Paula Weston understands. She knows we don’t want to miss a minute of Gaby and Raffa, so Haze startThis review originally published on Winged Reviews:
Paula Weston understands. She knows we don’t want to miss a minute of Gaby and Raffa, so Haze starts almost immediately where Shadows left off. There’s no downtime for the Rephaim.
Which means like Gaby, we’re also thrown headfirst back into the action, and I think I ended up liking Haze much more for it because it didn’t have the getting settled and getting to know you feeling of the beginning of the first book. With Haze, Weston focuses a little more on Gaby’s relationships with the men in her life. She’s accepted she’s a fallen angel, now can she cope with the possibility that her brother Jude is alive? ANd can she deal with whatever happens with Rafa when she also doesn’t know what else happened with Rafa before she lost her memory?
Of course, the book doesn’t focus solely on the men in Gaby’s life, there are plenty of interesting relationships with other women as well, and Maggie continues to be a favorite of mine. Ez and Taya also develop into more complete characters, and I enjoy every moment of their appearances.
On top of all the interpersonal history she can’t remember, Gaby also has to deal with a new faction in the war between angels and demons, a creepy human religious cult. And did I mention that Raffa’s “ex-girlfriend” Mya is on the scene now as well? You thought Shadows was rough on the poor girl.
The humans who play into the story fascinated me, but we’re left with mostly unanswered questions about them and I really hope they become even more important in the next two books and we learn more. Though I would also like the plot of the next book to not hinge on a random centuries old secret Jason has been hiding. I’m sure Raffa agrees.
Mya, however, I probably agree with Gaby on, which is no surprise considering the book is from her point of view. We have several characters trying to tell us that Mya is more than she appears, and that she’s actually quite good at certain things, trying to win us over and explain why they put up with her immaturity and bullying. But at the end of the day, she does exactly one good thing, and a few okay things with bad motivations. She also does a number of harmful things that are selfish and rude, so I really want her to shape up or turn out to be a bad guy, and quickly.
The last few chapters of Haze are big, but talking about it without spoiling anything is impossible. So I’ll sum up and say everything changes, and it’s both horrible and fantastic and I desperately want the next book....more
It’s a bit strange to me, but there’s a specific sub-genre of books about teenagers with diseases or medical condiOriginally posted on Winged Reviews:
It’s a bit strange to me, but there’s a specific sub-genre of books about teenagers with diseases or medical conditions learning to cope with their lives being profoundly changed. If I had been an English major, I’m sure I could make a case for how it’s a metaphor for growing up. A fair number of these books are “teenagers with cancer who learn how to live before they die” type books, but sometimes you get one that plumps some of the odder depths of medical science. This can work very well, like the Judy Blume classic Deenie that explores scoliosis or Mango Shaped Space, which features a girl with synesthesia.
Or it can be a brave but failed attempt like Skin, where the main character Sep (pronounced Zep, short for Guiseppina) wakes up on the first day of her junior year with her lips having gone white sometime in the middle of the night. I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to say that she has vitiligo, a condition where patches of skin lose their pigment.
I can’t say there are probably any other books out there about vitiligo, so on that front it’s a very original idea. But where Napoli goes with it is not particularly inventive and actually ends up being a little grating. I know teenagers can be overly dramatic and decide the world is ending over some pretty mundane things, but instead of feeling for Sep and her plight you just want to tell her to grow up and get some perspective.
It doesn’t help that the love story is done in a way where she never makes a single choice that really could be considered a good one. Everything is done because she’s decided that once her vitiligo gets bad enough she’ll be a “monster” and so she has to behave in a very specific way. And she does, and at that point I completely agreed with her assessment that she was a terrible person, but not because of her vitiligo but because she was acting like an idiot.
Napoli is normally a very good author, and I’ve enjoyed other books of hers (I reviewed Bound for my own blog and I really liked it) but this one fell short of the mark. All I can say is that at least when Napoli is not reaching her full potential, she’s still very readable....more
I'm a big fan of DIY stuff, and crafting in general. But I think that this book taught me something else about myself: I'm kind of a DIY snob apparentI'm a big fan of DIY stuff, and crafting in general. But I think that this book taught me something else about myself: I'm kind of a DIY snob apparently.
Most of the projects in this book were SO simple that they didn't even feel like what I would call crafting. And for the most part, they were the types of projects and things I've been seeing around since I was in Girl Scouts. The projects also mostly LOOKED handmade, and not in the best way.
So what I learned is that I much prefer DIY guides and blogs that are about people without a ton of money making something really creative and fun, or that's meant to look store bought and luxurious for a fraction of the price. But this book really came across as people who have a ton of money and time trying to get in on the DIY "movement" because it's hip.
Overall, if these were all things I'd found on Pinterest for free, I might have been intrigued by a few, and rolled my eyes at a couple but general not cared. But $14 for the ebook version and $19 for the hardcover? If you're looking for a DIY book or to get into crafting, then you absolutely can do better with your money. In fact, just go to Pinterest, you'll find about twenty great free blogs with much better instructions and more fun projects.
I was given a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review....more
The art was fantastic, and I loved that each pony got their own chapter. But the charm of the show was really lost in the transfer to the page. I don'The art was fantastic, and I loved that each pony got their own chapter. But the charm of the show was really lost in the transfer to the page. I don't know if the pop culture references were worse (they seemed to be) or if the plots just weren't as engaging in comic form as they are in animation. But it just seemed like a knock off more than the real thing. Probably would still be beloved by younger fans of the show, but I don't think it has the appeal that brings older fans into the animation version.
I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review....more
I know that it’s a travesty that I love books and reading as much as I do and I have not picked upThis review originally published at Winged Reviews:
I know that it’s a travesty that I love books and reading as much as I do and I have not picked up a Jasper Fforde book before. I’ve been meaning to for ages and then just haven’t done it. So when my book club picked The Last Dragonslayer, I was quite happy but I didn’t know what to expect either. Which I think made the book so much better.
I’ve been told that the sort of zany and sarcastic wit that permeates every second of The Last Dragonslayer is just par for the course with Fforde, and for me that means that I’m definitely going to be picking up more of his books in the near future. But it was not at all what I was expecting when I picked up the book, so it took me a little while to adjust. This is not a straightforward fantasy novel, or even one just set in a slightly quirky setting. This is full on Douglas Adams style randomness and humor.
Jennifer Strange, who has one of the best names for a YA heroine I’ve heard in ages, is an orphan who has become an indentured servant to the Kazam Mystical Arts Management agency. One of my favorite parts of all fantasy books is discovering the magic system, and the best books have a very unique set of rules and regulations for their magical worlds. Fforde has not just regulations but a full on bureaucracy with red tape and triplicate forms. It’s the most delightful “urban” fantasy I’ve come across in years. It only gets better once the dragon and dragonslayers are introduced.
I have to admit that the strength of the story is not in the deep characterizations. While all of the characters are fun and interesting, and I really like Jennifer, you can’t really say that she’s deep or nuanced. The book is a bit too fast paced and funny for that to really be a priority, and for me that’s fine but I can imagine that for some readers it won’t work, and I know that it’s going to be hard to string it out into three books without something a little stronger on that front in the sequel.
A few of the jokes were a bit too much, and really were more of a the groan inducing type. But the sense of humor doesn’t relent and with jokes coming at you this fast, I don’t know that you can expect them all to land as brilliantly. I definitely found myself laughing often, and more than once I stopped to try to explain a funny line to somebody else in the room.
Overall, what a perfect way for me to be introduced to Jasper Fforde, I know I’ll be picking up more of his books and I’m dying to read Song of the Quarkbeast....more
I’ve been on the lookout to expand the books I read to ones that explore life in other countries. SoThis review originally published on Winged Reviews
I’ve been on the lookout to expand the books I read to ones that explore life in other countries. So I was quite excited to pick up Saving Wishes, which takes place in a tiny town called Piper’s Cove in Tasmania. The main character of the book, Charli, longs to escape her insular community and see the world. I grew up in rather small town myself, so I could really relate with her desire to get out and meet new people, see the world, and experience something other than life as it always has been.
The problem was that Charli was a lot of telling and not a lot of showing. She’s constantly telling the audience, and the boy she’s fallen in love with, that she’s trouble. She has problems. Her life is difficult, she’s too hard to love, stay away, she’s not worth the hassle. And yet throughout the course of the story she never really lives up to her own promises of how terrible she is. In the pantheon of young adult heroines she’s actually quite tame. Her parents died when she was too young to remember, the popular girls don’t like her, she’s bad at French, and she secretly loves photography. Maybe I’ve gotten jaded, but after she describes herself I’m ready for her to be a member of a gang or something.
The love interest, Adam, is a bit stereotypical as well. He’s the type of guy who’s always had his life planned out and stuck to his plans until he randomly decided to visit his cousin in Piper’s Cove, and there he meets Charli who introduces him to her wacky way of viewing the world. Only eventually he has to return to his original life, and the source of the conflict between the two just didn’t really come through for me. The book tries a bit to create a sort of upper/lower class narrative but it doesn’t really reach the heights of what that kind of story can be.
Charlie’s brother is actually the most interesting character in the story, in my opinion, and there’s a reveal about his life that could have been absolutely riveting if the narrative had been more focused and built around that rather than this teenage whirlwind romance. Don’t get me wrong, I love teenage romance stories, but her other relationships were just so much more intriguing and more well drawn. If this was a movie, I would say the leads didn’t have any chemistry.
Generally the book wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t too original and the writing style was a lot of describing things instead of experiencing them. I’d rather read more about the other citizens of Piper’s Cove instead of the sequel which continues to focus on Charli....more
I somehow managed to miss the angel trend that swept through young adult fiction a few years back, and so I wasOriginally published at Winged Reviews
I somehow managed to miss the angel trend that swept through young adult fiction a few years back, and so I was intrigued by the plot summary of Shadows but had nothing really to compare it to. That probably worked out quite well, and for an intro to a new genre it’s a pretty good place to start.
It took me a few chapters to really warm up to the book, the present tense storytelling was difficult for me and I’m not always the biggest fan of first person narratives either. So those were both big hurdles to cross when just getting started. Plus the main character, Gaby, isn’t the easiest person to love. But that actually ends up being one of the best things about her. I’ve recently read a lot of stories where I felt like the heroine was telling us how awful she is but never really doing anything awful, or anything at all. It’s a pretty classic trope, kind of like making a girl gorgeous but clumsy so she’s relatable, it doesn’t work.
Gaby, however, actually does things. And they’re not always nice things, or sensible things, but they’re things that are in character and you can see how they make sense for her and the world she lives in even if you want to throttle her. When it counts, she shows good character and her relationship with her best friend and roommate Maggie was probably what won me over. Also, Maggie was probably the best supporting character I’ve seen in a book like this in a very long time. She’s a really great example of what a good friend is and should be.
Now, the focus for a lot of people is going to be the love story, and Shadows doesn’t disappoint there. The trick is, Gaby actually has no memory of her past and so characters expect her to act one way and she does the opposite. Including being immediately attracted to Rafa, a man she previously fought with and fought beside before her amnesia. Rafa initially comes across as the typical bad boy that the heroine shouldn’t be attracted to, and at first I was very prepared to be annoyed by the whole thing. Girls being obsessed with jerks isn’t my style.
But then, that wasn’t who he was. And that’s probably the story of this book for me, I would make an assumption based on previous books I’ve read and then Weston wouldn’t meet them and instead would do something better than I expected. In the first chapter, I admit I wasn’t sure how invested I was but by the end I found myself getting irritated on my commute when I had to get off the train because I wanted to read a little longer. She even does a great job resolving some questions and conflict decisively so the book feels complete, but leaving enough open that I honestly can’t wait to read the sequel.
Weston is also very good at world building, and she brings Pan Beach to life in a way that made me really want to take a vacation. She’s pulling inspiration for her supernatural elements from religion and mythology, but she’s deviating enough to keep it interesting. Her warrior angels aren’t too far astray from other depictions, but in the end the characters are what’s important and Gaby, Maggie, Rafa, and Jason are all people I want to spend more time with....more
In “The Lightning Thief,” Rick Riordan updated the hero’s journey and origin story from classic myths. This timeOriginally published at Winged Reviews
In “The Lightning Thief,” Rick Riordan updated the hero’s journey and origin story from classic myths. This time he tackles some similar ground with an update of Jason and the Argonauts, as Percy and Annabeth must sail through the Sea of Monsters (the Bermuda Triangle) to find Grover, who has gone missing, and the Golden Fleece, which may be the key to saving their camp.
As the second book in the series, this is the place where many authors will start to lag, or where the action will feel very “in between” instead of a fully realized story. But Riordan avoids that in the best way possible – by expanding on the actual characters and their relationships. Percy makes a new friend at his latest school, Tyson. Tyson turns out to be a cyclops, making him Percy’s half brother, and a monster that most of the demigods don’t trust. This gives us a chance to see a new side to Percy and helps draw the life of the demigods into a world that’s familiar to the reader – siblings that you love and can’t stand at the same time.
Annabeth has to challenge her fatal flaw when they meet the Sirens, as well as dealing with the fallout from discovering her friend Luke had betrayed Camp Half Blood and sided with Kronos. Luke’s betrayal also gives the reader what becomes one of the most interesting relationships in the series, as we finally meet Luke’s father, Hermes. In addition, camp bully (and daughter of Ares) Clarisse is given more to do and we get to know her when she’s awarded the quest for the fleece. In the process, we learn more about her and her relationship with her father.
Like the first book, there is so much action and so many things to do throughout this book that it seems impossible to have fit it all in. Because of the nature of the story, Percy often has to play the clueless lead (so that Annabeth can explain something to him and the reader) and also balance being the clever one so that he can save the day. That’s a very hard line to walk, and Riordan usually manages it though sometimes you really do want to smack Percy. The good news is, this gives him a place to grow from.
Even though it would have been simple for Riordan to have just made this a bit of a filler on the way to a bigger conflict, he managed to really expand the mythology of the world and give the characters more depth. Plus, the cliffhanger ending is definitely motivation to move on to the next book....more
I was very excited for the fourth book in the Percy Jackson series because it was focused on one of my favorite myOriginally posted at Winged Reviews:
I was very excited for the fourth book in the Percy Jackson series because it was focused on one of my favorite myths – Daedalus, Icarus, and the Labyrinth. In most of the previous books, the stories Riordan is updating are done with a modern and sarcastic twist. While the sarcasm is still present in this book, he actually goes to a deeper and darker place this time and really lays the groundwork for an epic final battle in book five.
When Percy and Annabeth discover an entrance to Daedalus’ labyrinth at Camp Half-Blood, they realize that their defenses are weaker than they imagined and the army of Kronos could march right to their door. Anna beth finally gets her own quest – find Ariadne’s String and solve the Labyrinth before Luke can. Annabeth’s need to please others and be successful is on full display and it really deepens her character.
During their quest, the group also meets Hephaestus, another of my favorites. When he sends them to investigate his force at Mount St. Helens and of course everything goes wrong and Percy ends up nearly killed and stranded on Calypso’s Island. The scenes with Calypso are some of the best that Riordan has written so far, and they very clearly bring home many of the themes and emotions that he has been building – the complicated nature of family, the stubbornness of the gods in their old ways, and how this war is about echoes of the old war.
Riordan also uses Antaeus, a monster at the center of the Labyrinth and another son of Poseidon to make a point about how the actions done in a gods name are not always what they wanted, and it works well here though it’s a bit gruesome. But it’s a point that the books needed to address, and Riordan doesn’t shy away.
We also get to see the end to Grover’s search for Pan, a scene that definitely made me tear up. Plus there is the return of Nico Di Angelo, son of Hades, who spends the entire book being an idiot but I guess somebody has to. Plus we bring in Rachel Dare, a mortal Percy ran into on his last quest who may be the key to saving this one.
The book is full of bittersweet moments, and a strengthening of the deep bonds between the main characters. Percy, Annabeth, Grover, and Tyson are getting older and wiser and it works. I was both sad and excited to be nearing the end of their adventures.
It’s time for the moment Percy has been avoiding for four years – the fulfillment of the prophecy.This review originally published on Winged Reviews:
It’s time for the moment Percy has been avoiding for four years – the fulfillment of the prophecy. Olympus will stand or fall on his decision, if he can stay alive until his 16th birthday anyway.
Riordan doesn’t waste time, starting off the book with a reminder that no one is safe, the stakes are as high as they can get, and there is a spy at Camp Half Blood. Kronos has overtaken Luke’s body, and though Percy tries to stop him, the battle for Olympus is coming.
At the end of the previous book, Nico Di Angelo gave Percy a suggestion for how to survive the battle ahead. As he gets nearer to choosing, the two discover more about Luke. The Last Olympian becomes Luke’s story in many ways, and it’s very fitting. Riordan handles the character well, once again showing that everyone in this series has complex motivations and complicated histories. No one can be boiled down to simple want for power and ambition, save Kronos who mostly wants revenge with a side of ruling the world. But Kronos complexity comes from his plotting and manipulation, which is masterful (as is befitting the King of the Titans).
Before the book even gets started, the world is falling apart. Ancient Gods have awoken, and the mortal world has no idea what is coming their way (literally). As the gods go to defeat them, they leave the stragglers from Camp Half Blood as the only ones to be in position to stop Kronos’ real plan, naturally.
I balked at this development at first. These are 16 year old kids, and it is such a common trope to leave the world saving to children in YA books. But Riordan has been setting up these kids for five books now, they’re demi-gods who have been training and fighting their entire lives. Characters that he has been slowly setting up are brought to the forefront and Clarisse is especially well done and I cheered quite a bit for Percy’s mom and her boyfriend’s contributions to the final battle. The death toll is high, but unlike some authors, Riordan makes you feel these deaths and you understand why they had to happen and what impact they have on the story.
But everything in the whole series for me comes down to Luke and Hermes, and to explain why would be too many spoilers. All I know is that when they get to the end of the film series, I hope they don’t forget those scenes. Nathan Fillion will be able to play Hermes’ emotions perfectly, and I really want to see it.
Riordan remembers to give us some happy endings to temper the sadness, and he’s built such a rich world that he could play in this sandbox forever and I would be happy to let him....more
The Titan’s Curse is the only book in the series that doesn’t start at the beginning of summer, and it actuallyOriginally published at Winged Reviews:
The Titan’s Curse is the only book in the series that doesn’t start at the beginning of summer, and it actually starts in the middle of the action in a way that made me wonder if I had accidentally missed a chapter somewhere. Even the introduction of Blackjack (the black pegasus) feels like there was a piece missing in between. The opening feels a little out of place with the rest of the series, but it very quickly comes together and begins to feel like home. Or, rather, feel like Camp Half Blood.
One thing that’s difficult about the series is that there are so many characters, and The Titan’s Curse introduces many more. We met Thalia only briefly so now we’re getting to know her at the same moment that we meet Bianca and Nico Di Angelo, two new halfbloods. There’s also the appearance of several more gods, including Apollo, and Artemis and her hunters. So it’s perhaps inevitable that because we’ve become so overloaded with characters that this is the book where it really starts to get heavy and not everybody makes it to the end of this quest.
The main story of the book is that Annabeth has been kidnapped, and shortly after Artemis is taken as well. Several of the Hunters team up with Grover and Percy to go rescue them. Once again, they have to trek across the width of America in pursuit of their quest, only this time the dangers are a little more dangerous and the series has started to grow a little older along with Percy. Now that Percy has been training and fighting for actual years you can believe everything just a little bit more.
As a resident of the Washington D.C. area, the scenes that take place at the Smithsonian museums were a special treat for me, at least until a battle starts to destroy priceless treasures in Air and Space. Why is it always Air and Space that hosts all the big battles in fiction? I suppose the Hirshhorn isn’t as interesting? Couldn’t we fight over something that could be replaced more easily? Like some of the stuff that’s recreations anyway?
Anyway, this book delves a lot more into the history of the Titans, the beings who ruled before the gods defeated them and set up their kingdom on Olympus. The sources of the conflicts of the series really start to come into focus, and the far reaching consequences of the gods’ actions are explored more fully. The first war between the gods and titans created everything that is happening now, and Riordan takes care to make their choices both good and bad. Percy also isn’t blindly accepting of what the gods do like several other characters, nor does he blindly reject anything either, like the villains. Which is part of what makes him such an enjoyable protagonist and makes this series so addicting.
I’ve been trying to decide which of the books I think is the weakest in the series, and at first I thought this might be my choice because the book really does feel like the middle of everything, which is rarely the most interesting. The villains aren’t as entertaining either, but Artemis, the Hunters, Zoe, and even Apollo are all interesting enough to make me still look back on it fondly....more