from Sarah Morgan, is actually divided into two novellas: one following Christy and the other Miranda. They're, rather aptly, called 'Christy' and, yep, you guessed it, 'Miranda'. And they're fun.
Christy has made a Big Mistake. Namely, leaving the husband she's still wildly in love with, and taking their two children with her London. Which she hates. He was supposed to follow her and beg her to come back. Turns out it didn't work quite how she'd planned. Now she's back for Christmas, but will the sexy, hot blooded, Alessandro have her back?
I don't know about you, but if I read a book with a goofy grin on my face the while time, it counts for something. I didn't even notice I was doing so until I realized my face hurt.
Christy and Alessandro are total romance archetypes: she's a firey, independent red head (thanks spellcheck, but 'furry' is something altogether different); the sexy Spaniard is a passionate, brooding, 'red-blooded male with a high sex drive'. And they're delicious. And infuriating.
They have amazing chemistry. The tension and electricity between the two is what makes their story so darn readable. They're infuriating because they can't talk. Even when they try to talk, they don't say the right thing, but, after twelve years of marriage, assume to know the other's mind. Expect lots of circular arguments and jumping to [incorrect] conclusions. And a couple of deliciously steamy encounters. Morgan balances the fighting perfectly with loving and humor, and the result is an utterly entertaining, and very sweet story.
Christy and Alessandro's knowing and precocious eleven-year old daughter sneaking around in the
background, scheming to get her parents back together is beyond adorable, and one of the highlights of the story.
Desperate and alone on Christmas day, Miranda finds herself lost in the mountains in a total whiteout. Rescued by sexy doctor, Jake Blackwell, now her heart might need rescuing too. Erm, did I mention she's 6 months pregnant?
This one started out a little odd for me, but ended with squees of glee at its overwhelming sweetness, and me with tears in my eyes on public transport (embarassment).
Miranda's vowed to give up on romance. She doesn't believe in happy endings, or even in happy families. But Jake's not the kind of man to take no for an answer. Watching Miranda gradually come round, and Jake win her over is so sweet and satisfying.
The hospital back drop that both stories sit against gives them some action. I really enjoyed this aspect of them. They have a Grey's Anatomy vibe to them, without the infuriatingly drawn out drama.
These two Christmas-themed stories are sweet, at times heart-wrenching, and really rather satisfying. Expect to be charmed.(less)
I love moments like these in reading. I love closing a book completely charmed. Those moments when a piece of fiction is so splendid it delivers pure...moreI love moments like these in reading. I love closing a book completely charmed. Those moments when a piece of fiction is so splendid it delivers pure and unadulterated joy. For me, Anna and the French Kiss was perfect. It's not high literature or an epic Greek tragedy. It's fun. Pure and simple. And this is what I read for.
Page 1: I'm sucked in by Anna's chatty, friendly, delightfully paranoid voice. Page 3: Anna's dad is, for all intents and purposes Nicholas Sparks. Jokes at Nicholas Sparks' expense? The world needs more. Hilarious. Page 3, line 19: Hogwarts reference? I'm sold.
And it kept getting better and better. Who knew anything could better than Harry Potter references?
I'm so in love with Anna, and warm/fuzzy/numb from its afterglow, I'm genuinely struggling to make my mind produce words beyond an entire page of 'SQUEE!' I don't know where to start. Light? Yes. Funny? Yes. Tooth achingly Sweet? OH YES. But it's not a light piece of throw-away fiction I'll be forgetting anytime soon. This book burrowed its way into my heart, grew roots and won't leave. It had this resonance for me... something beyond light and fluffy. A certain je ne sais quoi that had me falling as deeply in love as Anna and Etienne do with each other.
For all its sugar sweetness, Anna touches on deeper matters: the feeling of belonging, of home, and, of course, of love (throughout this book I had the Princess Bride looping in my head "Tuna Sub?"/"True LOVE! TRUE LOVE!"). And it's beautifully written. Could this get any better?
Anna herself is a delight. She's funny, oh yes, runs at a million miles and hour and has this slight edge of paranoid self-awareness that I'm sure we all can relate to. I love this girl... her obsession with film, her love of her friends, her silly mistakes and her dreams for her future. I loved being in her head. Stephanie Perkins writes her in such an incredibly authentic way. She felt so, so real to me.
And Etienne St. Clair. English French American Boy Masterpiece. Words. Can't. Describe. I've liked a lot of literary boys in my time. YA and Adult... I think I have a new favourite. His Briticisms, his humour, his teasing. Watching the relationship and genuine friendship develop between Anna and St. Clair is one of the single most rewarding reading experiences I've ever had the pleasure of. And the pleasure of reading this remarkable/delightful/adorable (take your pick) novel doesn't end there.
The relationships between all the characters in Anna, even the despicable ones, is a delight. These people talk like real people. They laugh, they joke, they rib each like crazy. I felt like I was hanging out with my best friend reading this book with the teasing going on. Like it just got my sense of humour. And the setting. Oh, la! Has there ever been a more perfect place than Paris? As Anna slowly discovers the City of Lights, so do we. And I don't know if there's a more perfect tour guide than St. Clair. I walked the streets of the Latin Quarter with Anna and Etienne, crossed la Seine, saw the glorious cathedrals, pâtisseries and ran, giggling, through Le Panthéon, past memorials to Voltaire, Victor Hugo and Marie Curie.
And throughout it all, Perkins held me utterly enraptured.
The Verdict: I want Anna and the French Kiss to be real so badly it aches inside. I want to crawl inside its pages and never leave. Bold, sweeping generalisations and statements irritate me no-end, and it's not lightly that I say--with complete sincerity--that I'm not sure I've ever taken so much pure joy from reading a book as I have from reading Anna. A sweet, fun, almost heart achingly gorgeous read, Anna and the French Kiss is practically guaranteed to delight. This. Is. What. I. Read. For. I'm in love.
Does the name 'Last Sacrifice' scare you? Good. Be afraid. What an emotional rollercoaster. The Vampire Academy series draws to a close in Last Sacrif...moreDoes the name 'Last Sacrifice' scare you? Good. Be afraid. What an emotional rollercoaster. The Vampire Academy series draws to a close in Last Sacrifice, and its stunning conclusion has left me exhilarated, exhausted, heartbroken, overjoyed, satisfied and strangely bereft.
Oh Boy. Where to Start? Where Else: Rose and Dimitri have crept into my heart, taken roots, and grown to become my favourite YA couple. The Vampire Academy series—delicious distractions aside (here’s looking at you, Ivashkov) —is clearly Rose and Dimka’s story, but it’s been one hell of a tough journey. We’ve all been waiting a long time for this book (well, in my case, a week), and we finally get to see the two work together again. Vampire Academy is at its best when the two are a team, and it’s wonderful to see them like this... but it’s not easy. Baggage doesn’t even come close to describing the load these two are carrying, and that burden increases as the book progresses.
Its spoken about a lot in this book, but Rose and Dimitri share a profound synchronicity. They are—quite literally—made for each other. The two resonate perfectly with each other, in pitch-perfect harmony, and, though it’s not easy for them, we finally get to see the two confront their recent history and the obstacles facing them. That being said, we’re talking about Richelle Mead. Don’t expect this to go smoothly... Hell, just abandon all expectations. And take it from Dimitri: Never drop your guard when Rose is around.
Rose: Boy has Rose grown. In the past I’ve commented on my admiration of Rose; her independence, spirit, bravery, determination and loyalty, and this has only grown. Rose still isn’t perfect—far from it—but Rose has grown into an extraordinary young woman. She is, without a doubt, my favourite YA heroine. Geez is Vampire Academy taking out a lot of favourites.
Lissa: Wow oh wow. If we’re going to talking about character growth, we need to discuss Lissa. As key to this series as Rose or Dimitri, Lissa started out as fragile, unstable, and, well, weak. In Last Sacrifice, she’s unrecognisable. Confident, clever, calm and collected, Lissa has grown to carry herself with a regal grace befitting her status. It is she who masterminds Rose’s jailbreak, and the story has come full circle with Lissa now defending Rose. Lissa finds herself deeply enmeshed in the politics so central to the Vampire Academy series, and through this intrigue... she shines.
Dimka: Dimitri has a LOT to deal with in Last Sacrifice. He hasn’t forgiven himself for the terrible crimes he committed as Strigoi, and it’s heartbreaking watching him do so. But bit by bit we see the return of our favourite Zen Master, Baddass God. FINALLY. However—though this is the first time I’ve had an actual complaint in the entire series (other than: “I want more Dimitri! Now now now! FIX IT MS. MEAD! NOW!”)—I actually did have a complaint with Last Sacrifice (one in a whole series ain’t bad, though, right?).
After being returned to life by Lissa’s magic, Dimitri’s come to regard her with worshipful adoration... and it just grated with me. I get extreme gratitude, but it royally pissed me off that he could be so committed and adoring towards Lissa, yet treat Rose so coldly, regardless of the guilt or turmoil he was suffering. I expected this to be dealt with in Last Sacrifice, and while the topic is broached, it wasn’t resolved. It’s even openly highlighted that his loyalties are torn, but not resolved in a way I found remotely satisfying. I don’t know why this was such a big deal for me, but I couldn’t get past it.
Happy Ending? Pfft: There was never going to be a happy ending for some of our favourite characters. In Last Sacrifice, hearts are broken, lives destroyed and futures left uncertain. I don’t know that I really expected any differently. Last Sacrifice ends on an intensely bittersweet note. Yes, we get a happily ever after—for now—but there’ll never be smooth sailing where Rose and her friends are concerned.
I still really want to see the "They come first" Dhampir mantra addressed, as I do the indocrination and—let's face it—brainwashing of Dhampir children. Whether either race can see it, the Moroi treat Dhampir's as a subserveant slave-race. It's one of the most disturbing and intriguing aspects of the series. Regardless of what they've been taught, Dhampir's don't need Moroi. It's entirely the other way round--Dhampir's could go off and live with humans and not raise an eyebrow. Additionally, the issue of Spirit-induced madness still stands. Eventually, Lissa and Adrian will face this, and, as far as we know yet, there is no solutions. I hold high-hopes this will be addressed in the Bloodlines series.
It’s part of Richelle Mead’s mad genius that she can end a book on the note she does, and do it so well. The conclusion is satisfying, but she has clearly left open ends with deliberate intent. If I didn’t know Bloodlines was on the way, I’d still be happy, but there are a whole series worth of loose-ends lying around.
The Verdict: Last Sacrifice was never going to be an easy ride. It isn’t. It’s thrilling, emotionally-intense as ever and action packed—perhaps the most action-oriented installment so far. Richelle Mead has created an extraordinarily vivid world, populated it with authentic, layered, nuanced characters, and instilled it with an emotional depth that renders it unforgettable. What Mead has accomplished in the Vampire Academy series is something unique and magic, and as the series draws to a close, I’m left feeling deeply satisfied, but bereft, like I’m closing the page on a very dear friendship. I—as I’m sure all fans will—am eagerly anticipating the follow-up Bloodlines series.(less)