I've gotten more and more fond of books with Norse mythology in them, probably because I took a reall-- Originally reviewed at Here There Be Books. --
I've gotten more and more fond of books with Norse mythology in them, probably because I took a really good medieval history class last semester that covered quite a bit of Viking history, which naturally made me more interested in everything to do with Viking and so on. One thing I've noticed about these books, though, is that the protagonists tend to be all boys, and I prefer to read books about girls (because I am one, and, by the way, there aren't nearly enough fantasy books starring girls without any romance in them). So! I really liked Runemarks because it had loads of nifty Norse gods and mythology in it, and a female lead that did things besides trying to woo her boyfriend! (Not that she had a boyfriend.)
Maddy is a really strong female lead, one who has powerful abilities and isn't afraid to go off and have her own adventures. She's also pretty realistic, by which I mean she felt like a real person to me, with feelings and dreams and a personality of her own. I also liked that she was really-- I don't know how to say it. Female? She didn't just seem like Ms Harris had taken a boy character and switched him into a girl-- Maddy was a real girl and her gender was an important part of herself. Does that make sense? I hope it does, because I don't think there are tons of female adventure types that actually like being a girl and want to do things as a girl; it always seems instead that they disguise themselves as boys or something (Shakespeare does that a lot in his plays).
Anyway, the story is a really exciting one, with battles and magic and gnomes. It slows down a bit in the middle, and the ending was somewhat of a disappointment to me because it was sort of like Maddy had been pushed to the side in favor of Odin's subplot. But I had a wonderful time following Maddy along in her adventures, and the rest of the characters were sufficiently flushed out enough to not just become prop figures.
One character who really surprised me was Loki, who nearly always is portrayed as an almost evil character, more malicious than mischievous (think American Gods, maybe). The Loki in Runemarks is very sympathetic, and it made me think of him more as a person who is trapped in a place he doesn't want to be, where he can't ever win and he has to look out for himself because no-one else will. I think he even says somewhere in the book that the gods are happy to use his talents when it suits them, but then sweep him under the rug (or try to kill him) when they no longer need him. So, yeah, that made me empathize with him more than despise him, even when he did try to trick Maddy out of something (he made up for it later, anyway).
I really enjoyed reading Runemarks. I think it'd be a great book for anyone interested in alternate universes, Norse mythology, strong female adventurer characters, and fun fantasy stories that aren't exactly swords-and-sorcerers but do give that sort of thing a nod. The ending isn't exactly a cliffhanger but it does leave room for a sequel, which I think Ms Harris is working on now. I think....more
I hadn't realized that The Green Man is a sequel to another book when I requested it at NetGalley, but in retrospect I don't think it matters all thatI hadn't realized that The Green Man is a sequel to another book when I requested it at NetGalley, but in retrospect I don't think it matters all that much. Apparently it's got some of the same characters from the first book in it, but the POV is mostly from a new character, so I don't feel too annoyed that I read this one first before reading the previous book.
SARAH REES BRENNAN, I LOVE YOU. Really I could just end my review right there, but I'll keep going.
Admittedly, after reading The Demon's Lexicon, I couldn't get up the urge to read the rest of the trilogy (even after rating the first one 4 birds). I liked it (I guess) but I wasn't overly enthusiastic about the series as a whole. But of Sarah Rees Brennan herself, I have no complaints. She's basically like a wackier (female) version of Neil Gaiman's online persona, and if you like NG's blog you'd like SRB's blog, too. It's hilarious, and she's brought that hilarious-ness into Unspoken.
Not that it's a comedy book-- no way. But if you've read SRB's blog you'd recognize that same voice in Kami's characterization, and that could be either good or bad, depending on what you like. Since I'm a fan of SRB's humor, I (mostly) liked it, but I also kept thinking "this is totally how SRB talks in her blog." Which was very distracting! And I feel weird for complaining that an author sounds too much like herself (??) but it DID keep throwing me out of the narrative, unfortunately. I'm not saying it's unrealistic dialogue, or that it's not GOOD dialogue. It's entertaining! It's witty! Lots of good snarky humor, etc. I'm just saying I couldn't get over how much it reminded me of how SRB herself talks online (and maybe offline, though I've never met her so I don't know for sure). So while I still enjoyed reading the book, that little "what is going on here" thing kept bugging me like an annoying buggy thing.
Let's move on from that for now: let's talk about the OTHER characters! They were much more rounded than what I remember in Demon's Lexicon, which to me signals a leveling up of author skills. Kami was the only one who had author!speak problems, and even then that was only when she actually talked to something. In her characterization, and in the secondary characters', there were no problems. I loved reading about all of them, even the wackadoodle Richie Riches living at the top of the hill. My FAVORITE thing, for example, is the whole interaction between Angela and Kami and a new friend of theirs and how the new friendship shifts the balance between them, and all the little subplots running along side that. Probably anyone who's been to high school has experienced something similar at least once, and usually I think when authors stick real life drama stuff into books they blow it way over the top. Not so here. SRB stuck it in, made her point, and moved on to something else. It was PERFECT-- just dramatic enough to make your heart go "ow" but not SO dramatic that you wish you'd never even SEEN a teenager, let alone been one.
The town itself was a kind of character, too, and I love that SRB went that route because towns-with-personalities is one of my favorite things to read about. They're almost always creepy in some way, and the creepiness of Sorry-in-the-Vale did a lot of interesting things to the atmosphere of the story.
The plotline was mostly exciting. I think the first half was mostly focused on atmosphere and characters, so it went somewhat more slowly than I expected. However, the pacing picked up in the second half, with a WHOPPER of an ending that made me both a) scream with frustration and b) got "wtf just happened." THAT ENDING. It's effective, but boy is it a killer. It's the kind of ending that makes you wish the sequel was coming out NOW instead of a year+ into the future. ARGH.
Romance! As this is BASICALLY a YA paranormal book, I'm sure you're all waiting for me to complain about the insane romance subplot or whatever. Well, HA. There isn't any. In fact, Unspoken is basically a SUBVERSION of that trope I hate, so if you're like me and can't stand most YA paranormal-with-romance books, you'd probably like this one because it goes almost in exactly the opposite direction from most other books.
For all that, though, the relationship between Kami and Jared is still very enthralling to read about. They're uncomfortable with each other, they love each other but, at the same time, they can't stand to be around one another. Their emotions are being manipulated by magic, so they can't even trust that the way they feel about each other is "true." It's so different to the "normal" YA PNR relationships that I couldn't help but hug my Kindle with glee. Yeah, it's totally romantic when people go all Romeo and Juliet and collapse into their own Black Hole of Romantic Feelings, but that's totally not what this book is about and I applaud Sarah Rees Brennan for trying something different and new and pulling it off so well.
Oh, and this MIGHT be a spoiler but whatever: there IS a romantic sub-subplot with two of the supporting characters, and it's a GLBTQ one. Plus! Did I mention? PoC main character. IT'S LIKE EVERYTHING I EVER WANTED IN A YA PARANORMAL BOOK and okay, I'll stop yelling now. I'm just so HAPPY.
So! Let's sum up: Creepy town! Magic! PoC main character! GLBTQ (supporting) characters! Romance that isn't really a romance but it's still very good in a way that I can't fully explain! Slight miss with the "voice" of Kami, and there was also a (temporary) sorta-love triangle with another character that I didn't talk about before, and the revelations came a little too fast and thick at the end. But really, when you've got a book about a teen girl reporter/detective and she's not just another white girl and she's not in love with a vampire/werewolf/something and there is SPOOKY STUFF HAPPENING then how could you let some non-awesome things overshadow the AMAZINGNESS of the rest of the book? Eh? EH?
I think this is the darkest Zilpha Keatley Snyder book I've read yet. It's got the standard 1970s bad parent(s), a very mixed up kid, and a really creepy cat. I felt bad for everyone in this book, but especially for Jessica.
She doesn't really have any positive role models and everyone ignores her, so much so that she has to resort to something drastic to get people to pay attention to her. If this were a Stephen King book, Jessica would have probably slaughtered the entire apartment complex, but The Witches of Worm is a little more subtle and sadder than that. Zilpha Keatley Snyder is really good at making things less obvious than you'd expect them to be, including the paranormal/fantasy elements. Is Jessica a witch, or is she just a messed up kid? Or both!
The worst part about the book, though, is how desolate most of it is. Jessica doesn't have any friends, she hates everybody, and there's a cat who's (maybe) making her do things. (Or possibly she's making HERSELF do things; it's very vague.) The scene where she writes a "fake" story for her school counselor almost made me cry: it's about a baby abandoned in a park and, just, SO SAD, because the baby is totally Jessica and she didn't even see that. Hopefully the school counselor DID see it, and did something about it after the book ends-- SOMEONE has to help her! I mean, yeah, she gets her friend back which is nice, but that's not going to be enough in the long run.
Sooooo, The Witches of Worm: creepy, depressing, empty of happy things like friendship and family and love. Maybe don't read it if you're feeling sad-- it'll probably make you sadder. However! If you like those sorts of books, you'd definitely like Witches.
Quick note: don't read the forward first because it ruins the rest of the book by telling you exactly what's going to happen and why. So annoying! It's good for background stuff (ZKS took real life events and put them into the book), but it totally messes up the experience of figuring parts of the plot out for yourself. ...more
Okay, so, I like the art and everything and the story is fascinatin-- This review was originally posted at Here There Be Books on December 9, 2013. --
Okay, so, I like the art and everything and the story is fascinating in a spooky, almost time-travel kind of way. But it's also super boring, and I don't know if that's because I rushed too quickly through it or if it's a fault inherent in the book itself.
Here's my problem: it's a story about two different people in two different time periods, one in the past and one in the present. The present person is thinking about being homeless and mom-less and her maybe-boyfriend. The past person is thinking about her own maybe-boyfriend and (view spoiler)[her dead dad and (hide spoiler)] also gold, I guess. The narrative switches back and forth between their stories, until the very end when they kind of overlap, a little bit.
However, from the summary it made it seem more like the two people (and their stories) were connected in ways deeper than just being related, and like there was some huge mystery they had to solve. But it wasn't really. It's more about consequences of things that happened in the past reaching forward into the future. But NOT in a really magnificent way-- it seems almost more like a coincidence, it was such a light touch.
So now we've got two stories, mostly unrelated to each other, and both of them on their own are kind of boring. The ending was fabulous! It brought all the spooky stuff together into one fantastic (in more ways that one) ending sequence, and I wish the rest of the book had been like that.
I did like the mix of reality/fantasy, and the mythological parts were cool. But it was an uneven mix of mundane and fantastic, and I didn't enjoy it all that much.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I was really excited when I got this book, mostly because I had tried to get it during BEA but was scared offOriginally posted at Here There Be Books.
I was really excited when I got this book, mostly because I had tried to get it during BEA but was scared off by the truly massive line leading up to LM's table. When I DID get it later, and when I read the first two chapters or so, I was thrilled. This is an awesome book, I thought. Those first few chapters were terrifying and exciting and really chilling, just like all good dystopian books should be. But then. Oh, but then.
Somewhere around a third of the way into the book, I noticed something. The Unwanteds had gotten...dull. It had lost its edge from those first few chapters. It had become kind of boring and ridiculous and a bit disappointing. I kept reading it, hoping that the awesomeness from the beginning of the book would come back, but it never did. The ending was slightly better, but slogging through the middle was horrible.
The disparity from the beginning of the book and the rest of it was weird. The first part read like a really solid MG/YA dystopian book. It knew what it was doing and what it was doing was scaring the pants off the reader. But the rest of the book? Read like it was trying to cuddle the reader gently to sleep instead.
I don't think it helped that the dialogue was, for the most part, pretty unbearable. It was unbearable like how the dialogue from preschooler TV shows are unbearable to an adult watching them, and it dragged the book down even more. The characterizations were also pretty hit-or-miss; most of the kids were okay, but the adults were a little bit too much Merlinesque, with no other personality traits.
Also-- okay, look. Dystopias already require a pretty heavy suspension of disbelief thing when you read them, right? But The Unwanteds took that even further, because not only is it a kind of sci-fi dystopian book, it is also an art-is-magic kind of fantasy book. People fight each other with origami animals and paintbrushes and stuff, and it's presented as this totally normal thing.
No one questions how the hell people can paint doorways into existence or anything. They just do it. And that is completely weird when the dystopian part of the country thrives on not questioning anything, but the utopian part supposedly encourages it. But no one asks "how is it that these paper clips become deadly weapons"?
Finally, I thought it was really ridiculous how in the utopia they're taught to be tolerant and kind and so forth, but then they think everybody in the dystopia is "evil." Not "misguided," or "confused," but "evil." A 12-year-old kid is evil? Really, The Unwanteds? You don't think he's just brainwashed? You can't have compassion for a 12-year-old living in a really messed-up society?
I know this review is mostly complaints, and for that I'm kind of sorry. But you have to understand: this book was so disappointing. It started off great, and then it got bogged down in all this ridiculous stuff. It didn't know whether it was sci-fi or fantasy. It didn't know how adults or kids talked. It didn't know that calling kids "evil" is, actually, a really bad thing. And it didn't know that it would have been much better if it had retained that kind of writing that was in the first part of the book. It could have kept all the ridiculous stuff if only it had also tried harder to be scary and thrilling, instead of cuddly and vaguely nauseating.
Perhaps the problem comes from this being Lisa McMann's first MG book. I've noticed that sometimes newbie MG authors dumb down aspects of their book to make it "easier" for kids to digest, and that tends to result in a weaker novel. Books don't need to be dumbed down for kids to understand them. If The Unwanteds had smartened up a bit, I've no doubt I would have enjoyed it way more....more
Seriously intense and I loved it! Also super scary in some parts. I somehow intuited one of the key plot points and I hav**spoiler alert** 4.5/5 stars
Seriously intense and I loved it! Also super scary in some parts. I somehow intuited one of the key plot points and I have no idea how. Further notes to self (maybe spoilers idk): if one of them was a dude they would totally be romantic interests, right? Possibly just intense gal pal situation and K does lack a little in personality after she is rescued, but still. Her actions are totally as A's knight/protector. (Dragon more like her peer?) Am feeling a little queerbaited and I don't want to be feeling that in an otherwise amazing book.
Polish names everywhere. Baba Yaga. So many dead characters omg. Dragon in(/under) a tower possible Arthurian reference? Magic bird names eg Merlin reference maybe? Idk. ...more
Oh my GOD I love this book. Okay, don't be fooled by the cover or the title: this is no-- This review was originally posted at Here There Be Books. --
Oh my GOD I love this book. Okay, don't be fooled by the cover or the title: this is not, in fact, a horribly boring nonfiction book about some crappy European war. It's actually a super interesting, super thrilling, super FANTASTIC historical fiction book with a smidgen of fantasy!
I'm actually a really big fan of Emma Bull; I've previously read War For the Oaks and loved it, and so I was hoping to at least like Freedom and Necessity. I was initially a little put off by the package, but I had high hopes that it'd be really good on the inside. And it was! From the very first page it was interesting and funny and thrilling and though it took a big of work to get through it-- it's long-- I can safely say that this is one of my favorite books I've read this year.
Okay, so what did I love best? Oh, merely everything. I love the characters, I love the writing, I love the time period and the setting and the plot. It does take a bit of getting used to the format-- everything's told through diary entries and letters and telegrams-- but it actually makes for good "bites", kind of like mini chapters?
Some elaboration: I thought the four main characters were a really good mix of personalities and types, and they meshed really well together. Even when they're annoyed at one another, you can still tell how much they love each other and what a good family they are. Er, though it was a bit weird when they started have romances with each other, but since they're all cousins it's not as weird...maybe.
I did think the romance between Susan and James was a bit forced, though maybe that was because I thought James was gay because of something he did early on in the book (I must have just misinterpreted it). And once I got used to the idea I did think they were quite sweet, and their happy ending made me happy in return. Kitty and Richard were less of a struggle for me, and I thought they made an adorable couple as well.
Speaking of Susan: I really liked her! I thought she was really refreshing, and though maybe she's a bit of an unusual person for the time period, I think she would have fit right in with, say, Emma Goldman's circle. She's fierce and tough and I love how she refuses to get married even when she's in love because she wants to stick to her beliefs. She's such a great character, and I wish she could be my friend.
Anyway, there actually isn't much by the way of fantasy in Freedom and Necessity, and when it does spring up it can almost be taken as not being magic, but instead just some weird cult thing. Instead, the book is more about political intrigue and big thrilling scenes (lots of sword fights and things, very exciting) and trying to solve the mystery and so on. It's all terribly exciting, even with German philosophers running around the narrative.
So, in conclusion: yay! Love this book! SO. MUCH.
If you like historical fiction, or historical fantasy, or both, get this book. And then we can talk about it together! Eee!...more
When I talked about this for a Thursday Tea post I mentioned that I was worried that the Amazon reviewers were right and I'd end up hating the last half of the book. Since that'd make reading the first half basically pointless, I was a little annoyed. But! Those Amazon reviewers were wrong.
That makes me really happy, actually. Sometimes it pays to listen to reviewers, but sometimes you just need to ignore them and try books out for yourself. Or maybe just listen to the reviewers you know personally, and then ignore everyone else. Or just do whatever-- I don't actually care.
Anyway, I really liked The Geographer's Library. It does have some problems near the end, mostly because I hate it with every fiber of my being, but the rest of the book is fantastic and a really great read. If you blank out that last bit it's even better!
I liked the intertwining plotlines, even if I couldn't keep some of the characters straight. Paul is annoying because he's so unprofessional (don't mix love and business!), and his love interest is annoying because she's obviously sketchy but everyone around her is pretending she's not!
Their romance happens so quickly that it automatically made me suspicious, and so everything else she does made me suspicious, too. This made the ending less of a shock than I think it was supposed to have been, because SLIGHT SPOILER HERE I already knew she wasn't all that she seemed and so the "twist"...wasn't.
So! I didn't like the end, I didn't particularly like Paul, and I didn't like the romance. But everything else? I did like. I liked the interwoven stories, like I said, and I liked the mystery. The supernatural stuff was a nice touch, too, especially since it never went overboard.
This is Mr Fasman's first book, but it doesn't really read like one. Besides the plot points I didn't like, I couldn't pick out any actual writing problems, except maybe that thing with the "twist" ending. But that happens even to seasoned writers, so I won't hold it against him (much).
I liked The Geographer's Library. I wish the ending was better-- it was too abrupt, with a villain that explains everything (HATE that plot device), and I'm not entirely sure what happens to Paul afterwards. The mystery is also slow, really only gaining momentum in the last half of the book. But I enjoyed reading it, and I look forward to reading whatever else Mr Fasman comes up with....more
As soon as I read the prologue, I knew I'd like this book. Strong-willed female lead? CheOriginally posted on January 24, 2009 at Here There Be Books.
As soon as I read the prologue, I knew I'd like this book. Strong-willed female lead? Check! A world slightly different to our own, slightly different but still recognizable? Check! Adventure on the horizon? Double check!
I liked Malva, even though she tends to be obstinate and stubborn. I liked most of the characters, in fact, even poor spineless Orpheus. The writing style was perfect: it's formal enough to bring that air of old-fashioned fairy tale wafting in, but friendly and gentle enough to be engaging. The story itself reminds me of a Greek myth. Something like The Odyssey, maybe-- and of course there's the little thing of Orpheus' name. And though the plot is a little predicable, I certainly did not expect the ending. It was sad, because of a certainly spoiler-y thing which I don't want to mention, but I think it fit in with Malva's characterization. I didn't expect to be okay with it, but I am.
The only real problem I had with The Princetta was that there were these massive time skips several times throughout the story, and I was never entirely sure how far away I was from the beginning of the story. Made me feel a little lost, and even a little confused.
There are some things in the book that I feel I should mention, because they're possibly objectionable for younger teens/kids/their parents: suicide, torture, a harem full of kidnapped girls, assassination attempts, fighting (including stabbing and beheading), and death. None of them are explicitly described, and I'm sure that younger kids probably wouldn't even think that much of them, or even really understand them, but nevertheless I'd recommend the book for maybe...14 and up?
I really did have a fun time reading this. It's a terrific adventure, with plenty of action and romance and creepy creatures and character growth. And, as it was originally written in French, the translation was fantastic. (I didn't even notice it was a translation until I read the about-the-author bit.)
I found this on the New Books shelf at my library on Friday, and after checking to see whatOriginally posted September 7, 2009 at Here There Be Books.
I found this on the New Books shelf at my library on Friday, and after checking to see what sort of book it was I decided to grab it before anyone else could get it and read it immediately. I finished on Saturday and WOW! I love it. It's long, but it's totally worth it.
The book as a whole is sweetly awkward, quirky, and fun-in-a-slightly-dark way (like a clown crying while telling jokes, for example). Some parts remind me a lot of my own high school (and middle school) experiences, which is probably why I identified with Andromeda so much-- she could be an alternate me, and Daisy could be an alternate version of my best friend from that time. It was a little bit spooky, but mostly it was very cool.
I really liked Andromeda (not just because she's an alternate me). Even when she's acting crazy and ridiculous, mostly regarding boys and how she lets people treat her (read: like a doormat), I was interested in her life and what she was going to do next. I loved how she treated books like sacred things, and how she wanted to save the best books from being discarded from the library where she works. I also was really interested in how she preferred the more traditional sorts of occultism and shunned the more New Age, fluffier magic; it was very refreshing since so many new books seem to have only the Buffy-the-Vampire-Slayer-Wicca-magic-thing and I hate that. It's nice to see a character actually do something different for once, and as a bonus Andromeda doesn't even call herself a witch (she's an "occultist"), nor does she cut herself and recite depressing poems to the moon (um, for example).
Andromeda is refreshing in a non-occult way as well. Many times did I giggle when she misheard someone: "vacuum" for "bathroom," "Sylvester Mouse" for "some extra hours," and so on. And I liked how she'd say that the person meant to say "pagan" but said "bacon" instead, like it was their fault and not her hearing. She's quirky and funny while not being over the top and, yeah, I really liked her. The other characters were sort of negligible, and I still don't have any idea what the heck is up with her parents and I have no idea how Andromeda managed to stay with them for so long when they're NUTS. Some of the secondary characters are better than others, but the book is really about Andromeda and so I tended only to care about them in relation to her life.
The book itself does move sort of slow, I suppose, but I didn't mind as I was too busy being proud that Andromeda knew so much about the occult when she was so young, enough to rattle off names and dates and numbers and so on when I can't even remember what I ate for lunch last Monday. It was much like watching my kid brother in a quiz bowl beating out the competition because he knew who the 15th President of the US was, or something. And since I was interested in the occult as a kid I actually recognized and understood most of it (though I never managed to make it through any of the actual books Andromeda talks about. Too boring for a 12 year old.) but I don't think you need to be an occultist yourself to get it. Pretty much everything is explained, so I'm sure no one would be left behind or get frustrated, and then, instead of focusing on the little stuff (like Hebrew letters) you can focus on the plot and how it ends up working out so satisfyingly! I love satisfying endings.
The events in Andromeda Klein can be interpreted in two ways: either she really is doing magic or she's projecting things out of her psyche in some Freudian, psychological way that I don't care to learn about because it's boring (no offense to psychologists). I choose to go with she really was doing magic and she wasn't projecting, though I admit it's a little interesting to consider it the other way-- it gives the book a whole different feeling, as well. But, yeah, I like the urban-bordering-on-fantasy way best. It's more fun.
This is my first Maureen Johnson book. Can you believe it? Of course I knew who she was way before I downloaded this book, but I just hadn't gotten around to reading anything of hers before now. And now? Yeah! I think I'll probably read more of her books.
13 Little Blue Envelopes reminds me a lot of John Green's books, although obviously with a female protagonist instead of male. I also want to say that the romance is less important in this book than in some of JG's books. In JG's books I think a lot of a character's development stems from the meeting of or time spent with the love interest. In Envelopes there's a bit of romance, but it's secondary to the other things and I do feel like Ginny's development mostly comes from her experiences abroad as a whole, not just with the romance.
Or maybe I feel that way because I really hated the romance in this book. I'm not sure! All I know is that Ginny's love interest skeezed the hell out of me, so maybe I flung that part in the "less important" folder of my brain in an effort to cope.
Anyway, my favorite part of the book was, of course, the traveling. I love it when characters travel! The relationship between the physical movement and the emotional/personal growth, etc. is probably the only sort of trope that won't ever annoy me. Plus, Ginny goes through so many good and bad things that happen when you travel that it simultaneously made me want to go to Europe right now and stay at home cowering with my head under the covers.
Unfortunately, because it's got all this stuff in it-- travel, romance, something with family-- it did feel a bit all over the place. Sometimes those things go really well together, but sometimes they can seem disparate. I feel like the book didn't entirely know where it was going. If the envelopes and Ginny's personal growth in relation to them were the most important part of the story (which I'm assuming is the case), then why did it feel like it was being pushed aside for other, almost nonsensical things?
Some of the travel sequences especially felt out of place, because I couldn't see how they contributed to the overall story. Like, when Ginny stayed with that uber-touristy family in Amsterdam (was it Amsterdam?). What was the point of that, besides giving her a way to stay, of course? What was the point of the daughter telling Ginny about her personal life, when it came out of nowhere and didn't seem to even affect Ginny or the plotline?
I suppose all the "nonsensical" things were there to show how weird and wonderful traveling solo is, but I still think it made the story less tightly plotted than it could have been. Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading about Ginny and her aunt's envelopes, and I definitely want to read the next book. I think the sequel has less with the creepy boyfriend, so that's good!...more
I previously read Westerfeld's Uglies trilogy and liked it enough to try out some-- Originally reviewed at Here There Be Books on December 4, 2008. --
I previously read Westerfeld's Uglies trilogy and liked it enough to try out some of his other books. Peeps is about a guy named Cal who's been infected with a parasite: vampirism. Unfortunately, he's also infected some of his girlfriends, and he must now hunt them down and bring them back to the Night Watch-- a secret organization dedicated to keeping the lid on this nasty Peep problem-- for rehabilitation. But there's something else going in New York besides vampires. There's something living deep underground, beneath the subway and the sewers, and it's waking up.
I thought Peeps had an interesting premise, but it wasn't put together as well as the Uglies series was. There were some plot points that popped out of nowhere and seemed to go nowhere, or at least weren't gone into any deeper than a few pages. Some of them, like the thing underground, I expect are further expanded in the sequel, but it would have been nicer if there was more explanation in this book. I think that Peeps could have actually used a few more chapters, which would have given it a bit more room to grow. The characters aren't as vibrant or likable as they could have been; even Cal suffered a bit from (my) lack of empathic connection to him. (I also just didn't really like him.) The writing itself wasn't so bad, however, and I liked the connection between chapters about (non-vampire) parasites and the actual plot.
If you like books with a different take on vampires than the norm, I'd recommend checking Peeps out. It's not spectacular, but it's not bad either. I certainly plan on reading more of Westerfeld's books....more
I'm taking a class on Virginia Woolf this semester, but I've been having the worst time with her book-- Originally reviewed at Here There Be Books. --
I'm taking a class on Virginia Woolf this semester, but I've been having the worst time with her books. We've read The Voyage Out, Jacob's Room and Mrs. Dalloway. Or, well, we were supposed to. I've only read the first half of each of those books, even though I came close to finishing Jacob's Room I couldn't make myself finish, somehow. I think it's because of all the deaths. I really hate deaths in books, especially when it's the main character. It depresses me, you know?
But somehow To the Lighthouse was different. It has a death in it, a death of a main character, even, but this time it didn't bother me. (LOTS of people die in To the Lighthouse, actually, but that didn't bother me, either.) Maybe because it happened off-screen, or maybe because Virginia Woolf's writing in this book is so much more...something than her others. More Virginia Woolf-y, if that makes sense. It enchanted me, to be honest, and I wasn't expecting that after "reading" so many duds.
In her previous books I think she was experimenting with different writing styles and ways to tell a story, but they never really clicked with me like To the Lighthouse's writing style did. It's flowy, ethereal, and sort of...stream of conscious? But at the same time it's very solidly in the Real World, and in the world of the characters.
I suppose the only way for you to understand what I mean is to read the book yourself, which I don't think you'd regret. It's short, anyway, and it goes by VERY quickly. But here's a snippet from the book to tempt you:
What was she dreaming about, Mrs. Ramsay wondered, seeing her engrossed, as she stood there, with some thought of her own, so that she had to repeat the message twice--ask Mildred if Andrew, Miss Doyle, and Mr. Rayley have come back?--The words seemed to be dropped into a well, where, if the waters were clear, they were also so extraordinarily distorting that, even as they descended, one saw them twisting about to make Heaven knows what pattern on the floor of the child's mind. What message would Cam give the cook? Mrs. Ramsay wondered. And indeed it was only by waiting patiently, and hearing that there was an old woman in the kitchen with very red cheeks, drinking soup out of a basin, that Mrs. Ramsay at last prompted that parrot-like instinct which had picked up Mildred's words quite accurately and could now produce them, if one waited, in a colourless singsong. Shifting from foot to foot, Cam repeated the words, "No, they haven't, and I've told Ellen to clear away tea."
The characters were, to me, almost secondary to the writing, but I felt Mrs. Ramsay's presence the strongest (if you can describe a character by the aura they put off instead of solid traits). It's hard to decide where I like or dislike a character in VW's books because I don't think they're meant for that. They're not there to make you like them, they just sort of are. It's like you're looking in through a window and watching what they do while an omniscient voice describes what they're thinking. You can like or dislike a character's thoughts, I guess, but Mrs. Ramsay tends to think of domestic things, and about her life and her self. Not really things you could hate.
There's lots of interesting little tidbits in the second half of the book that I found fascinating because they were a sort of self-insertion by VW. For instance, this one couple who gets married in the first half is in an open marriage by the second-- just like VW and her husband had. And I think Lily was a sort of lesbian character? And of course so was VW (or maybe she was just bisexual?). And really the whole thing is supposed to be autobiographical, but those were just two of the things I picked up myself.
I actually did like Lily a lot, beyond her "aura" (that a stupid word, but it'll have to do), which counters what I said above. She has personality, and actual physical stuff you could pick up if you wanted to. This whole review is going metaphysical, so I'm moving on--
Lily was such an unusual character, though, one who seemed to be more in control of her life than the other women characters in VW's other books did. I liked especially that she kept painting for YEARS even after Charles whatshisface said women couldn't paint-- or write, for that matter-- sort of like she was proving him wrong. Although I have no idea what happened to him, actually, because he's not really in the second half of the book. I sort of wish he had gotten his comeuppance, though VW doesn't seem to go for that sort of thing.
Alright, this is getting a bit long and confusing, and I don't actually want to write an essay on the themes and motifs in To the Lighthouse, I just wanted to say that I LOVED it and I can totally see why people adore Virginia Woolf's books, now. Yes....more
What I really liked about Scrapped Princess is that though it’s got the “hidden princess who is secretly the thing upon which the future of the worldWhat I really liked about Scrapped Princess is that though it’s got the “hidden princess who is secretly the thing upon which the future of the world resides” trope in it, it does some unusual things in the actual story. For instance, Pacifica (that’s the princess) was adopted by some ex-soldiers and raised as there own. When she finds out she’s a princess? She does not immediately abandon her adopted family, nor do they abandon her! In fact, one of the main themes is how even if you’re adopted your adopted family is still your FAMILY, your family who loves you and wants to protect you from insane assassins and the king who wants you dead! I thought that was really wonderful, and pretty unusual in a story where the more standard thing would have been for Pacifica to wander off alone somewhere.
I didn't really have any expectations for this, mostly because I'm only familiar with Christie's Poirot booOriginally reviewed at Here There Be Books.
I didn't really have any expectations for this, mostly because I'm only familiar with Christie's Poirot books and not much else. However, I was immensely satisfied to discover that this is a truly excellent book. I had a lot of fun reading it! The action and drama was kept high throughout the course of the plot, and the twist at the end was marvelously well-done. I didn't expect it at all-- in fact, I thought I had worked out the solution about halfway through, but I was completely wrong. I love it when mystery books do that; it makes reading them into a fun game.
The characters were a bit harder to like, especially Tommy and Tuppence. They had a difficult time coming across as actual people, rather than pastiches of people. I don't think I ever really broke through that thinking, but I did cheer them on to "win," and I worried about Tommy when he was kidnapped, and I couldn't stop smiling after T&T got engaged (that's not a spoiler, is it? Surely everyone must know that they're married, right?).
As I said before, I had a lot of fun reading this, and I'd easily recommend it to mystery fans, people who want to read something of Christie's besides Poirot/Marple, and those who are fans of inter-war English detective fiction....more
Immediately upon reading the first page of Piratica I was sucked into it, and it kept my interest and-- Originally reviewed at Here There Be Books. --
Immediately upon reading the first page of Piratica I was sucked into it, and it kept my interest and enthusiasm right up until the end. I've never read a Tanith Lee book before this one, although her name did seem familiar to me, but if her other books are like this one I think I may have discovered one of my favorite YA authors.
That's not to say that Piratica doesn't have problems-- it's a little bit melodramatic and the plot takes suspension of disbelief to its limits-- but Piratica's romanticism and adventuresome plot and delicate handling of the heart's thoughts makes up for those stumbles.
Delicacy and melodrama don't seem to go together, but the melodrama was mostly in the dialogue and some parts of the plotline. The delicacy was in the character's interactions with each other, in the way they fell in love with each other, for instance. The combination is kind of a weird one, but Tanith Lee's writing manages to pull it all together and keeps it from being annoying or stilting. Plus, I think melodrama goes well with pirates, don't you?
Art is a weird character: I really liked her, but she has a tendency to be stubborn, close-mouthed, and sneaky. Good qualities in a pirate, I think, but they don't really make me trust her. Art also has a fixation on her mother, which is understandable but somewhat frustrating when I want her to find her own destiny-- not just follow her mother's. She's tricky, that one, and I hope being in love doesn't cloud her judgment or something in the sequel. (She doesn't really seem the sort who'd do that, anyway.)
The other characters vary from campy and humorous to mysterious and intriguing, and they made a good supporting cast. Piratica is mostly about Art, but it's also about the people surrounding Art, and it's not all pirate antics. It's about family, and love, and trying to recapture something that was lost. It's also just really, really fun.
Piratica isn't your typical high seas adventure book, and though it toes the line between "too much" and "just enough," it's supremely enjoyable and makes for a pleasant Saturday afternoon. There aren't nearly enough books with female pirates as leads, either, so that's worth a look at least. Plus, swordfights!...more
I picked this up last week when I was hankering for a travel book and only have historical fiction wi-- Originally reviewed at Here There Be Books. --
I picked this up last week when I was hankering for a travel book and only have historical fiction with me. It wasn't exactly what I was looking for (I thought it meant "tourism" like "adult tourists"), but it was interesting and somewhat informative. It was also convoluted and just basically read like it didn't know what it wanted to be.
It's supposed to be about educational tourism, specifically about how it relates to students and their teachers. Just that by itself would have been fine (if kinda boring), but Mr Cushner adds in personal anecdotes and a few bits of statistical info. Okay, now, that sounds alright on the surface, but it never actually tied everything together as neatly as I've made it sound. It would have been immensely better if it had been either an academic study on education tourism, etc etc, or a personal story about one teacher who used educational tourism in his curriculum.
Because Mr Cushner tries to mesh the two, it makes the book both boring and interesting by turns. I was way more interested in his life as a teacher using e.t. in his classroom than I was by the statistics, but if I was trying to read it as an academic study I would have been disappointed there, too. The academic part was just as as lacking as the personal part. It just didn't flow well, and the disparity between the stats/personal stuff was jarring.
Admittedly I skimmed through most of the statistic stuff, but I did manage to glean what I think the book is actually supposed to be about: how visiting other countries, living with its people, and integrating that into one's worldview is a wonderful, necessarily thing for today's kids. Broadening horizons, and all that....more
I bought this book based solely on a recommendation made to me by a work acquain-- Originally reviewed at Here There Be Books on November 16, 2008. --
I bought this book based solely on a recommendation made to me by a work acquaintance, and I'm so glad it worked out. Don't you feel awkward when someone recs you a book but you end up hating it? What do you do then? Pretend you like it, or be honest?
Anyway, I normally wouldn't have picked this up on my own, mostly because I tried reading The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing and hated it. I'm happy I did pick this up, though, because it was seriously good.
I thought Feed was really well-written. The world the characters live in is fascinating and scary, and I want to know more about it. We don't get much in the way of details except for what Titus knows (not much) and various bits of news inserted throughout. The whole thing was so mysterious I ended up not really caring about the characters-- I wanted to know more about their surroundings and not them. Wtf the lesions were about! And when their skin started falling off? Holy crap! And wtf was the black stuff in South America?! Seriously creepy.
There's a lot more I could get into, enough for a 10-page paper, but instead I'll just summarize my thoughts on certain important plot points in this handy list format:
1. The way the Feed people were stupid and extremely consumeristic was scary and sad, but no, I don't think we'll get to that point in our own society. I don't think that was what the book was saying either, because a) people with feeds aren't all the same amount of stupid and consumeristic (Violet's dad, for instance, though he doesn't have the same kind of feed as Violet and Titus; Titus himself learns how to express himself clearly and meaningfully), b) only a small amount of the population actually have feeds (I think 73% don't? Something like that), c) things were on the verge of changing again, partly because of the lesions and partly because the rest of the world wasn't going to tolerate the Feed society any longer. Feed, I thought, was more a "what if we continue on this route we're on now" than "OMG WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE BECAUSE WE'RE DUMB." Though it could be both, I suppose.
2. Dead seas, fake clouds, not enough air? Filet mignon farms? Funny and SCARY. SCARY SCARY SCARY.
3. Actually most things in Feed was scary, except...it was funny, too. In a black humor kind of way.
And see, while a lot of things in Feed were scary, they were scary because they were happening in that world. Not because I thought they could ever really happen in our world. It was like a horror story, where the vampires and werewolves stay safely in their own pages and don't intrude onto mine. Maybe I'm just optimistic, but I don't think we'll get to the point where we're all walking around with half our skin missing because it fell off due to a brain implant. Y'know?
At least, I certainly hope we don't get to that point....more
Technically I suppose I could have just Googled all this information instead of gettingOriginally reviewed September 16, 2010 at Here There Be Books.
Technically I suppose I could have just Googled all this information instead of getting a whole book about, especially since price fluctuations are happening even as you read this. (omg!) But I thought maybe there'd be something more useful than numbers in here and so I requested it through ILL. I was right (of course). It's a useful books in terms of figuring out where my Western money goes the farthest, but it's also useful in learning more about what there actually is to DO in those cheap countries. And reading about those countries? Made me want to go there-- and not just because they're cheap.
Bolivia, for instance, was never really a country I thought about travelling to much beyond the "tour of South America" thing I was considering a while ago. But after reading The World's Cheapest Destinations it's definitely moved up my list of "must-see places." Why? You'll just have to read the book for yourself and find out! Ha. Ha.
Anyway, it's a decent primer for finding out where the least expensive countries are, what you can do when you get there, and what the climate/society is like. Think of it like a more basic version of a country's guidebook-- it won't tell you how to get from one place to another, or what exactly to do once you get there, but it'll tell you what you can buy for under $1 (really interesting things, actually).
Note: I think the author keeps specific money things updated on his website, so price fluctuations aren't that big a deal, not like changes in a country's government/infrastructure/etc are a big deal....more
People have compared this book to the Percy Jackson series. That's like saying Sabrina Teenage Witch is comparable to Buffy The Vampire Slayer. The diPeople have compared this book to the Percy Jackson series. That's like saying Sabrina Teenage Witch is comparable to Buffy The Vampire Slayer. The difference between those two shows is that while they both have supernatural elements, they're really entirely different shows-- and so too is Juggler and Percy Jackson. Percy Jackson is an action/adventure series with an emphasis on the physical. Juggler is a journey of the soul. There's a fight scene, but it's a metaphysical fight that's more about inner turmoil than outer. Juggler moves its plot forward through the internal growth of the protagonist, not through external violent forces, and I actually found that really refreshing.
Internal growth, however, means the book has to go slowly if it wants to be successful and realistic, and so Juggler is a little molasses-like. I'm not sure how well it'll hold the attention of younger readers, but my second-best friend from middle school, who loved Tolkien and Greek classics, would have been a prime candidate, so I suppose it depends on the kid. I personally didn't mind that it was slow-- not much, anyway-- because I could see the character growth (and I LOVE character growth) and knew that the bigger plot points would resolve themselves by the end of the series. You have to be patient with this book, I guess, and with the story. But it's worth it!
For some reason Juggler kept reminding me of my teenage years, when I was into pagan stuff and read a lot about nature and the spirit and whatnot. It's not a spiritual book, not in the more usual sense of spiritual, but it does promote introspection, self-evaluation, and knowing who you are on a more...a more basic level, maybe? Something like that. And that sort of thing is the sort of thing I associate with my teen years because that's the same stuff I was reading and doing!
And I think it was really a good thing to have in a book, actually, especially when you compare Randy, who by the end knows much more about himself than he did at the beginning, and the Greek gods, who have spent so much time as other people they've forgotten who they really are.
To reiterate: it's a good book! It's slower than most YA books, and by the end not a lot is solved re:wth these Greek gods are doing in a circus with weird human names. I do wish it had been longer, if only to get a bit more plot in there. But I guess I must have been in a really good mood when I read Juggler in the Wind, because where normally I think slow plot and small developments would have annoyed me I was perfectly fine with it here.
If you'd like something a little more thoughtful and a little less dependent on fight scenes to move plot along, try Juggler in the Wind.
-- Originally reviewed at Here There Be Books on November 10, 2008. Note: this was the very first post on my blog! :D --
If The Time of Feasting was a-- Originally reviewed at Here There Be Books on November 10, 2008. Note: this was the very first post on my blog! :D --
If The Time of Feasting was a movie, it'd be somewhere in the B range. Luckily, I happen to love B movies, so I had a lot of fun reading this. There's a ton of interesting little details and action stuffed into it, so it moves fast and kept my interest 'til the end. The characters were entertaining (especially the creepy incestuous sisters, one tall and bald and the other like a demonic Shirley Temple), and the history of the nosferatu was interesting and different from other vampire books that I've read. Okay, I haven't read a lot of them but certain details threw me for a loop. (Gotta avoid those spoilers!) Besides the vampires, there's voodoo priests, fabulous descriptions of the mid-1990's social scene,and, of course, NYC. I love NYC. I've never been, but I love the whole idea of it.
One of the bigger problems I had was that I never really understood the big deal about the Feasting, mostly because it seems to never happen. The Feasting is basically the pent-up frustrations of vampires who subsist on blood bags instead of the fresh stuff, and that's what these vamps have got. Renquist, being a responsible Master, cooks up a plan to disguise their kills so they don't get hunted down and killed (again). However, when the Feasting supposedly show up, they all act like, well...vampires. They go around killing people and drinking their blood instead of draining bags. Oh my goodness! Except, oh, wait, that's what normal vampires do. When you already expect the main characters to be murderous fiends, it's really no big deal for them to be actually doing that very thing, y'know? The only vampires who actually acted like maniacs were the ones that were unstable to begin with; everyone else was practically a model citizen.
Along with B movies, I love a good antihero. Renquist is perfect: he's a killer, but he only kills people who want to die anyway. He wants to be a good vampire Master, but those pesky young vampires keep rebelling and threatening to overthrow him. So I was never actually disgusted by anything he did or said (unlike the rebellious vampires), because while Renquist is a killer he's a likable killer. Such is the irony of both vampires and antiheroes, eh? But then again, I've never read a book with a vampire both as the protagonist and as the villian, completely unrepentant. I'm not sure if it'd actually work, especially since I don't want to be lead through a plot by a person I hate and despise. Anyway.
There's three more books in the Renquist series, and hopefully all of them are as enjoyable as the first one. I'm itching to know what happens to the colony after the end of The Time of Feasting. Where do they move to? What happens with Julia, the Nazi prostitute-actress and cohort to the colony rebels? Does Renquist fall for her wiles or what? Must know! Must find out! Must read Darklost!...more
A coworker of mine is pretty obsessed with Zorro, and after a while she interested me enough to try a-- Originally reviewed at Here There Be Books. --
A coworker of mine is pretty obsessed with Zorro, and after a while she interested me enough to try and read one of the books. I'm familiar with some of the movies, and I like sword-fighting dashing young heroes who always have something witty to say, so I figured it was a pretty safe be that I'd like The Mark of Zorro.
The Mark of Zorro is the first Zorro book, and it was originally published serially. Serialized stories are almost always action-packed, exciting, and rather wordy-- think Alexandre Dumas or the Sherlock Holmes stories. Every chapter either ends on a note that moves the story forward and wants to keep you reading. In The Mark of Zorro, the chapters tended to end on a "and then something shocking and/or exciting happened!" note, which meant the book moved like lightning. I was not actually expecting to like that formula, though, so imagine how surprised I was when I found myself eagerly reading chapter after chapter like a pigeon who found a stash of seeds.
It was so exciting! I'm going to use that word a lot, but that's exactly what The Mark of Zorro is. It's exciting, and romantic, and it hardly has any of the horrible early pulp fiction problems that I hate.
It was also rather wordy in some places, like I said. That's because serial novelists got paid by the word (think Dickens), so while some parts are fantastic and energetic, other parts are just too much. I think I skimmed most of them, now that I think back on it. The first page is a real killer in too-much department, but don't let it fool you-- the chapter ends in a really great way.
About Zorro/Don Deigo-- was I not supposed to know that they were the same person? There's a big reveal/explanation at the end of the book, but, like...I already knew all the stuff that's being explained! Would people reading it for the first time and with no previous knowledge of Zorro not really have figured it out during the course of the book anyway? Hm. No idea.
Anyway, I actually really like Zorro/Diego. Diego I found funny and somewhat campy and he lightened the novel up a lot. Zorro was dashing and exciting and everything I could want in a hero, really.
His love interest, Lolita, was fine for the most part, but whenever the two of them got together there were even more exclamation marks than when they were apart, and it got quite distracting. But I loved how Zorro wooed her, and how Diego kept striking out. I didn't expect to like their romance so much, actually, since I tend to despair of any strong women existing in a pulp novel. But Lolita is quite strong, and I liked her.
The plot is good, too, with lots of those sword fights I love and lots of vengeance against bad dudes, which I also love. It ends rather abruptly, and in a way that I think meant Mr McCulley wasn't planning on writing any more Zorro novels. It was a bit surprising, that, especially since the Zorro in the movies is always taking such pains to hide his identity.
Anyway, I really, really liked The Mark of Zorro! I was pleasantly surprised, and I'm glad I read it. I'm definitely going to read some other Zorro books....more
When I was younger and untrained in the ways of manga, I'd read whatever I could get my hands on and-- Originally reviewed at Here There Be Books. --
When I was younger and untrained in the ways of manga, I'd read whatever I could get my hands on and not care about the art style or story content. Now that Ive branched out beyond shonen and shoujo (into seinen, actually), I'm much more picky, and unfortunately this manga does not make the cut.
The plot is a feasibly interesting one: king of Hell runs away to Earth, meets a angel-human hybrid, falls in love, questions his morals, etc. In reality it's melodramatic and weepy and I was frequently confused. Though I can handle angst when it's necessary and done well, here it's just piled on and then sledgehammered into a slightly recognizable shape: waif no-one loves finds someone to love her; he does, etc. It's kind of like the poor little match girl, except with demons and fashionably androgynous clothing.
So, yeah, melodramatic. Also I hated the art (everyone was so thin and stick-like, like they'd break if ever caught in a stiff wind), the characters (boring!), and the story. It seems like it's been done before, and done better, and I don't think The Demon Ororon brought anything new to the table. Also I was frequently confused with all these new story lines brought in abruptly and then abandoned like so much dirty laundry. It jumped around a lot, and yet was simultaneously boring.
For all that, it wasn't absolutely, completely terrible. I can see the attraction someone might have to it, especially people who love angel/demon romances. The art could have been quite stylish if it was more consistent and if the characters didn't all look the same. And the romance itself, once you shifted out all the dreck, was kind of sweet. If it was written in a different way, with some different art, I might have even liked it.
Oh, and though it's marketed as 13+, it's got some nudity and sexual violence in it, so, er. I'd say 15+ minimum....more
Man, thinking about having to write this review has given me (hypothetical) hives, because I adore Ch-- Originally reviewed at Here There Be Books. --
Man, thinking about having to write this review has given me (hypothetical) hives, because I adore Cherie Priest and I absolutely love her steampunkbooks and I know she'll find this review somehow and I don't want her to hate me. I put off writing a review for a while because of the (hypothetical) hives, because, you see...I'm just not enthusiastic about Bloodshot.
I was SO excited about it when she was posting updates re:plot/wordcount/etc on her blog. It sounded so cool! Drag queens and snarky vampires and secret government programs. Good stuff! Exciting stuff! And since I know Cherie Priest is an awesome writer I just knew I'd love Bloodshot. Right?
It's not that I hate Bloodshot. It's definitely way better than most of the other urban fantasies-with-vampires books I've read. It's got an interesting lead-- a paranoid ex-flapper vampire suffering from some sort of nervous condition who can nevertheless still a bunch of hard-to-steal stuff-- and and interesting plot, and there's very little romance so I didn't feel like puking for once, and all in all it sort of reminds me of an Angel/X-Files combo TV series. It's not a BAD book. It's just...not as good as I was hoping it would be.
I think I'm disappointed mainly because of two things: 1. the ending is like what happens when a soufflé collapses just as you're about to put it down on the dinner table. 2. Raylene was not as good a protagonist as the ladies in CP's other books.
The first point speaks for itself, I think. The second point needs more expanding, so: Raylene. She's an interesting lead, as I've said. I like that she wasn't shy about killing people (so rare for a vampire nowadays), and I like that she was a bit of a lecher. I like that she has issues with privacy and safety and that despite her panic attacks she can still kick ass. But what I didn't like was that she was only a vampire thief prone to panic attacks. She wasn't anything else.
With Cherie Priest's other female protagonists, you know they're more than just what they seem on the outside. In Boneshaker, for instance, Briar is more than just a worried mom. In Dreadnought, Mercy was more than just a nurse with a dead husband. They had other things going for them, they had painful histories and hopeful futures. And in their stories they both grew in some way, they both changed from how they were at the beginning of the book.
But with Raylene? I didn't see that. She stayed exactly the same as she was in the beginning and though there are hints to her past life (both pre-vampire and pre-book), it nevertheless felt like her life only began at the first page. For an urban fantasy vampire she's got some depth, but for a Cherie Priest protagonist I think she fell a bit short.
Normally I think in this instance the secondary characters could pick up the slack of the protagonist, but even they were more boring than CP's secondary characters usually are. The most interesting one only showed up for one phone conversation!
Anyway, I know Bloodshot is the start of a series and I'm still going to read the second book, if only to find out more about the government program. But I'll be way more happy when the next Clockwork Century book comes out....more
This is such a cute book. It reminds me a lot of the Pseudonymous Bosch books, A Series of Unfortunate EvenOriginally reviewed at Here There Be Books.
This is such a cute book. It reminds me a lot of the Pseudonymous Bosch books, A Series of Unfortunate Events and The Mysterious Benedict Society series-- by which I mean it's got great kid protagonists, secret-mysterious things going on, action and adventure, and fun illustrations.
I will say that I do think it fell prey to the "shove as much possible in the first book to make it easier on the subsequent books" syndrome. It started off great! Ben's brought to New York to live with his mysterious uncle while his parents go off to do something equally mysterious, and Ben has to adjust to living with an uncle he doesn't really know about. Then things go to pot. His uncle is killed, his parents are dead, and apparently he has no other family who can take him so he has to go to an orphanage. Then he has to run for his life from some Serious Baddies and their Killer Robot (awesome!).
There's a quick stop-off at an evil children's orphanage, and here's where the pacing started to falter. We spend so little time at the orphanage that it's barely a blip in Ben's life, and I don't entirely see the point of even going there except for Ben to make a new friend (who never shows up again in this book). His new friend also just so happens to know how to escape the orphanage with minimal trouble and is happy to show Ben how to do it (what?). This whole sequence moved very quickly, so quickly I was left wondering why it was even in the book at all. I'm assuming either the orphanage or his new friend will have a bigger part in the next book, but really all it did in this one was temporarily frighten Ben and show off how nasty the baddies are.
Then, a chapter or two later, Ben escapes the orphanage and the pacing gets much better. He stows away on a ship bound for England, and just so happens to run into some circus people who not only know his parents but are also ex-spies or something. They start teaching Ben the stuff he needs to know to survive the Baddies and their Killer Robot and it's a pretty cool part of the plot, actually.
After the ship Ben goes to live with the rest of the circus people, who agree to take him in and, later, help him rescue his sister, who's stuck in a girls' boarding school in Switzerland.
I really like Ben's sister. She's WONDERFUL and, to be honest, I wish she was the protagonist of the book instead of Ben. Ben's an okay character; he's gotsome pizzazz and he'll no doubt turn out to be an excellent spy or secret agent. But he's also kind of bland, and his sister was so much cooler. She and her boarding school friends have this whole system worked out to get around the Evil Nuns running their school, and they have escape routes and secret societies and it's just awesome. I may have a slight prejudice against Ben because of my deep love for boarding schools and the girls who go to them, but I won't apologize! Ahem.
Anyway, I enjoyed The Bloomswell Diaries, although I wish it had slowed down a bit instead of rushing from one plot point to another. Not that I wanted it to be SO slow that it was another Mysterious Benedict Society, just that I wish some more time had been spent on, like, everything. Especially the worldbuilding, because I'm not entirely sure what's going on with the robots and whatnot. Is it actually steampunk? Is it set in the future or the past? How did the robots come to be? What's the purpose of them besides just being cool? Are there other steampunk-y things in existence?
The Bloomswell Diaries is a good first book to a fun new kids series, and I think if you like any of the other book series I listed above you'll like this one. Just be prepared for some bumps along the way....more
I spotted 9Tail Fox a few months ago on Night Shade's website and wanted to read it ever since (mostly because of the cover). I found it on Amazon for a pittance, read it, and was disappointed. It's not a terrible book, but I didn't really enjoy reading it, either.
The things I liked were mostly in the writing and in the little parts of the story that didn't involve Sergeant Zha. I liked how there weren't any giant infodumps hurled at me; instead, small bits of information were scattered around like breadcrumbs. I had to follow them to arrive at a complete picture, and it was kind of fun. As long as I don't have to work too hard to understand a character, I don't mind doing a bit of piecing together. Sometimes it's nice learning about people one chapter at a time, instead of having it all crammed together in one or two paragraphs.
The supernatural elements were pretty sparse-- this isn't so much an urban fantasy mystery as a mystery with paranormal elements vaguely touching the edges of it. And it's not even so much a mystery as it is a story about a policeman who messed up everything in his life, including his death. (It's got so many layers in it I'm surprised it hasn't been used in one of my English classes. Aha.)
I think my biggest difficulty with this book was that I didn't like Sergeant Zha. In fact, I hated him most of the time. I think I was supposed to dislike him, though, since multiple times throughout the book characters said he was a bastard and a scoundrel, which is a pretty big clue that, y'know, he isn't a good guy. Plus he doesn't really do anything to contradict that until maybe the very end of the story.
It's a very hard thing to do, reading a book where the protagonist isn't meant to be liked. I've had better luck with that sort of thing before, but for some reason it didn't work for me here. I liked some of the other characters, like the ex-military homeless people who help Sergeant Zha out, but overall the book isn't filled with people I care about (or want to read about).
9Tail Fox is an interesting book with a good plot, and though I didn't enjoy all of it, it wasn't horrible at all. It just wasn't my thing....more
Note: There's some (very slight) spoilers in here, and I've tried to mark them when necessary. If you-- Originally reviewed at Here There Be Books. --
Note: There's some (very slight) spoilers in here, and I've tried to mark them when necessary. If you haven't read the book it might make you ready for some events in the plot, but I don't think they'd ruin the book for you (hopefully).
I tried reading this earlier in the year, but I never made it past the suspiciously boring prologue. I tried it again in June, for lack of anything else to read, and this time I managed to get past the prologue and through to the really good bits, full of adventure and intrigue and a fantastically strong female lead. Plus, Egypt in late 1800s/early 1900s! (I was never quite sure what year it was.) I'm glad I persevered past the first 10 or so pages, as The Buried Pyramid is a rather wonderful book.
My favorite bits of the book were: a) Jenny, the kick-butt female protagonist who doesn't take crap from anyone yet still manages to be somewhat historically possible. She was raised in the Wild West, knows how to use a gun, likes wearing trousers and going on adventures, and she wants to be a doctor. I loved her! She was really refreshing, especially since the male characters tended to be dunderheads in regards to certain things dealing with pretty women and treasure. Jenny's a modern woman in the guise of a Victorian lady, and without her I'm not sure I would have liked The Buried Pyramid quite as much.
b) Stephen, the eccentric Egyptologist who wears out-of-fashioned clothing and tends to ramble. (He reminds me of Daniel from Stargate, ha.) He and Jenny were a really fun set, and-- SLIGHT SPOILER here-- I thought they would have made a good couple, too.
Really, I only had two problem with The Buried Pyramid: the horrible opening sequence, and the sudden transition from historical adventure novel to WTF IS GOING ON fantasy novel. It comes near the end of the book, and though it's an interesting idea and was kind of cool, there were no solid paranormal things present in the rest of the book to back up this completely fantastical part. Honestly, it would have been better cut that part out and replace it with something else non-fantasy just so the book a) flows better and b) doesn't seem like it's two books stuck together. The ending as a whole is rather abrupt, and was a disappointment after having the rest of the book be so enjoyable.
I hope that makes sense. It might not if you haven't read the book already. Anyway, if you like adventure novels (or novels set in Egypt), and you don't mind a few bumps, you might want to try out The Buried Pyramid....more