I don’t usually go in for dragon stories–I have a feeling these are going to be famous last words–but I’m...moreThis review was first posted on Ruby's Reads.
I don’t usually go in for dragon stories–I have a feeling these are going to be famous last words–but I’m familiar with Shana Abe’s Drakon books. They–or, rather, Shana–have been recommended to me since I’m a fan of alpha heroes. So, when I heard that Shana Abe was going to write a young adult novel, I automatically added it to my TBR. I was particularly excited about it because I’ve had such a bad run with YA historicals and historical fantasies. I knew, from having read The Smoke Thief, that I could expect an enjoyable read.
What I did not expect was to love it. I got a third of the way through and I was already on the internet making sure it was going to be a series. Here, finally, was a novel that worked as a historical and a fantasy both, with a heroine who didn’t feel transported from the 21st Century United States. Specifically, an impoverished heroine who wasn’t about to risk her entire future by having a smart mouth, or by spouting radical opinions that hadn’t even been thought of in her era. More on this another time–Small and I have had numerous discussions about this.
I think that Lora was the first heroine that I’ve really like in a long time. She’s kinda classy. I liked that she knew when to stand up for herself and when to toe the line. I also love that, while there were two potential romantic leads, it becomes clear pretty early on, which boy is the object of Lora’s affections. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t rooting for the other guy…I totally am, and I still think there’s hope…but I liked that Lora wasn’t all, “I love him. NO! I love him.” She has a genuine connection with both of them, and I think all of the relationships in the novel will evolve naturally–just like in real life!
If I had one complaint–and it certainly wasn’t the gorgeous, detailed setting!–it was that I think Shana Abe presumed a little too much on her previous readership. Since it’s been so long since I read The Smoke Thief, I can’t really lay claim to any knowledge of the Drakon folklore, and I don’t count myself as a loyal follower. I had to double check that “Rue” was a character I’d met before (she’s the heroine of The Smoke Thief), and certain details scratched at my mind like I should have recalled them. Sadly, I didn’t. Instead of frustrating me, however, not knowing these details made me really excited about going back and reading Abe’s Drakon books. I’ve left them unfinished for far too long!
If you haven’t already read The Sweetest Dark, you should. It will satisfy you to the last page, even as it leaves you eager for more of its wonderfulness.(less)
Narrator Review: When I was first listening to The Prey, I had a hard time getting used to Sean Runnette....moreThis review was first posted on Ruby's Reads.
Narrator Review: When I was first listening to The Prey, I had a hard time getting used to Sean Runnette. His voice is a little bit too mature for a seventeen year old boy. However, by the end of the first book, I’d grown to appreciate Runnette’s nuanced narrative style. He does a fantastic job with Gene and I even appreciated the way he embodied Sissy. Without a doubt, I’ll be listening to the rest of the books in this series, rather than reading them myself.
Book Review: My tolerance level for gore is only slightly higher than my tolerance level for white chocolate (IT’S NOT CHOCOLATE!). When my roommate watches The Walking Dead, I have to go to my room, close the door, put a pillow over my head and sing “LALALALA!” at the top of my lungs so I don’t accidentally hear any zombie noises. But this book? Oh, this book? I loved it, gooey, cheesey, melting flesh and all. Okay, I gagged at those parts, but I kept listening.
Before I continue with my review, let me recap a little. At the end of The Hunt, Gene was outed as a human. It also turned out that his crush, Ashley June, was human. She sacrificed herself so Gene could get away. Well, and come back to save her later, of course. (If you get the sense that I’m not an Ashley June fan, you’re right.) Unable to save her, and needing to get away from the ravenous vampire-creatures, Gene takes off on a river voyage with the hepers beneath the dome, including Ben, Sissy and Epap.
The Prey picks up so exactly where The Hunt left off that my head was spinning, trying to remember all the details of the last book. I know that I’ve complained about authors recapping in series books, but a little easing back into the world is, I think, necessary. No matter. I was soon swept up in the action and I never looked back. Andrew Fukuda is a master at creating suspense. It was almost unsafe to read The Prey while driving because I was gripping the steering wheel so tightly. I don’t think I ever breathed easy, not even when Gene, Sissy and Co. finally arrived in “the land of milk and honey, fruit and sunshine.”
The Prey isn’t without flaws. Gene, the main character, often irritated me. He’s still learning how to put others first, and he’s lucky that he’s got Sissy there to show him how it’s done. (Seriously. She’s awesome like that.) He’s also slow to understand what’s going on in the human village, even if he senses that something is off from the very beginning. The village scenario is pretty standard to dystopians, but I think Fukuda does a pretty good job of explaining how it came to be. He manages to humanize the elders (as much as that’s possible), but disappointingly doesn’t do the same for the village girls. I wanted have a better understanding of why they obeyed the elders. Or at least one that confirmed my suppositions. And I’m pretty sick of the he’s dead/he’s not dead back and forth about Gene’s dad.
But, really, the flaws just made The Prey that much more awesome. Or, rather, they made me realize how much I good the book really was. The Prey was completely engrossing. The ending left me hitting my steering wheel in frustration because it doesn’t just end on a cliffhanger, it ends on one that makes you go, “WHAT?! HE COULDN’T HAVE ENDED THE BOOK THIRTY SECONDS LATER?!?!” Basically, the most successful cliffhanger in the history of cliffhangers. I must have book three. I simply must.(less)
Full disclosure: This is the second review I’ve done of this book. The first one got lost in the mis...moreThis review was originally posted on Ruby's Reads.
Full disclosure: This is the second review I’ve done of this book. The first one got lost in the mists of the interwebs, never to be seen again. And while I might feel better after some wailing and raising of my fists to the sky, I shan’t subject you to any more than I already did on Twitter. The worst part is, I was really happy with the first review. I’ll try to recreate it, but you probably already know that feeling doesn’t usually come that second time.
To sum up my feelings about Escape Theory in a sentence: I adored it. As I look over the books that I’ve read in 2013 (so far), this has been my favorite. The best part? It lived up to my enormously high expectations. In retrospect, there wasn’t really any reason for me to have those high expectations. SoHo Teen is a new imprint, and this is Froley’s debut. I’ve no more read her short story in Who Done It than I’ve watched Privileged. Luckily, whatever smidgen of clairvoyance I possess proved to be right. This time.
I suppose it’s possible that Escape Theory was the right book at the right time but, honestly, I believe it was more than that. Froley’s writing was intense and engaging. She pulled me not just into the mystery, but into the Keaton School community. I felt I was inhabiting the world. So much so that it was with great surprise that I periodically realized the book was written in the third person. Escape Theory was the kind of story that was disorienting to disengage from. Pulling myself away was like trying to escape from a vat of saltwater taffy; a sticky, messy process that left a million small bits behind.
Escape Theory‘s strength comes from Froley’s writing, true, but it also reflected the connection I felt to the main character. Devon’s internal dialogue reminded me a lot of my teenage self, even down to the moments when I wanted to shake her and tell her to get off her high horse. I did think, however, that Froley’s expended so much energy on developing Devon (and the very much dead Hutch) that the other characters felt a little one-dimensional. Even this worked, though, because the book is told from Devon’s point of view, and she has a tendency to remain clinically detached. Or to try to, anyway. Hopefully the other characters will be expanded upon in further Keaton School novels. I also hope that future stories are also from Devon’s perspective.
If I’m honest, the main mystery didn’t interest me very much. What was far more fascinating was the exploration of boarding school life and the mystery of Hutch himself. Not how or why he died, but why he lived the way he did, and why he and Devon had such a strong connection based on one night spent together. Speaking of Hutch, he doesn’t stand up to my adult standards (he dealt drugs, but that’s okay because he regulated how much each person got), but I bet the teenage me would have been as in love with him as the rest of Keaton.
I think Escape Theory‘s greatest strength comes from Froley’s ability to inhabit the teenage world. I read a lot of YA, but I don’t read it looking for an authentic teenage voice. In fact, a lot of YA (Dystopians, in particular) features teens having to mature because of the circumstances, thereby making us forget how truly young sixteen is. Froley doesn’t let us forget it, and this is most evident in Devon’s role as a peer counselor. Training or no, Devon’s in over her head when she starts counseling the best friends that Hutch leaves behind. We know she’ll be a good therapist someday, just not yet.
I loved this book, flaws and all. Lack of romance and all (gasp!). I’ve already recommended it to my brother and I have no hesitation in recommending it to my readers as well. And when you’ve finished the last page, come back here to let me know your thoughts!(less)
Narrator Review: Right out of the gate, Sean Runnette did not strike me as the right narrator for The Hunt. For one thing, his voice was far too gravely and deep to suggest "teenage boy." For another, it's slightly pedantic. Runnette won me over as I got to know Gene a little better--Gene is methodical and intensely cerebral--and these are things that are communicated through the quality of the narration. On the other hand, I've never met a male narrator who can voice a female character to my satisfaction, and Runnette is no exception. Review Review: I am the world's biggest wimp. I hate gore, and I will never, ever see another boxing movie for as long as I live. The scene in the body switch episode of Glee where Tina conks her head on the bottom of a fountain nearly ruined the episode for me. I bring up my squeamishness because The Hunt is extremely graphic in terms of grossness, the eating of humans and general gore. And, yet, despite the scene where a vampire essentially turns into gooey cheese (I just vomited a little), I loved this book. I had issues with 90% of the characters, but it made me think, and it stuck with me. To me, that is the mark of seriously bada** writing. The most interesting question that The Hunt brings up for me is what it means to be human. Gene, the narrator, has only survived amongst these vampire-zombies by completely subverting his humanity. And while it's saved him, it's also killed him. His is a character that I was on the verge of disliking, even to the very last word. Gene flirts with being irredeemable and it's that, more than the threat of his being discovered, that kept me on the edge of my seat. I can't really talk about the rest of the characters because doing so would be spoilery, but I want to touch on what I said about disliking 90% of the characters. The characters I was rooting for the most were the ones the least seen. Sissy totally kicked butt and, of course, I'm a sucker for kids. They better live, do you hear me Andrew Fukuda? Fortunately, I'm fairly certain we'll be seeing a lot more of them in the next book. Another thing that I enjoyed about The Hunt was its sheer bizarreness. Fukuda must have had a lot of fun coming up with the whole armpit/elbow make-out scene. After I read that part, I hurried over to Small's blog because I needed to talk to her about it, pronto. There are plenty of bits from the world-building that will make you go, Wait, WHAT?! And then there's the wrist-scratching. Finally, there were definitely times when suspension of disbelief was required. When Gene gets chosen for the Heper Hunt, it means leaving behind all the tools of his deception. The vampire-zombies don't sweat, bathe, have hair, require water and, apparently have perfectly groomed fingernails. Fukuda makes a big deal about all the rules Gene's father taught him to survive. Some of the problems are addressed--the need for water being one of them. But others--the lack of deodorant, how he got a razor, etc.--required the readers to look the other way. Not to mention the sheer unbelievability of being in control of yourself at all times. Humans just aren't made that way. Or maybe I just mean that I'm just not made that way. Who knows. I highly recommend The Hunt for anyone interested in the Paranormal and Dystopian genres. In fact, I recommend it to almost anyone, period. It's insanely gripping, thought-provoking and exciting. The only problem? The sequel isn't even listed on Goodreads yet.(less)
I loved this book! I knew I would because--hello? Kelley Armstrong? I haven't read anything by Melissa Marr...but she's got to be talented if KA's wil...moreI loved this book! I knew I would because--hello? Kelley Armstrong? I haven't read anything by Melissa Marr...but she's got to be talented if KA's willing to work with her.
So, yes, it's middle grade, which I normally don't read. I won a copy via Shelf Awareness and I'm actually sorry I did because the ARC comes without the illustrations. I think my students would really like this one (though the reading level is higher than my students'), as it echoes the Percy Jackson books in all the Good Ways. It lacks, perhaps, the humor of Rick Riordan's writing (my students LOVE his chapter titles), but has more than enough to satisfy in terms of adventure and mythological creatures. There's an intriguing cast of characters (Matt's probably my favorite), and I'm more than happy to follow them on their journey(s). (less)
It's no secret that I loved this book. The male lead--Jacián--was, after all, My Book Boyfriend this week. However. Even the hottest male lead can't carry a book all by himself. Though I'd be curious to know if anyone disagrees with me on that point. My enjoyment of this book came as a surprise to me. I'm generally wary of main characters who suffer from mental illness, and Cryer's Cross helped me to figure out why. For Kendall, her OCD is a integral part of her character, but it's not the whole of it. Compared to, Monk, whose character was entirely driven by his disorder, Kendall is practically normal. Of course, as Kendall herself states, OCD is different for everyone, and she's lucky that she's not a compulsive handwasher, like some. Kendall's OCD is an important part of the story, and of her character development. At times it really sucks--it inhibits and restricts her life in ways she can't control--it doesn't mean that she doesn't have room left in her for others interests or emotions. Obviously, since there's a Jacián. Yum. The other thing I really admired about this book was the tense it was written in. I generally prefer first person narrative, and McMann uses third. I think she accomplished the immediacy, the connection that I enjoy with first person by writing in the present tense. It's incredibly different to write as though you're following events as it happens--although maybe that's just me, I don't know--and I was very impressed with the way that McMann pulled it off. It's also completely the right choice for this book. Finally, a word for Cryer's Cross, the town. This is the second book I've read this year that has put real meaning to the words "small town." I don't know if I'd want to live in such a small community, but I definitely love reading about them. The world is so big these days, it's nice to visit a place where everyone knows everyone else, where they have big, town-wide barbecues and form search parties for missing people. If you've recently read The Gathering and are in serious withdrawals, I highly recommend this book. It's a wonderful example of what I love about Rural Fantasy. (less)
Chloe Neill continues to amaze me with this awesome series. She does a fantastic job of balancing characterization with plot and that oh-so-necessary smidge of romance. There are times, I admit, when I think Merit verges into too-wonderful-to-be-true territory, but she always redeems herself with some faux-pas or the other. I have to confess that, though I find Merit to be a wonderful narrator, what I really love is Neill's ability to build a supporting cast of male characters who are, to a man, fantastic. This is totally a universe I wish I could inhabit. Between geeky-but-adorable Jeff, Ethan (who needs no explanation), and my personal fave, Alpha shifter Gabriel (suh-woon), I'm ready to up and move to Chicago. Hard Bitten is a fantastic installment in an awesome series. With each volume, Neill expands on Merit's world, from personal details of her past, to the vampire bureaucracy of her future. I feel like Neill has a definite plan in mind, which I appreciate. Too often, I find that series that I loved in the beginning begin to fizzle out, become meandering and scattered. This is, of course, only the fourth volume in this series, and Neill herself has said she doesn't know how many books there will ultimately be. I have to confess: I'd rather see the end of Merit and Ethan's story than to have things wander all over the place, but to be honest, I have high hopes that Neill's going to make the entire series a keeper. If I had one complaint about this book, it's that it was Mallory-lite. It's not that I love Mal all that much--although I do think she's great--it's that I really appreciate when Neill focuses on their best-friend-ship. It's nice to see that Merit gets along so well with Lindsay (who I totally want as my BFF), but the Mal-and-Merit-are-family wasn't as omnipresent as I'd have liked to see. It takes a backseat to the action in this book. Plot-wise, I'm not sure I can even begin to explain how many threads Neill is playing with. She manages to touch on a little bit of everything: the delicate situation between Merit and Ethan, the GP, the shifters coming out, Celina still on the loose, that creepy, lecherous Mayor Tate, Morgan's unresolved feelings...everything gets a little airtime. And it all weaves together to formulate a shocker of an ending. It's enough to send readers clamoring and frothing at the mouth to get their hands on Drink Deep. About a million years ago, Jenny from Supernatural Snark began gently to prepare me for the end of this book. Nonetheless, when I finished it, I threw the book aside and raced to my computer in order to type this email: No, no, no, no and also: NO! Long story short: be forewarned. Hard Bitten is doubtless going to send you off into a similar tailspin. If you've already read the book and you want to talk about it--or if you've already read it and want to talk about it--by all means, drop me a line. I'll be chewing over the ending for a couple of days. Weeks, even.(less)
The description of this book is kind of misleading, especially as regards Kiara's person...moreThis review was first published on http:/www.rubysreads.com.
The description of this book is kind of misleading, especially as regards Kiara's personality. She is certainly not intimidated by Carlos, and at no time does Carlos think that Kiara thinks she's too good for him. In fact, Carlos begins the novel thinking that Kiara--with her shapeless clothing--isn't his type. Also, it's not that Carlos is determined to carve out a life for himself, it's that he's as trapped by gang culture as Alex was before him. Carlos is also determined not to get close to anyone. He's derisive of Alex and Brittany's relationship and pushes people away any which way he can. He even has a hard time accepting help from his brother. You wouldn't think it would be possible, but I loved this book more than I loved Perfect Chemistry. Carlos easily escapes the fate of middle siblings everywhere. I liked Alex--but I looove Carlos. He's got the kind of snarky sense of humor that I love in a guy. He's pretty and makes jokes about it--I love it when guys do that. Sure, Carlos has emotional baggage (he's a Fuentes), but that's just part of his appeal. His romantic counterpart, Kiara, I definitely liked better than Brittany. She's not popular or perfect. She's outdoorsy and athletic and has a good relationship with her parents. But though she's interested in certain "unfeminine" things (fixing cars, rock climbing), she's also self-aware enough to want the things most girls want: a boyfriend, and a date to the Homecoming dance. When someone frames Carlos by putting some pot in his locker on search day, he finds himself living with Kiara's family. It's entirely different from anything he's ever known. It's normal--and Carlos doesn't know normal. Despite himself, though, he meshes with Kiara's family. This was the most touching part of the story for me. I loved the moments Carlos spent with Kiara's little brother. And Carlos' internal reflections on her father were both funny and heart-wrenching. This isn't just a book about Carlos finding love with Kiara--it's about him finding a family. You'd think that odd given the fact that he has two brothers and a mother, but it's not. Simone Elkeles has a gift for creating teen romances that feel as though they're going to last. Most of the time, when I read a teen book, I assume the happily ever after has a shelf-life that's longer than most high school relationships, but I don't generally picture the couple at the alter. They're so young! But I buy it with Alex and Brittany and Carlos and Kiara. I buy it for Alex and Brittany because they're each others' support system, each others' family. And I buy Kiara and Carlos because Carlos becomes part of her entire family before the two even become a couple. That said, I could still do without the epilogues. I don't need 'em. Now that I'm finished with Rules of Attraction, I'm looking forward to Chain Reaction, though my anticipation isn't what it might be. I love that Carlos and Alex were bad boys, and it makes me less interested in Luis to learn that he's not. I will read it, however, simply because I know it means reconnecting with Alex, Brittany, Kiara and Carlos. In the meantime, I'd love some recommendations for some YA romance. Hook me up, guys! (less)
I discovered the Mercy Thompson series in 2010, after Silver Borne had been released in hardcover. This meant that I was able to devour books one through five in quick succession. And I mean quick. I've loved Mercy since the moment I met her. I'd doubted I would because the cover...well, it doesn't really capture the Mercy of the books. I've read on Briggs' website that the cover art is a glamorization of Mercy, that despite her tattoos, she's more girl-next-door than biker chick. It's true. Cover Mercy wears stuff that practical, down to earth Mercy wouldn't be caught dead in. Take the cover of River Marked. I can say for absolutely certainty that the likelihood of Mercy wearing a tube top and a fringed vest is nil. As a mechanic, she would object to the impracticality of a top that could slide down at inconvenient moments and the fringe would certainly get caught while she was under the hood of a car. Still, the covers evoke the story--the cave paintings are not accidental, and neither are the feather earrings or the vest. They're there because this is the book in which we finally get to explore Mercy's Native American heritage, and how she came to be born with the ability to shift into a coyote. River Marked follows Mercy and Adam on their honeymoon to Columbia Gorge. They have a borrowed souped-up trailer and a posh campground all to themselves. I'll spare you the details of their wedding and let you enjoy that for yourself. Mercy and Adam only have a few blissful days, however, before the usual kind of trouble finds them. First Mercy sees the ghost of her father performing a native dance. Then, in the middle of the night, she and Adam rescue a Native American man from the river. But it's not a simple accident--the man and his sister were attacked by a river monster that no longer lies dormant. It has been awakened, and awake, it is hungry, and its mark compels people to bring it more food. River Marked deals with Mercy and her heritage, and a supernatural creature. There are also appearances by the Native American gods, and other walkers. But the heart of this story is Mercy and Adam working out the kinks of their relationship. Adam is Alpha. He can't help it. It's his nature to be protective, even though he realizes that Mercy needs autonomy. She needs to make choices for herself and she needs to take risks if she deems them worth their outcome. I think she also wants Adam to understand that she can't sit back and let him take all the risks, either. The fact that the monster in this story lives in water--a sphere where werewolves are useless--means that Mercy has to face the danger this time. But Mercy also understands that, as a werewolf, there are things that Adam needs, too, and that possession is a two-way street. He's hers as much as she's his. That's the only way it can work. Marriage doesn't miraculously fix Mercy and Adam's relationship. It would be completely unbelievable if it did, and all too often, that's the message Romance novels project when the happily ever after ends with a wedding. I'm looking forward to the kinks and curves this relationship. It's not as fun as the journey to bring them together, but it's still wonderful. But. Yes, there's always a but, isn't there? I was disappointed that, because this story takes during Mercy and Adam's honeymoon, we didn't get to see much of the other characters. We get to see Warren, Kyle, Darryl and Jessie very, very briefly. We're used to brief glimpses of Bran (who exerts his usual mesmerizing effect on everyone), but I can't wait to see what it's going to be like now that Mercy is a member of the pack. The issues of pack politics are going to be deliciously delicious. I'm also really looking forward to seeing more of Jessie and Mercy's relationship. I can see that they're going to have lots of fun at Adam's expense, and that Jessie is going to have plenty of fun at Mercy and Adam's expense, too. I'm also hoping for an eventual meeting with the ex-wife. I was also frustrated by the ending. Mercy's medical bills must be astronomical. Does she have to finish each installment with serious injury? All those broken bones are going to come back to haunt her in old age. Over all, however, I loved this book. I was enthralled by the appearance of Coyote, of all the Native American gods. I'm now ready to begin the interminably long wait for book seven. (less)
Originally posted on http://rubysreads.com[return][return]I loved this book. It was that rare thing� a book picked up at random, purchased on impulse...moreOriginally posted on http://rubysreads.com[return][return]I loved this book. It was that rare thing� a book picked up at random, purchased on impulse and enjoyed with pleasant surprise. I was attracted to the cover initially, but the description on the back of the book convinced me I� d found a winner.[return][return]I thought, Yes! A book to satisfy my passions for Steampunk and romance. I brought the book home and quickly discovered that people had started posting about in on the AAR boards already, voicing positive opinions. I got even more excited and impatient to start it. It was worth the wait.[return][return]Since the description from Amazon pretty much tells you the plot-line, I� ll only add a few things: This story encompasses Emily and Stanton� s race across the United States, from California to New York. The enchanted artifact that the blurb mentions is more than simply in Emily� s possession� it� s embedded in her hand and cannot be removed. The artifact, furthermore, nullifies any magic Emily tries to perform.[return][return]Hobson is a skilled world-builder. Comparisons are supposed to be odious� but I was reminded of the world of Harry Potter. Not that the two books are similar, but in that Hobson adds details about her magical world that make the book very fun. This was one of the things I liked best about the J.K. Rowling books, too. I also liked that the use of magic was cyclical and that as more humans began to demand more magic, things got out of balance and consequences ensued. Sound familiar? Could this be a metaphor for, I don� t know, the world� s dependency on oil? At the very least, Hobson makes it clear that magic, in her world, does not come free. It� s a system and therefor, by definition, interdependent.[return][return]The other wonderful thing about this book was the characters. Emily does not exactly start the book as the best character ever, but she� s refreshingly strong-minded and quick-thinking. She learns from her mistakes and sets out to correct them. She holds her own against the horrifyingly named Deadnought Stanton and most other antagonists she comes up against. She does not meekly follow Stanton across the country. Even better, Emily has lived in her small California hometown of Lost Pine her whole life. She is learning about Hobson� s magical world as we are� and this saves us from a lot of exposition. If there� s something she doesn� t understand, Emily demands enlightenment and gets it, for herself and the readers. Emily was a great heroine and I couldn� t help but feel that it� s too bad she� s fictional.[return][return]Emily� s counterpart in The Native Star was the before mentioned Dreadnought Stanton. As the novel starts, Emily and Stanton have already met. She� s the backwoods witch and he� s the warlock from the city. Their relationship is initially antagonistic; Stanton is arrogant, condescending and rude. So, of course, I loved him immediately. I already posted my favorite excerpt from Stanton, but it� s so great it bears repeating:[return][return](from page 43)[return][return] Stanton leaned back in his chair and assumed an infuriatingly pedantic air. � Zombies are soulless creatures, and being soulless has been empirically proven to result in an unpleasant disposition.� [return][return]and this, from page 70[return][return] � We should make good time today.� Stanton� s pleased tone suggested that making good time was a virtue right up there with Justice, Courage, Wisdom and Moderation.[return][return]I lurved Stanton, right along with Emily. I don� t think that� s giving too much away� it says as much on the back page. He� s a Darcy-like hero. Intelligent, haughty, impatient, brave, tortured, powerful, and unintentionally hilarious. Although, that doesn� t exactly describe Darcy. Well, they have a few things in common.[return][return]As for the plot, I thought it was great fun. I� m not usually one for travel stories, but I thought this one went well. I also have to admit that I enjoyed the smidgen of uncertainty that I felt about whether or not there would be a happy ending. I knew that, this not being a Paranormal Romance, it was possible that Awful Things Could Happen on the last page. It gave the book an added element of deliciousness. And I wasn� t wrong� the end is enough to satisfy my need for romance, but it� s not exactly a happily ever after.[return][return]I also liked delving into an magical, historical America. The only other book I� ve read like that is The Thirteenth Child by Patricia Wrede. The Native Star does it better� and it� s for grown-ups.[return][return]I� ll cap off this review with a piece of good news: Hobson has written a sequel called The Hidden Goddess. It� s due out in May 2011. Here� s the description from the author� s website. I don� t think is contains any spoilers for the first book, but continue with caution anyway.[return][return] Being engaged to a socially-prominent warlock in 19th century New York can be daunting� especially if you� re a witch from a small town in California who� s never sat at a dinner table with more than one fork.[return][return] A month has passed since the adventures that brought Emily Edwards from Lost Pine to New York City, but navigating New York magical society is as taxing and treacherous as anything she� s faced so far. Emily� s future mother-in-law is a sociopathic socialite who is not at all pleased with her only son� s choice of a bride. Dreadnought Stanton� Emily� s fiance� has a dark past which has by no means given up all its secrets. And Emily� s own past may hold answers that a shadowy group of Russian scientists will give anything to possess.[return][return] Emily will have to brave all these challenges� not to mention an ancient sect of Aztec blood-sorcerers bent on plunging the world into apocalypse� if she and Dreadnought are to have any hope of living happily ever after.[return][return]The fact that this was the first book in what might be a series takes care of my only squabbles with the book. In the beginning, Emily is all about her Pap� the man who raised her and taught her magic. But there is little to no mention of him at the end of the book, which seems odd given that Emily will most likely not be returning to live in Lost Pine. Her devotion to her Pap appears to just slide away, forgotten. The other item that� s never resolved is the mystery of Emily� s heritage. Who is her mother? Where did she come from? What is her connection to the Sons of the Earth? Squeefully, a sequel gives Hobson plenty of time to address these conundrums in the next book.[return][return]I really, truly, hope you pick up The Native Star. It� s great for readers of historical fantasy, especially fans of Steampunk, though I should warn you that this is Steampunk-light. By which I mean, Hobson� s world-building focus is more on the magical element of her world than on the Steampunk aspect.(less)
I was vastly relieved, when I finally got home and cracked this baby open, to know that all my anticipation was going to pay off. I've mentioned that this is my first Meljean Brook. It won't be my last. She totally rocks. I was complaining last week about there not being authors like Kresley Cole around--and I think I've found someone I can admire just as much. Wheeee!
The Iron Duke is a Steampunk Romance--a category I'm very much hoping we'll see more of in the future. According to the back cover, it takes place in the Victorian Age, but in the book, Queen Victoria's son, Edward VII has come to the throne. At least, I presume it is Victoria's son Edward and not another one. At any rate, that places the time-line some after 1901--and presumably later--as the revolution that is so oft talked of in the novel occurred more than nine years ago. I'm assuming, furthermore, that the succession occurred in Brook's world as it did in ours. The England of The Iron Duke is vastly, phenomenally, different from the England that we know from history. The major source of the difference is the two-hundred year oppression by the Horde that Brook's England is still recovering from. The Horde managed to oppress the people of England by hiding "nanoagents" in the tea and sugar that was imported into the country. Once the nanoagents were activated, the Horde was able to make the English people act as they wished. One particularly heinous tradition of the Horde was to cause a sexual frenzy among all those old enough. The heroine of The Iron Duke is the product of such a frenzy. Mina's father was a man from the Horde. Her features bear witness to this, which makes her the target for a great deal of prejudice.
The Iron Duke of the title is revered by the entire nation of England for destroying the tower that the Horde used to control them. Mina and the duke meet when a man is dropped on his front steps. In her capacity as a Detective Inspector, Mina goes to investigate the death. Things turn out to be more complicated than either of them realize and the consequences a great deal bigger. The investigation sends the duke and Mina on an adventure that is both harrowing and, for lack of a better term, intimacy-inducing.
Mina and the duke are both tortured charcacters. But Brooks has created a world--and in particular, an England--where virtually everyone is tortured. Mina is tortured by the prejudice that she experiences, by the gossip that surrounds her family, by the poverty they endure, by her memories of being controlled by the Horde. But she's also a strong woman. As a result of the Horde's oppression, this is isn't post-Victorian England. As Mina puts it, they've all been compromised by the Horde. This is, in a way, liberating for women. They don't have to worry about protecting their virtue--it's already been taken from them. This is reflected in many things: Mina wears pants and she has a man's job. Her sensibilities are far from conservative or prudish. This was a strange dichotomy for me. I was torn between the feeling that her thoughts and language were too modern to feel at all historic and reminding myself that Brooks was painting an England entirely unlike the England of our world. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that it was entirely possible that such oppression could easily make people think and behave as the characters in The Iron Duke do. Besides, Brook's England isn't entirely changed. It is still very class-conscious. There's a great deal of British nationalism. So it's familiar and not familiar at the same time.
The eponymous duke (whose given name is Rhys Traehearn) is as intriguing a character as Mina. His past is just as tortured as Mina's. He was oppressed just as she was--but not because of nanoagents. He's not a gentleman, though he has his own code of honor. I basically loved him. I'm sorry that Mina got to him first. Only, the truth is, they're perfect for each other. More importantly, they save each other. Life would be bleak for them both if they had never met.
I can't say enough about this novel. I loved it that much. But, this time, I felt that my appreciation didn't just come from storylines or characters that fed into my particular weaknesses. Brooks created a world that is both fascinating and horrifying, at turns. There are zombies all over France, for goodness sake. It's the characters that make it for me. Even the secondary characters--even the characters who make three-sentence appearances felt real to me. I can't wait to read the next novel of the Iron Seas. For now, I'm going to have to track down a copy of Burning Up, in which Brook introduced this world.
As much as I loved this novel, I did have two niggles. One was the overfrequent use of the word "shag". Every time a character used it, it pulled me out of the story. It didn't feel right, especially to the period. I looked up the etymology and discovered that it was used in the 19th Century but was considered very vulgar. At first, I thought, okay, guess I'll have to get over that one. After all, the duke uses far more, er, graphic words. But I find that I can't, really, because it pulled me out of the novel so much. For that reason alone, I can't ignore that Brook's use of it didn't work for me. My other niggle was that I was confused about the Horde. Who were they? Where did they come from? What was their motivation? When I first read the blurb about The Iron Duke, I thought they must be vampires. They're clearly not, but I don't have anything to replace the theory with. This lack was especially significant because Mina was half Horde and the not knowing affected my understanding of her character.
Before I sign off, I want to mention the Steampunk aspect of this book. It definitely isn't Steampunk-light. Contraptions abound in this novel--both ingenious and disturbing. It's technology that is both wondrous and frightening. I loved it and I think you will too. (less)
I think I'm in love. I fall for Kresley Cole's Lykae heroes every time. I love that they yearn to find life-mates. I love that they're always tall, gorgeous male specimens. I love their protective streak and their single-minded "She will be mine"-ness. In fact, like Lucia, I have a thing for jealous alpha males. Sigh.
But, um, I'm not sure how to say this...Well...I hate the way they talk. Because all Lykae seem to come from Scotland, they all speak with a thick brogue. Which means that when they're talking to one another, the dialogue reads like this:
"I need to follow Lousha."
"Aye, o' course you must go after her. But maybe you could leave after my wedding?"
"I canna." Garreth took a swig. "No' unless you need me. To help you...acclimate."
Just, FYI, I deleted some of the extraneous internal dialogue from this passage. Anyway, I don't mind the "wees" and the "lasses" so much as the dropped consonants. Every time I see them, I want to shout, "It's not, you idiot!" And the "ayes". God save me from the "ayes". But that's just nitpicky niggly stuff and I can mostly ignore it. Because Kresley Cole is wonderful.
Pleasure of a Dark Prince is the seventh book in the Immortals After Dark series. I have to confess that I have not read all of them. This is mostly because I started the second book (No Rest for the Wicked) and was almost immediately bored by Sebastian and Kaderin's story. The result was that I did not finish that book, but went straight to Bowen's (Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night). I keep telling myself to try another book with a vampire hero, that maybe Sebastian was an aberration, but I haven't yet. Am I wrong? Let me know.
Pleasure of a Dark Prince has the same time line as A Hunger Like No Other, but it tells the events of Emma and Lachlain's story from the perspective of Lucia (Emma's aunt) and Garreth (Lachlain's brother). When Pleasure of a Dark Prince begins, everyone who is familiar with the series knows what's going to happen. Garreth will recognize Lucia as his mate and she will disappear. What we get to learn this time is why Lucia runs away, why she refuses to become Garreth's mate.
I liked that Lucia's reasons for rejected Garreth are layered, even though they are based on one simple fact. If she sleeps with Garreth, she will lose her ability as an unparalleled archer. It is her skill as an archer that is supposed to save her from a long-ago enemy. But it's more than that; being Lucia the Archer has been Lucia's identity for so long that she fears that she'll be nothing without it. And being Garreth's mate is not a substitute she is willing to accept.
So, to explain a little of the plot: Long ago, Lucia made a vow of chastity to a goddess in exchange for her extraordinary ability with a bow and arrow. When Garreth comes along, he is the first male to challenge that vow. The two are instantaneously attracted to one another. For Garreth, that means one thing only: he has to claim Lucia and mark her as his own and he has to do it yesterday. It drives him crazy every time she denies him. He can't understand how she can be attracted to him and still say "no." This is the set-up for the first part of the novel: Garreth talks big about seducing Lucia and Lucia talks big about not wanting him.
Finally, with the help of Nucking Futs Nix (a recurring character who will [yea!] someday have her own novel), Garreth tracks Lucia down as she's boarded a boat for the far reaches of the Amazon Basin. Lucia is forced to accept Garreth's help because it turns out he's the only person ever to return from her ultimate destination (and live). Lucia lets Garreth know a part of the secret she's keeping, but not everything. She knows that if she tells Garreth everything, he will take control out of her hands and solve the problem for her. But the secret that Lucia's keeping is big and she knows that hers is a task that no one else can complete.
One of the things that I love most about Kresley Cole's books is that, while her heroes are alpha males, her heroines are not cowering females. They are strong, opinionated, funny and smart. They don't let their men walk all over them. Though Lucia likes that Garreth has an over-protective streak, that doesn't mean she is willing to let him take control of her life or fight her battles for her. It's heroines like Cole's that make the alpha male really work.
I did love this book. It didn't give me the same delicious afterglow as A Hunger Like No Other, but I did look forward to getting back to reading it and I was always reluctant to put it down. There was one thing that kept Pleasure of a Dark Prince from 6 Point Status, however. That is, I felt that Lucia was able to get out of her deal with Skathi (the goddess) much too easily. I was too pat, too easy. I confess I was disappointed. I thought Cole's solution would be more clever than it was.
I should add that Kresley Cole did really setting this particular fan up for wanting to read the next books in the series. I can't wait to see what Lothaire is up to. And what the deal is with Regin and Carrow. Also, it was nice to catch up with old characters. And, yea!, a baby for Lachlain and Emma (maybe).
I want to end this post with a question. Does anyone know of any other books featuring Valkyrie? The only other place I've seen them show up is in Carrie Jones' Captivate. I'd like to see some other authors interpretations of this mythical group, so please, please let me know if you can make any recommendations. (less)
How do I love A Hunger Like No Other? Let me count the ways. One, Lachlain. Two, Emma. Three, Nix. Four, Bowen. Five, Lachlain. Six, Nix. Sorry, couldn’t resist. This was my second time reading the first book in the Immortals After Dark Series. I read it for the first time a few months ago, which makes me I’m a recent convert. I’d heard about Kresley Cole and seen her name mentioned many times as a suggested Paranormal Romance author I should try. I think I’ve mentioned that the cover really turned me off. And now I come to think of it, it’s not very accurate. Yes, Emma has long, fair hair, but it’s curly. And the cover kind of makes it look like Lachlain is the vampire. I mean, he’s all pale and looks like he’s very interested in biting Emma’s neck. Also, Emma reflects on Lachlain’s tan skin more than once. And there’s the all-black ensemble. But, points for Emma’s nails being polished! And the gold necklace.
Why did I reread this book? Well, it all started with Pleasure of a Dark Prince. If you’ll recall, a great deal of Dark Prince covered the same time period as A Hunger Like No Other. Of course, in Dark Prince, the action is from Lucia and Garreth’s perspectives. It was great fun to go back and reread Hunger knowing the other parts of the story. While Hunger is Emma and Lachlain’s story, it also introduces Lucia and Garreth’s. We know from the first book of the series that the latter pair will end up together. Lucia is, after all, Garreth’s mate. And Lykae do not let their mates go.
All right, back to the beginning. A Hunger Like No Other begins with Lachlain sensing his mate. He is, unfortunately, in an underground prison. Vampires have been torturing him for 150 years. In order to escape, Lachlain cuts off his leg—no, don’t worry—it’ll grow back. Let me also explain a little about the Lykae/mate thing. Lykae are part of a group of mythical beings called the Lore. The Lore is made up of immortal creatures like werewolves, vampires, witches and Valkyrie, all of great age. Lachlain is “roughly twelve hundred years old.” Though Lykae live a long time, they also have only one true mate. Unfortunately, their mates aren’t always easy to find. Those same twelve hundred years that Lachlain lived, he has dreamed and waited and anticipated and prepared for the “one woman who would be his.” All this should help to explain why Lykae are so possessive of their mates.
Did I mention that Lachlain has been tortured by vampires for 150 years? I did? Oh, well, did I mention that his mate, Emma, the woman that he has waited over a millennium to find, is also a vampire? No? Well, you should at least be able to imagine the drama that ensues when Lachlain finds out that his fated beloved is one of the bloodsucking species. It’s pretty grisly. Especially for the girl, who is known among her Valkyrie aunts as Emma the Timid. When the two meet, Lachlain is furious that fate has dealt him such a blow. Emma is terrified by the bedraggled, but beautiful, man that essentially kidnaps her off the street and demands that she take him back to her hotel room.
What follows is several pages of angsty back and forth between Lachlain and Emma. Lachlain is, from the first, overbearing. This makes sense because he’s the King of the Lykae—basically the alpha of alphas. But also because he doesn’t know that Emma is only half-vampire or that she has never taken blood directly from a human before. Lachlain comes pretty close to being unforgivable. The only thing that saves him is that his anger at having a vampire for a mate is constantly at war with his Lykae need to care for and protect her. And when the latter wins out, he more than makes up for it. I love the little quirks that Cole adds into her characters, like the Valkyries’ acquisitiveness, and their love of nail polish. Lachlain’s genuine desire to make Emma is deeply ingrained. He’s planned on the ways he would make his mate feel cherished and happy for over a thousand years. So when Lachlain is finally able to move past Emma’s vampire nature, the ways that he tries to make things up to her are alternately endearing and laughable.
This book is a shining example of a successful entry into the series. It stands alone as its own story, but it also serves as the starting off point for the books that follow. There’s no awkward exposition, but we learn a lot about the world of the Lore. What impressed me when I read Pleasure of a Dark Prince was how much Cole had already planned out even before the second novel was published. It reminded me of reading the third Harry Potter book and realizing how many layers J.K. Rowling put into Sorcerer’s Stone without her readers realizing it yet.
I think I could write about this book forever, I love it that much. However, this post is already impossibly long and I need to wrap it up. I hate to end on a negative note, but it was inevitable I’d start nitpicking on a reread. You already know I love this book, so I think I’m safe enough to point out a few things I noticed. One thing that niggled at me was Emma’s repeated reflections on Lachlain’s tanned skin. I thought this was bizarre considering the fact that he has spent 150 years in an underground dungeon. Maybe immortals don’t ever lose their tans, but it still niggled at me. Another thing was that, in this reading I wasn’t as easily able to forgive Lachlain’s behavior towards Emma during the first half of the book. He’s pretty awful and if he wasn’t a fictional character I don’t know if I’d ever be able to forgive him. The last thing I want to mention is that, in the Lore, vampires’ eyes turn red when they have killed a person by drinking all their blood. Emma does not have red eyes and yet Lachlain never stops to reflect on this when he is accusing Emma of being a filthy bloodsucker. I suppose that this could be chalked up to Lachlain’s irrationality brought on by the torture he’s experienced.
There’s so much more I wanted to say, so maybe I’ll have to do a follow-up post on A Hunger Like No Other. For now, I need to stop. My eyes are crossing even though my brain is still churning with thoughts. See you soon! (less)
Originally posted on http://rubysreads.com[return][return]I will say, right off the bat, that I loved this book. Evie is my kind of heroine. She� s gi...moreOriginally posted on http://rubysreads.com[return][return]I will say, right off the bat, that I loved this book. Evie is my kind of heroine. She� s girly, she� s plucky, she� s smart, she� s into popular culture, she� s funny and she knows when she� s in over her head.[return][return]In the beginning of the novel, Evie comes off as a little naive, perhaps a trifle stupid and not exactly a deep thinker. It� s not that this is all a facade. Evie is a bit naive. But until she was eight, she was a child of the foster system, shunted around from family to family. When she was eight, the International Paranormal Containment Agency (though at that time it was the American Paranormal Containment Agency) found her. They took her in because of her unique ability to see through glamors. Since then, she� s grown up at the Center and been raised to � bag and tag� various paranormals: werewolves, vampires and hags, to name a few. Moving to the Center was like heaven for young Evie� it meant stability and familiar faces she could see every day. It meant Raquel, the Center� s director, and the only mother figure Evie� s ever had. It also meant meeting Lish, the mermaid and her best friend. But, basically, she� s lived in isolation since she was fairly young. All she really knows is that Center is better than the life she had before.[return][return]Paranormalcy opens eight years after Evie has come to live at the Center. She� s now sixteen (in case you can� t do the complex math) and is not, perhaps, as content at the Center as she once was. More than anything else, she wants a normal life. She wants to go to high school and have a locker and get her driver� s license. This isn� t on the table for her, though, since the Center� s underground and she� s not exactly supposed to leave. Evie� s dissatisfaction with her life comes to a head when she captures a shapeshifter searching through her boss, Raquel� s, office. Evie sees through the boy� s shapeshifting glamor and � tags� him with a containment anklet. It turns out that the boy is Evie� s age, a rarity in the center. Immediately, Evie makes friends with the boy (Lend). She� s ripe for a crush, especially since the last guy she almost went out with has turned out to be creepy/stalkery and violent to boot.[return][return]I mentioned that I loved Evie. She learns a lot in this novel, including one of the hardest lessons in life: you shouldn� t believe everything you� re told. But Evie learns from the mistakes she makes and doesn� t repeat them. They make her wiser. I also loved that, despite everything that was going on in Evie� s life, she was still a teenager. I loved that being with Lend allowed her that. Evie likes to shop. She likes pink. She has a pink taser named Tasey and only carries a silver knife because it has a pink handle. She wants to go to the prom. I know that these are shallow things, but Evie doesn� t have a lot of shallow in her life. For her, these things� pink and prom and lockers� represent normalcy. That� s Evie craves so badly and I really, really wanted her to have it.[return][return]Lend was also great. I liked that he and Evie were given lots of on-screen time to develop a friendship before the romance started. Lend is a good counterpart to Evie. He likes her and he takes her seriously, despite her quirks and love of pink. He gets that Evie wants normalcy� and believes that she should have it. He� s also funny. My only problem with Lend was that I had a hard time picturing him as Evie saw him. What I imagined was kind of like the figure that rises out the water in a superhero movie. Evie calls him Water Boy� and that� s the way I picture him. Like a human sculpted in rippling water. Which I thought would be way, way too creepy to look at.[return][return]The plot kept me going through the novel. It mainly concerns the true purpose of the IPCA, why Lend came to the Center in the first place, and why is Evie so important she isn� t allowed to leave? The mystery of Evie� s special ability to see through glamor and her faerie ex-boyfriend� s fixation on her kept me turning the pages. I had a few things figured out but I was anxious for Evie� so many Teen Paranormals end badly these days� and I couldn� t get to the conclusion fast enough. That doesn� t happen too often, I� ll tell ya.[return][return]What I liked best about this novel happened toward the end. Instead of keeping an awful, burdensome secret, Evie confides in Lend. I was so glad when this happened. I could see where the author was heading and I really didn� t want to read another story that could have been resolved by the main character� gasp!� actually confiding in someone. So, thanks Kierstan White! I realize the novel ends with Evie having yet another secret, but I� m okay with that. After all, there are two sequels in the works. I� m looking forward to seeing how things work out with Evie, Lend, Raquel, Lend� s dad, David, and his mom, the� oh, wait, I can� t tell you! That would be a spoiler![return][return]Just trust me� you should read this book, especially if you like lighter Teen Fantasies and Paranormals.(less)
I am, unabashedly in love with this novel. Last year I read the Last Survivors trilogy by Susan Beth Pfeffer and, while I loved those, by the time I got to the end of the third book I was contemplating burning all three volumes. That's how depressed they made me--I was considering burning books--complete sacrilege. Ashes, Ashes includes many of the things I loved about Pfeffer's books, blessedly without the incredibly depressing ending. I said in a review I recently wrote that I was getting tired of Dystopians, and that's true. Ashes, Ashes isn't a Dystopian so much as it's Post-Apocalyptic. This is a differentiation that Jo Treggiari has made clear to me. Most Dystopians take place far after some apocalyptic event, which is the aspect that always confused me. But the difference is that both Pfeffer's trilogy and Ashes, Ashes tell the story of those living in the immediate aftermath of an apocalyptic even, when everything has gone to hell. Dystopians--like Matched, Delirium, The Hunger Games and company--take place in more distant futures, after the apocalyptic event has led to strict, imperfect regimentation of society. To put it mildly.
I'm fascinated with stories where humans have to learn how to live all over again. I'm fully aware that without modern technology I would be completely worthless. The very idea of going without running water horrifies me and I have an orange thumb. Why orange you ask? Because it's on the complete opposite side of the color wheel from a green one. It's probably because I'd be complete crap at it that I enjoy reading about people being forced to go back to basics. In Ashes, Ashes, the heroine (Lucy) learned to survive without using a wilderness guide. She learns to set traps, to skin animals and use their hides and cook them for food, how to forage and make acorn mush. Everything Lucy eats she has to obtain with great expenditure of energy. At least, greater than going to the fridge or the pantry.
In Ashes, Ashes, we get to experience something of what it's like for the rules to suddenly change underneath your feet. In a Dystopian, the rules of the society are already set. The characters have generally grown up in a world that was Dystopian even before they were born. I find it a great deal more compelling to see how people are forced to adapt when the world around them changes so drastically that it completely alters the way they live, the way they think, and the way they interact with people. Yet, the issues in Ashes, Ashes are relevant, even in a non-apocalyptic society. How do you decide who to trust? When is self-reliance foolish and not brave?
If I had one complaint about this novel it would be that there wasn't enough of it. I'd love to follow Lucy and Aidan in the next stage of their adventure, and I'd love to know more about them. Both are compelling characters, but more of their backstory would be appreciated, particularly in Aidan's case. I read on Jo Treggiari's website that she has more stories to tell in the Ashes, Ashes universe. And let me tell you: they can't come soon enough for me.(less)
Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a title I was initially excited about based solely on its location. I mean--Prague! Top of my list of places I would love to visit. I was pleased to receive a review copy, especially when the positive (dare I say glowing?) reviews started popping up on the blogosphere. Logan, for example, basically told me our friendship would definitely suffer if I didn't like it. You will, therefore, never hear me say such a thing. However, Logan's threat aside, I really did enjoy The Daughter of Smoke and Bone. In fact, I loved it. It has it all--characterization, setting, plot, and romance. Swoon. Karou is a fantastic heroine. She's heroic, but not unbelievably so. She's not out to save the world, but she will fight to save those she loves. And as good as her intentions generally are, she's only 17, which means she has the tendency to be childish and immature. She doesn't always consider the consequences of her actions, but when they prove to be devastating, she doesn't shy from what she considers to be her responsibilities or to try to do what she can to make reparations. Karou's romantic interest is just as alluring. Akiva is an angel, the Romeo to Karou's Juliet. I mean, seriously--talk about tall, dark and tortured. Also a bit stalkery. In the good, non-creepy way. At first, Akiva is genuinely confused about his feelings for Karou. He doesn't understand why he is so drawn to her. His confusion is endearing. But, then, I love heroes who think they have no feelings only to have the heroine show them how very wrong they are. I knew I was going to love the setting of Daughter of Smoke and Bone even before I read it. If I wanted to visit Prague before I read this book, I can only say that the feeling has intensified tenfold. I love the cafe where Karou and her friend Zuzana hang out, and I love the old-world city that Taylor depicts. Other locations--Paris and London included--have sparks of charm, but in the end feel fairly modern. I'll be sad when the story really turns its back on Prague, which it essentially did at the end of the book. Still, I have enough faith in Taylor's world-building to believe that wherever she takes us next will be equally spectacular. To say much about the plot of Daughter of Smoke and Bone would be to give it away. I think I can say that most of it revolves around the mystery of Karou's existence. She was raised by a chimaera named Brimstone, for whom she runs dangerous errands involving the retrieval of teeth. It's a story with lots of mysteries. What are the teeth for? Who were Karou's parents? And what's the deal with all of her tattoos, and the fact that her hair grows blue from the root? When you get the answers to these questions, you'll be shocked, delighted and horrified at the same time. I promise. More than anything, though, you'll be dying to read the next book in the series. Too bad it doesn't come out until September of 2012. Don't worry--together, we'll make it through. 5 Points: I would move in with this book.(less)
I’m a well-established Maureen Johnson fan. I especially enjoy her travel fiction—Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes, The Last Little Blue Envelope, and Girl at Sea. I was thrilled to learn that Johnson’s latest book would take place in a boarding school set in London. Talk about a fantasy setting. I practically hit the roof when I won an ARC from LibraryThing. Fortunately, my internal hype over the setting not only lived up to expectations, but so did everything else. The Name of the Star is a fantastic, absorbing, delicious read. I can’t wait for the next installment. No matter how stellar the setting, it wasn’t the only thing that worked for me. I loved Rory. I totally identified with her, her anglophilia, and the “research” she does before she travels to her new school and new country. She appreciates and notices all the little differences that delight me when I travel to a new country. She’s very much an outsider, by virtue of her analytical mind, and I often felt that her brain cranked in a way that’s very similar to my own. She has none of the annoying, self-effacing behavior that so many teen heroines have these days. She’s the first main character I’ve wanted to hang out with in a while. You know, if she weren’t fictional. Johnson also creates an enjoyable cast of supporting characters, each of whom has something to offer both Rory, and the story. The only exception to this is her love interest who, while pleasant, can’t hold a candle to the more sober, mysterious Stephen. I’m hoping this is purposeful and that we’re going to be treated with one of those oh so delicious slow burn romances. Please, Maureen, please! I also want to say that Ms. Johnson did a wonderful job crafting the relationships in The Name of the Star. In addition to insta-love in teen fiction, there’s also a preponderance of insta-best-friendships. I meet new best friends all the time, but they’re not really my best friends. They’re just people I have an immediate connection with. Becoming close with someone takes more time than that, and is rarely (never?) so completely cemented so quickly in real life. Rory’s relationships develop, morph, deepen through the course of the novel, but because of shared experiences, confidences and the passage of time. I loved that. Finally, there’s the plot. Ms. Johnson totally played me on this score. I was two steps behind the entire time. I’m not generally a fan of Jack the Ripper stories, but I liked the way that Ms. Johnson approached it. Her book isn’t a exploitation of a century old unsolved murder, but an exploration of why it captivated audiences then, and why it continues to captivate now. As far as the supernatural plot goes, that worked for me too. A lot of it strikes me as setup for the rest of the series, but I’m not complaining. Johnson does it skillfully and logically. She ties in loose ends and weaves in seemingly unimportant elements like the master she is. Frankly, I can’t recommend this book highly enough. If you find yourself disillusioned by Teen Paranormals, I suggest you pick up The Name of the Star. It’ll remind you why you liked the genre so much to begin with. (less)
I've been looking forward to this book as far back as the first event I had on my blog (Private School Paranormals Week), at which time I pestered Jennifer Estep to participate even though it was waaay too early for ARCs and such. She offered me some bonus material instead and I've been a fangirl ever since. There's also the fact that Jennifer Estep described the Mythos Academy books as a cross between Veronica Mars and Game of Thrones. I adore Veronica Mars so much that I have seen Kirsten Bell in every Romantic Comedy her agent convinced her to try. This is all just to say that I was born ready to love this book, and love it I did. I'm so very, very thrilled that Kiss of Frost comes out this year. December is only five months away. Woohoo! The first thing I loved about Touch of Frost was the setting. Mythos Academy is home to a group of teenagers possessed of mythical, magical powers. There are Valkyries, Spartans and Amazons--all warriors. Gwen, our heroine, is a bit lost in this atmosphere. She's not a fighter. Her only talent is psychometry--she can touch anything and pull memories and feelings from that object (or person). It's a talent that has its uses, but not necessarily in the Mythos crowd. Or at the last school she went to. The story itself is part Fantasy, part Mystery and all awesomesauce. As the mystery slowly unravels, we learn about Gwen, about Mythos and about the world that Estep has built. In one of my favorite aspects of first person narration, perspective allows the reader to understand things that Gwen can't yet fathom. It also allows us to get to know the supporting cast. In the beginning, Gwen is a solitary character. Our outsider's view makes sure we know that she won't be alone for long. Just as we know that Gwen--and her power--aren't as insignificant as she makes them seem. I've made no secret of the fact that I'm a huge fan of first person narration. Jennifer Estep is particularly talented at making me feel like I'm inside Gwen's head, thinking along with her. The only complaint I have is that a couple of times Gwen refers to her own eyes as violet. As in, "I flicked my violet eyes across the room." This jerked me out of the narrative every time I read it. While I know my eyes are brown, I don't think about the fact unless I'm in front of the mirror. I think someone who wears a hoodie every day of the week would probably feel the same way. While there is a love interest for Gwen (can't wait to see where that's gonna head--love Logan), the primary relationship in this book is that which develops between Gwen and a Valkyrie girl named Daphne. It'll be great fun to see Gwen and Daphne figure out how to be friends. I have a feeling it's gonna be as awkward a beginning as any of its romantic counterparts. It's also nice to see friendships get some play in Teen fiction. Don't get me wrong--I love a romance--but Teen fiction doesn't need another star-crossed lovers/soulmates-at-sixteen story. Touch of Frost was one of my most highly anticipated titles of the summer and reading it has bumped the sequel to the top of my December can't-wait list. If you're looking for a Teen Paranormal that will restore your faith in the genre--look no further. Touch of Frost is a gem.(less)
I am so very glad I decided to read this book. I am so very glad that it was recommended to me...moreThis review was first published on http://rubysreads.com
I am so very glad I decided to read this book. I am so very glad that it was recommended to me in the first place. In fact, I’m just glad this book exists. I love it when I discover a new series that already has a few volumes under its belt. It means I don’t have to wait for the next book to come out. Or at least, the longest I’ll have to wait is until I can to the nearest bookstore. It’s kind of like compensation for coming late to the party.
Halfway to the Grave tells the story of Cat Crawfield, the twenty-two-year old half-vampire amateur vampire huntress. Cat was conceived as a result of her mother’s rape by a newly-made vampire. She has grown up with the knowledge that she was different from other children. Her mother, moreover, has repeatedly told her that vampires are evil and since Cat is half vampire, she has to be on her guard against that half of herself. So, since the age of sixteen, Cat has been trolling bars, luring vampires and killing them. Until one night, six years after her first kill, Cat meets a vampire unlike any she has ever met before. Yep, you got it: Bones.
Despite some initial misunderstandings, Bones convinces Cat to train with him to become a better vampire huntress. Cat is willing to learn, but she isn’t willing to like her new mentor. He is, after all, a vampire and all vampires are evil. Right? Turns out, not so much. Just like humans, vampires can be both good and bad. Cat is, like many heroines, scarred by her past. She’s scarred by the story of her conception, by the first boyfriend she ever had, by her lonely childhood. Halfway to the Grave tells a love story, a mystery and a coming-of-age tale. And it’s funny to boot.
This book was successful for many reasons, not the least of which was its slow burn. It’s a romance, so you know that Cat and Bones will end up together at some point, but Frost doesn’t make the mistake of having them imagining each other naked from the get-go. Or nearly having sex on page five. In fact, the story is told from Cat’s perspective, so you know about her feelings (and Bones’) way before she even gets a clue. This is something I love; when the author shows us that the hero is into the heroine without letting her know. It’s one of the reasons I like the first-person narrative so much. The truly delicious feeling when the hero says or does something that shows his feelings for the heroine that she doesn’t yet understand, but you do is a surefire hook for me. I fall for it every time. That delicious feeling I get–it’s kind of like a shiver up the spine–is what tells me that I’ve found a book that I’m going to love. And I definitely felt that tingle with Halfway to the Grave.
What are some other things I loved about this book? Well, I love that Cat is impulsive but not stupid. I love that she doesn’t fall into the trap of incompetency, and yet she’s not unbelievably kick-ass, either. She’s young and naive, but she’s also twenty-two, so it’s fitting. I really liked that Cat didn’t just think of Bones as her lover, but also as the best friend she’d ever had. I also really, really liked the way that Frost handled the relationship between Cat and her mother. It’s dysfunctional at the beginning of the novel and it’s dysfunctional at the end, but they still love each other.
Of course, the best part of this novel was Bones. He’s funny and he’s good-looking. He’s also protective and caring at the same time. His protective instincts lead him to do the thing more protective heroes should do: better prepare the heroine to defend herself. Bones knows that Cat’s not going to walk away from killing vampires, so he makes her better at it. He arms her with knowledge and training. He also doesn’t let Cat get away with her sometimes immature perceptions. And, ultimately, he’s the one who commits to Cat first. That’s awesome. Bones is definitely the best fictional vampire boyfriend I’ve run across. Though that may not be saying much.
I can’t end this review without mentioning that the end of the book totally revved me up for the next installment. It’s a cliffhanger of sorts, and I can’t wait to see how things pan out. I just know it’s gonna be great.
Oh, and just for fun, here are some of my favorite quotes from Halfway to the Grave:
“Face it–without me you’re looking for a needle in a fangstack.”
“You’re dead and you’re still an alcoholic. That’s so dysfunctional.”
“We’re, ah, taking a break to evaluate things, and, um, reevaluate our relationship, so…I stuffed him in a closet!” I burst out in shame.
I don't read many books either by male authors or with male protagonists. I don't particularly have to go out of my way to avoid this--I don't think I've ever come across a romance with a male narrator, the Urban Fantasy that I generally enjoy is written by women, and most Teen fiction has the female perspective. That said, I've never gone out of my way to look for a male lead. I tend to find myself highly suspicious of authors who write from the opposite perspective. Not that I think they have some kind of hidden agenda...it's more that I doubt they can create an authentic voice. Having read the Curse Worker books, I'm still unable to come to a conclusion. Cassel seems authentic to me, but I'm a female reading a female's interpretation of the male perspective. How much is my opinion worth? Totally not sure on that point. Regardless of the perspective, Holly Black has created a main character I love. Cassel is a good guy in a bad situation. Considering his family roots--and the things he's apparently done--it makes sense that he is unable to believe it about himself. During the course of Red Glove, he is forced to make the best of the few bad choices that are before him. Cassel's one of my favorite types of characters. Cassel is a con man, believing that he can pretend to be something he's not...a normal teenager. I think he's most afraid that he will be rejected by his peers the way that his brothers rejected him. He sees himself as the unwanted little brother who will do anything to be accepted. In Red Glove, we begin to learn that none of his peers view him that way. Girls like him because he's dangerous, and Cassel's own roommate was afraid of him when they first met. But it's clear that Cassel is that guy everyone wants to know. I think the reason that Holly Black is able to surprise us with this external view of Cassel is because of her use of first person narration. It's also really, really effective as a form of characterization. Cassel is so consumed with the image that he projects and the desire to keep everyone from knowing the real him that his view of others is skewed. And at the same time, Cassel is incredibly observant of others in the way only a con man can be. I'm all amazement at Holly Black's skill at characterization. Because not only is Cassel complex, I have no idea what's going on with his love interest, Lila, or his best friend Sam, or Danica and at the same time, I do. It's just like in real life. We think we know people--and to a certain extent, we do--but we'll never be privy to their inner thoughts. It's something that--no matter how good a con man Cassel is--he'll never be able to do. If there's any character that doesn't feel complex to me, it's Barron. Is he simply ambitious? Is he jealous of Cassel? That last one is my suspicion, and I'm hoping that Black gives us more grist for the mill in Black Heart. The other thing I greatly enjoy in the Curse Workers series is the world-building. The way that Holly Black created this world where it's completely normal for people to wear gloves all the time, where crime families are in charge and worker rights are being threatened. Have I mentioned how much I love the glove bit? I especially enjoy the scenes where Cassel is embarrassed at seeing someone's bare hands. Most of all, I'm pleased at how well this second book in the trilogy came out. Second installments in trilogies are infamous for being place-fillers, but it's clear that book three cannot happen without book two. So much occurs that both needed to, and that helps to move the story along. My only concern is that, well, I really, really want Cassel to have a happy ending. Because this is my first Holly Black, I don't know if she does them. So, I'm worried. Reassurance would be good. Cassel deserves it. (less)
Let me put your mind at rest: Kiss of Snow is worth every second of the wait. When a title is as highly anticipated as this one, the possibility of disappointment is high. Hawke and Sienna's romance has been building since book one. That's five years, and it feels like longer. In the meantime, we've had some awesome installments in an amazing series, and just when the stories started to lose a bit of their allure for me, Nalini Singh hit it out of the ballpark again with Play of Passion. Just in time to act as a good omen for KoS. Few authors create alpha heroes and consistently pair them with equally strong heroines. Nalini Singh is the mistress of this feat, and Kiss of Snow was no exception. If you've been following the series--and honestly, I doubt you be interested in this book if you weren't--you know the basics. Hawke is the alpha of SnowDancer, and when was young, he met the girl he thought would be his mate. Before either of them were of an age for a romantic relationship, the girl died. Because wolves mate for life, Hawke believes that the only relationship he can now offer a woman isn't much to offer at all. Meanwhile, Sienna has her own problems. She's the only X-Psy to live into adulthood, and none of the ones that did had Sienna's cardinal designation. Sienna's control is tenuous, at best. The jumble of feelings she has for Hawke don't help her mental situation at all. She basically figures it's only a matter of time before she self-destructs. And with Hawke playing push-pull all the time, she doesn't have much of a chance to live out what remains of her life. In any Nalini Singh novel you know the hero and heroine belong together. The question is how they'll get there. For Hawke and Sienna, it's delicious. There's a particular bar scene where the endearment "baby" is used that I've reread so many times the ink is starting to fade. Hawke and Sienna's courtship alternates between playful and intense. Well, no, I take that back. It's intense at all time. I enjoyed how the buildup (and there's a lot) was about more than foreplay--or, rather, that the spending of time together in non-sexual situations was part of the foreplay. Not that any of the time they spent together was non-sexual, strictly speaking. I did have a few quibbles, and I want to mention them, but they're a tad spoilery, so watch out. For one thing, Hawke comes scarily close to sleeping with another woman, especially since I abhor it when the hero thinks he has to sleep with someone else in order to "save" the heroine, or "for the good of the pack." Luckily, Sienna nips that in the bud, and I don't think Hawke would have been able to go through with it, in the end. I was also frustrated when Hawke decided that they can be together but Sienna will never be his mate. The cheek! It's like telling someone that you'll be with them forever, but don't expect more than that. Finally, I wish the moment when the mating bond finally snaps into place had been given a little more attention. I was more eagerly anticipating that moment than their sex scenes. I wanted to know what Hawke was thinking, and feeling, rather than have him explain it to Sienna later. In all, though, I can't praise Kiss of Snow highly enough. I loved it, I will continue to love it and I want to get down on my knees and say a prayer of thanks for being on the same planet, at the same, time as Nalini Singh.
Now that I'm finished with my review, I can give you the most awesomely awesome news ever: Tomorrow, I'll be posting my interview with Nalini Singh. Are you so excited? Yeah, me too. (less)
I absolutely adore Kate Daniels. Who could dislike anyone so fiercely loyal, snarky and kick-ass? On the other hand, it's an established facet of Kate's character that she isn't exactly easy to like. She puts all the letters in difficult, and creates extras so you can still spell stubborn. Still, there are few heroines out there with as much strength of character, depth of feeling and complexity. I like to think this is, in part, due to the fact that Kate's story is told by a husband and wife team. It also makes for some awesome relationship building between Kate and Curran.
Magic Slays is a game-changer on so many levels. It's chock full of new developments for characters as well as storylines. We even get introduced to a new face or two. Now that Kate and Curran are officially mated, Kate has set up shop on her own. She's separated from the Order, but unavoidably affiliated with the pack. Being Curran's mate has brought her as much bureaucratic hassle as it has pleasure and reward. There's the name-calling (Consort, Beast Lady), being present at arbitration, defeating any and all challengers, and needing escorts to avoid suggestions of impropriety. You name it, Kate's got to deal with it. Then she gets her first client.
Kate's latest case proves to be as messy and convoluted as everything else she gets involved in. It's the kind of mystery that will force warring factions and personal enemies to fight side by side. It will also put the innocent at risk. How's that for melodrama? Not enough? Good, 'cuz there's more. Kate's case not only reveals some new, devastating information about her already complex family history, but it also points out that being mated doesn't equal an automatic happily ever after for them. Kate's used to standing on her own, being on her own, being responsible for her own...are you getting the point? Kate's virulent independence is a problem when her mate is the Beast Lord and he's basically used to manipulating people and giving orders. The best part is, though, Kate and Curran are working on it. They talk--a small miracle in itself--and they truly, deeply love each other. More, they understand that for their relationship to work, they have to compromise (and change--gasp!) where they can, and figure out a way to deal when they can't.
Each volume of Kate's story brings us closer to the ultimate conclusion. At some point, Kate will have a bloody, vicious battle with her own father, and only one of them will survive. Kate's entire life has been about preparing for that moment, and it's made for a lonely, hard, violent life. The fact that she's now mated to Curran is huge. I honestly didn't think we'd see their relationship so well-established only five books into the series. I also wasn't certain that it could hold my interest if it were. Magic Slays proved me incredibly wrong, and I'm ever so glad it did. In addition to Kate and Curran's relationship, I love seeing more of Julie and Derek, whom I am not-so-secretly hoping have a future together. I keep forgetting that Derek is only nineteen, which makes him five years older than Julie. This is an age difference that can't work for the next, say, ten years, but is workable in the future. I hope. It's also clear that we haven't seen the last of the newest addition to the bouda clan, maybe even in relationship to Julie as well. I'm content to wait, though. I certainly haven't had my fill of Kate. Not yet. (less)
My reaction, upon reaching the last page of this book, was to shout "Noooooooooo!" and immediately wish that it wasn't a hideously long ten months until 2012. So, um, I guess you could say that I loved it. The Gathering was my one of my mostly highly anticipated releases for this year. I read and glommed the entire Darkest Powers books in under a week. I wish the rest of the Darkness Rising books were already out so I could do the same to them. I need to find a hobby, fast, before I start stalking Kelley Armstrong in the vain hope of getting some details on book two. Because I anticipated it so highly, I was also very nervous about The Gathering. I was afraid it would not live up to my expectations. Fortunately, I was so very, very wrong. I'd already read the first chapter online and that back cover blurb got me very excited about bad boy Rafe. Color me surprised to discover that, as I read the book, Daniel would be the one I fell in love with. I don't know if Kelley's creating a love triangle--though I highly suspect it--but I'm already TeamDaniel. I was TeamDerek from book one of the Darkest Powers trilogy, too. So I'm really, really hoping that Kelley's thrown us a red herring (not only with Rafe, but with some obvious ohmygod moments). I love slow burn romances, which is probably why the Chloe and Derek worked for me. In that series, Simon was the obvious choice. He and Chloe had obvious chemistry. Derek and Chloe's barely simmered at all in the first book, but that's why I liked them, and rooted for them. I'm hope-hope-hoping for the same with Maya and Daniel. Of course, though the romantic angle of any book I read is important, it can't replace plot, setting and characterization. The Gathering has all of these in full supply. I was delighted by the self-deprecating humor about being Canadian. Maya and her friends are well aware of the fact that, to most people in the U.S., being Canadian is a joke but they don't let it bother them. I also liked the way that Kelley painted Salmon Falls (I'm pretty sure that's right. I had to send the book on, so I can't double-check. Please let me know if you remember differently.). If you've read the Darkest Powers books, you know that the set up in Salmon Falls is hinky. But you're still able to grasp why it seems so normal to Maya, her friends and her family. The sinister undertone flavors the entire novel and it's delicious. If I had one complaint about this novel, it would be the cliffhanger ending. Honestly, I shouted when I reached the last word on the last page. Everything is left up in the air. Er, no pun intended. The wait for the next book in the series is going to be grueling. My mind is churning its way through the revelations, hints and possibilities brought forward by The Gathering. That, to me, is an indication of its very awesomeness. (less)