Narrator Review: Marisa Calin is a perfect fit for Gwen. Her intonation is a great pairing with Gwen’s slThis review was first posted on Ruby's Reads.
Narrator Review: Marisa Calin is a perfect fit for Gwen. Her intonation is a great pairing with Gwen’s slightly irreverent, modern teenager narrative. However, while I do think she did a nice job, Calin’s performance doesn’t make or break the novel for me. Calin’s narrative style is enjoyable without being transcendent. I’d have been just as happy to read the physical version.
Book Review: It was conceit that led me to read Ruby Red when it came out three years ago. As you may know, I’m attracted to novels that are lucky enough to share my awesome name, whether in title or character name. I was also influenced by Jenny’s (Supernatural Snark) positive review, so much so that I ended up buying the hardcover as a birthday present for myself and was entirely, pleasantly surprised.
The Ruby Red books are lighter fare. If you’re looking for something to angst over and you love it when tragedy throws a malicious wrench in the romance, look elsewhere. But if you like romantic comedy (or you’ve just sobbed your heart out and need to give your tear ducts a break), I highly recommend this trilogy. And now that all three volumes have (finally!) been published in the states, you’re all set for a marathon! Side gripe: even though these books have been out in Germany for FOREVER, the U.S. publishers decided to dole out each volume in yearly installments. If you thought waiting for each successive Harry Potter book was hell, just imagine how much worse it would have been if you could have read books one through seven all at once if only you’d mastered the Greek language. Just saying.
What makes this series for me is the cast of characters. Of more importance to me was Gwen’s relationship with her best friend Lesley and the gargoyle/demon Xemerius. Speaking of Xemerius, I really, really wish I had a supernatural companion. (If only my cat would start talking and, you know, return my affection. I could send her out on scouting missions and she could spy on people for me! I know, I know–I should have gotten a dog.)
The relationship I was least invested in was Gwen’s with Gideon. I was rooting for them to get a happy ending, but wasn’t viscerally connected to the romance. This may have been due to Gideon’s hot-and-cold attitude towards Gwen during books one and two, but I pretty much guessed what was going on with him and didn’t get too worked up about his jerkiness. I knew there had to be a Reason and I wasn’t wrong. I’ll admit, though, that the abrupt shift from “I must push you away because I love you and this is the only way to save you” to “I love you, let’s be together” was a bit abrupt. But, like I said, it wasn’t the most important part of the novel for me so I was willing to overlook it.
Plot-wise, there weren’t any surprises in this novel. I don’t know if I’m incredibly astute or if we were meant to know, but this third installment wasn’t about revelations to the readers, but to the characters. I’ve got to give props to Kerstin Geir for making me care enough about the characters to stick around long enough to see how they’d react to information I already knew. Most of the time, when this happens, I groan and grumble and wonder how they can be so stupid that they don’t already know. I mean, come on!
Before I finish up, a few words on the time travel aspect of the Ruby Red Trilogy. I’m not generally a big fan of time travel books, but this series played the time travel just right. There are lots of rules, regulations and period-appropriate clothing. I’d like to spend five minutes in Madame Rossini’s closet. Hilariously (to me, anyway), Gwen often spends her daily time travels sleeping or studying. She has very little control over her official time travels and is ordered around without explanation. The time travel is incidental to the major conflict. It’s pretty dressing and maybe a little bit of sleight of hand and I like it that way.
Emerald Green‘s ending is at once satisfying and a little silly. Everything is wrapped up in a neat little bow. The conclusion doesn’t bear scrutiny, but I liked how happy it was. It may not be realistic, but sometimes I don’t want reality. Occasionally, I prefer to wallow in the fantasy of happily ever after. It gives me an inner glow. I can’t recommend this series highly enough for someone looking for a pick-me-up read....more
Sapphire Blue picks immediately after Ruby Red ended, and I bring this up because it’s been over a year sThis review was first posted on Ruby's Reads.
Sapphire Blue picks immediately after Ruby Red ended, and I bring this up because it’s been over a year since I read the latter. Being dumped right back into the story as though I had just come from the last page of Ruby Red was disconcerting and confusing. In other words, not a great start. While I was struggling to recall the events at the end of Ruby Red, Sapphire Blue continued full steam ahead. It was enough to make me wonder which is the worse offense: zero recapping of the events of the previous book…or too much recapping? I still don’t know, but I can tell you that neither method satisfies.
In addition to feeling like I’d been dumped in the middle of someone else’s Thanksgiving dinner, the narrator, Marisa Carlin, rubbed me the wrong way at first. In all, my initial impressions of Sapphire Blue were not favorable. Fortunately, I had the wherewithal to stick it out. My memory caught up with the story and Carlin’s vocal talents grew on me. By the end of the book, I was railing against the publishing system that is determined to put so. Much. Time between installments in a trilogy. ESPECIALLY SINCE EMERALD GREEN HAS ALREADY BEEN WRITTEN AND PUBLISHED. *Takes deep, calming breaths*
In Ruby Red, we were introduced to Gwen, and Gwen found out that she–and not her obnoxious cousin Charlotte–was the one that had inherited the time-traveling gene in her family. As a result, Gwen missed out on the extensive training that Charlotte received and no one thinks she is up to the task of being the Ruby. While I greatly enjoyed Gwen, and this book, I was sick of everyone undervaluing her all the darn time. Even more important to me than Gwen showing all these people just how wrong they are, is my need to see Gwen demand common respect from those she works with. It’s true that Gwen is ignorant of a lot of information that she needs to have as a time traveler, but that does not mean that anyone has the right to be so rude.
Which leads me into another tirade. Gwen’s love interest is Gideon. The two have intense, believable chemistry, but Gideon is a jerk. He’s among those that undervalue Gwen–which is a GINORMOUS no-no in my book of desirable hero traits. Also, he yanks her around, emotionally speaking, and flirts with Charlotte. I suspect we’re going to learn that he has “reasons” for his behavior, but he’s another one that I wish Gwen would tell off. He’s going to have lots of ‘splaining to do in book three, and even then, I suspect I’ll still want him to do some serious groveling.
So. With all those complaints, how was it possible to like this book? It just was. The premise is intriguing and there’s plenty of mystery around to distract you from sh**** side characters. Xemerius, Gwen’s pet gargoyle, is hoot, and something like the conscience on her shoulder. If your conscience is slightly rascalacious. And Gwen’s best friend Lesley–not to mention most of her family (Charlotte and her mother excluded)–are heart-warmingly supportive. Then there’s the light, humorous note that threads its way throughout the book. It reminds me a little of Helen Field’s Bridget Jones books, though decidedly less manic and not as self-depreciating. Still, it’s that comedic tendency that draws me to Gier’s writing. I surely hope she has more stories sitting on her back burner, because after Emerald Green comes out, I’ll be wanting more!...more
You know how some books read like movies? How there’s some quality to the writing that makes you think,This review was first posted on Ruby's Reads.
You know how some books read like movies? How there’s some quality to the writing that makes you think, “This book should be a movie.” The Loop is one of those books. Perhaps this is because of the action-adventure-y nature of the plot, or maybe because it’s a quick, shallow read. Either way, I came away from it feeling as though I’d experienced the story in wrong medium. Kind of like if you’ve ever read the book adaptation to a movie. And, to my shame, I’ve actually done this.
I think that the best way to sum up my feelings about The Loop is to say that I wanted more. More detail, more characterization, more relationship development, more Loops. Despite the fact that the entire plot revolves around the idea of the Loop, the idea that Ben and Maggie have been re-living the same two days over and over again, most of the book takes place during one Loop. The fun of stories about time loops (the obvious comparison being Groundhog Day) is seeing the different ways the same day (or two) can go. Only seeing two variations felt like a waste of a concept.
Additionally, while reading The Loop, I was conscious of two things. One was that the majority of books I read are written by women. The second is that I was hyper-aware of the fact that Shandy Lawson is a man. All things being equal, the gender of the author shouldn’t matter. Should being the key word. Or maybe it’s “all things being equal” that’s the key phrase. Either way, one of the measures I use for determining how “good” a book is, is how often I’m taken out of the narrative. Good books flow seamlessly, and when you lift your head from them, it’s like being pulled out of another reality. While reading The Loop, I did not experience this utter absorption.
To tie all of this in, let me explain: I’d read passages and remind myself, “This is written by a man, therefore his perceptions will obviously be different from my feminine one.” When you have to remind yourself of the differences between yourself and author, you know something isn’t working. It’s not that The Loop was bad. I enjoyed it, but in a mild way. It was like vanilla ice cream. Sweet, creamy and good, but not satisfying in the way of chocolate....more
This is a painful review for me to write. There are issues upon issues upon issues, so I'm just going to address them in bullet points:
Mary Jo Putne This is a painful review for me to write. There are issues upon issues upon issues, so I'm just going to address them in bullet points:
Mary Jo Putney, you can do so much better! I loved Thunder and Roses! In fact, the whole Fallen Angels quartet is Series Special-worthy! Is it your new audience? I feel like writing for teenagers has thrown you for a serious loop. Where's your strong characterization? Where's the compelling love story? Where's the authentic historical flavor? I want them all back! So...five teenagers from the Regency era are magically transported into the 1940s and have no problem with: Electricity Cars Revolvers Women wearing trousers and showing ankle I could not care less about Cynthia. I don't find spoiled characters interesting and, in fact, I avoid them. I'd much rather that the secondary storyline was about Elspeth, whose refusal to stop using magic and "reform" has the potential to be far more compelling. Instead, Elspeth is relegated to a cardboard cut-out with healing magic. Tory. She's simply too good to be true. She's self-sacrificing, brave, sweet, kind to Jewish people and children, long-suffering and just generally Mary Sueish. So, yeah, I'm not a fan. Allarde. Just...yawn. Now begins the real rant. While I don't pretend to be an expert on WWII, I do know that it was about more than the Nazis using the Jewish people as scapegoats. I also know that scapegoating Jews didn't occur in a German vacuum. In fact, Antisemitism was rampant in both Europe and the United States. The whole world needed someone to blame for the Depression, and the Jewish people were a convenient target. But. Antisemitism wasn't born in the 20th Century. It has a long history. And for Tory and the rest of her contemporaries (in particular, Cynthia) to show absolutely no trace of it? I don't buy it. ...more
I'm not known for my love of time travel books. I tend to dislike them (though there haveThis review was first posted on http://www.rubysreads.com.
I'm not known for my love of time travel books. I tend to dislike them (though there have been exceptions) because they often feel like an excuse for an author to have a character act modern morals while keeping the historical setting. I can't accuse Spiegler of this. She has a very specific reason for sending the main character, Addie, back to 1917 and it totally and completely makes sense given the story she crafted. The problem for me was that the story felt entirely too fragmented. It was really two stories at once and neither was resolved enough to satisfy me. In the modern day, Addie has been trying--unsuccessfully--to break into her school's cliquey drama scene. She knows she's a talented actress and, what's more--her heart and soul is given over to The Play. In contrast, her friend Whaley is directionless and keeps talking about joining the Army. When she travels intp the past, Addie finds herself in the thick of the Seattle theater world. She receives the acceptance she's been looking for. And it doesn't hurt that the theater's owner has a handsome son named Reg. Too bad HE wants to enlist, too. The parallels between Whaley and Reg are designed to explore the question of why boys are so eager to go to war. In Whaley's case, he's directionless and feels like he serves little purpose in the life that he's currently living. Reg's motivations are more complex and at the same time, simpler. He seems to think that going off to war will be a great adventure. The realities of war aren't clear to either boy but, honestly, Whaley's story is the more compelling. This may be because Whaley's situation is relatable while Reg merely comes off as a spoiled little boy rebelling against his mommy. I guess this is as good a time as any to tell you that I didn't really like Reg. There comes a moment towards the end of the book where Addie realizes what I've just said--that Reg is spoiled. I waited with baited breath to see what difference the realization would make...and was completely disappointed. Addie likes him anyway. I found Reg obnoxious, immature and arrogant. There was never any indication of a possible romance between Addie and Whaley...but I would much rather have preferred to see a relationship develop between those two than between Addie and Reg. Additionally, I was unclear about the message this book was supposed to be giving. It seemed to be saying that the reason Addie was never able to break into the drama clique at her high school was because she was destined to be a director and not an actor. It wasn't so much that the group was exclusive but that she wasn't as good an actress as she'd thought. There's never any resolution with that storyline in the present--only the past. Finally, this novel didn't feel complete to me. There were too many gaps. Where is Addie's mother? What about Whaley's parents? Why is Addie's father never around? What are Addie, Whaley and Reg going to do now? This is a book that needs a sequel. Only, I'd prefer to write it in my own head. ...more
I have to start this review with a disclaimer: I'm not much into Time Travel stories. I lovThis review was first posted on http://www.rubysreads.com.
I have to start this review with a disclaimer: I'm not much into Time Travel stories. I love historicals and I love contemporaries, but the idea of mixing the two has never appealed to me. My feeling on pirate tales is mixed, though. I read Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer and liked it okay, but didn't feel compelled to keep up with the series. I loved Celia Rees' Pirates! I hoped for a sequel but this point I've given up hope. If you're familiar with these books you'll know that they also feature female pirates. I was willing to give Steel a try because I've been thinking about reading Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Norville series and I thought it would be a good way to give her work a try. A test drive, so to speak. I'm sad to say that Steel wasn't my cup of tea, but my disclaimer is my way of pointing out that I wasn't the book's target audience. I think that fans of YA historical fiction will be able to give this book a fairer assessment than my own. That said, I'm going on with my review. It's your choice whether, after such a disclaimer, you want to read it or not. Steel opens with the main character losing a very important fencing tournament. The loss hits her where it hurts most--her self-confidence. Even when her family takes a vacation to Nassau, she isn't able to separate herself from her disappointment. One day, Jill finds a rusty sword tip in the sand. Because it has special significance for her, Jill picks it up. The sword tip is the catalyst for what happens next: Jill falls overboard during a pleasure cruise and is rescued by a group of pirates. Lucky for her, though the pirates are male, they have a female captain. Even luckier, the pirate captain (Margery Cooper) takes a fancy to her. Though bewildered by what has happened to her, Jill has no choice but to sign up as one of Cooper's pirates. And though Jill expects life as a pirate to be as violent and blood-thirsty as the legends, she finds that it's more a matter of lots of hard work, especially cleaning. Jill also meets Henry, a boy whose mother was brought over from Africa as a slave. He signed on as one of Cooper's pirates when her crew captured the boat he worked on. Henry acts as Jill's pirate mentor. He's also, ultimately, her love interest and erstwhile fencing coach. Carrie Vaughn clearly researched pirate life in the Caribbean in the 1700's. There are lots of interesting details--both historical and piratical. However, one of the things that always comes to my mind when I think of traveling to the past is personal hygiene. In particular, oral hygiene. Every time I read a Time Travel novel (which is, as I've said, not that often), I expect the time traveler to have the same issues. I don't think he/she'd be able to help it. A pirate ship strikes me as the kind of environment where the lack of modern conveniences (and ideas of cleanliness) would be sorely, sorely missed. It would be enough to turn anyone OCD. Jill adjusts to these changes fairly quickly. I suppose if you would have to, if time travel were really possible. I just find it hard to believe that Jill wouldn't have spent more time lamenting her folly in not putting her toothbrush in her pocket before she left the hotel that morning. I'm not saying that she should have spent many pages droning on about it, but a little freaking out seemed in order. The writing of Steel was good, but not particularly special. I also never really connected to Jill as a character. She did and said all the right things and was sympathetic but, again, nothing special. All the characters fell a little flat to me, even the villain. Especially Cooper, whom I wanted to get excited about but couldn't. The biggest disappointment for me was the end, though. With time travel novels, there's rarely a completely happy ending. If the character stays in the past, he or she never sees his or her family again. If he (oh, I give up) stays in the future, he leaves behind the people he met in the past. But it doesn't matter, because the conflict in Steel is primarily man v. self. It has to do with Jill moving past the past. Which is kind of funny when you put it that way. Vaughn goes out of her way to deglamorize the life of the 18th Century pirate. She also doesn't shy away from the issue of slavery. But I think that the thing that was least successful for me was all the fencing stuff. I've never fenced in my life so those scenes bored me stiff. I also got tired of all the cleaning Jill has to do. I get it: being a pirate was lots of hard work, not leaning drunkenly off the mainsail. But if I wanted to read about cleaning...well, I don't. I dragged myself to the finish line with this one, but as I said above, I'm not this book's target audience. And, sadly, I'm not in the least inspired to read the Kitty Norville books, now! ...more
When I found out that Mary Jo Putney was joining the ever-growing list of authors writing fThis review was first posted on http://www.rubysreads.com.
When I found out that Mary Jo Putney was joining the ever-growing list of authors writing for the YA adult market, I practically did a song and dance. You see, Thunder and Ashes just about tops my list of favorite romances. I haven't read much Mary Jo lately, but I was one-hundred percent behind her getting into the Teen action. Um...that came out wrong. I meant--aw, forget it. Dark Mirror begins with a group of socially influential men deciding that, while they find magic useful, they'd rather it be the province of the lower classes. The men talk, share bad experiences, and scheme to make all outcasts high-born individuals with magical abilities. I'll be frank with you. I hated this scene. It smacked of exposition. How often do men get together and plan the social ruin of an entire population of people? It reminded me of a thousand bad Regencies I've read over the years, and it was not a good note on which to start the novel. I'd have much rather read a more generalize history of how magic became socially unacceptable than have a group of skeevy old men sit around a table and spoon-feed me the exact details. The story then shifts to about two hundred years later. The heroine, Tory, has manifested her magical powers. They are a great shock to her, and she resolves to hide them so deeply that no one will ever know she has them. When hiding them doesn't work, Tory is rejected by family and friends alike, and sent to Lackland Academy, where society's elite send their children to be "cured" of magic. As a character, Tory was all over the place. Initially she wants only to cured and to return to her old life. But even while she's thinking that, she joins a secret society of students who are embracing their magical talents in the hopes of defending England against Napoleon's invasion. But before Tory even has a chance to address this dichotomy, she's whisked through a magical mirror that sends her forward through time. She ends up in WWII England, where her country is facing a different invasion--the Nazis. This element of the story totally confused me. I didn't really see why Tory and Co. had to travel to the future to learn that magic could be valuable as a tool of defense in a time of war. As I've already mentioned, Tory's England is also on the cusp of war. The time travel aspect felt like a ploy to try to get the characters into a more modern frame of thinking while ensuring that they still retained some Regency-era formality. I also didn't connect to any of the characters in the book. For one thing, there were far, far too many. Some of them were interchangeable. Jack and Nick, come to mind the most easily. Tory was a little too good to be true. She's sweet, thoughtful, giving, but stands up for herself and others. As for Allarde, I don't even particularly want to read his backstory, because he didn't do much for me. Which is a shame, as I'm a sucker for a marquis. Yum. And I totally rolled my eyes whenever he and Tory did non-verbal eye communication. Mac and Barrons did it soooo much better. Before I end this review, I have to talk about the time travel aspect of this book. I'm not a fan of time travel books. They don't tend to work for me. This time, though I was intrigued by the twist--Tory travels into the future and not the past. I wanted to see how that would work out. Only it didn't. Tory and Co. adjusted far too easily to modern life. After very little time they're accustomed to electricity, plumbing, the wireless and automobiles. The girls are wearing knee-high skirts and never speak of embarrassment. Huh, what? They come from a time when it was scandalous to let a man see your ankle. I think that, if I were transported one hundred and thirty odd years into the future, I'd be pretty freaked out. It would be more than a few days for me to adjust to technology I can't even fathom right now. I started this book with high expectations, and I'm sorry to say that it didn't live up to them. I will be honest enough to say that I saw enough of Small Review's review to know that she didn't love it, either. I promptly averted my eyes, I promise, but I want you to know that knowing that probably had some influence on my reading. Generally, I don't like to look at other people's reviews until after I write my own, for this very reason. Teen Regencies aren't exactly thick on the ground. If you like that sort of thing, please go check out Melissa Doyle's Bewitching Season. I adored it. I wasn't crazy about the sequel, but I'm looking forward to book three in the series, Magic in Season. Follow the link to read the description. No book cover yet, here's hoping!...more