Not my favorite Heyer. There are two love stories (and four characters) that would have been better merged into one (with only two characters). I do l...moreNot my favorite Heyer. There are two love stories (and four characters) that would have been better merged into one (with only two characters). I do like it when traditional characters are made to look ridiculous...but their stade counterparts were a little too stodgy for my taste.(less)
While I did enjoy this, it's definitely not my favorite Heyer Regency. I'm not even sure I would recommend it to other Heyer fans. I'll admit that the...moreWhile I did enjoy this, it's definitely not my favorite Heyer Regency. I'm not even sure I would recommend it to other Heyer fans. I'll admit that the meek, diminutive duke doesn't really appeal to me as a character. The Duke of Sale reads more like a Georgette Heyer heroine than a hero, what with all the foibles, escapades and the large, dashing, saturnine captain of the lifeguards who rushes off to save him.
However, there's plenty of humor to be had, a dash of romance (so long as you hang on to the bitter end) and Heyer's usual scrupulous attention to historical detail. It's a coming-of-age story, but a first world, aristocratic one. Oh, the trials and tribulations of being a wealthy and powerful duke! They are many, apparently.(less)
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)
When an author begins with a British setting, then adds in an abbey and a young lord, they’ve pretty...moreThis review was originally posted on Ruby's Reads.
When an author begins with a British setting, then adds in an abbey and a young lord, they’ve pretty much guaranteed an audience in me. And, with the success of Downton Abbey, I’ve been in luck. Publishers are on the hunt for read-alikes, and YA imprints are no exception. When I began dipping my toes back in the NetGalley pond, there were two titles I requested right away: Cinders and Sapphires and Summerset Abbey. And when I got declined for Cinders and Sapphires (I thought, as an educator, I might have a chance) and accepted for Summerset Abbey, my desire to read the latter went through the roof.
Things started off okay. I knew immediately that Summerset wasn’t going to be the best historical I’d ever read, but I enjoyed the introduction to the world and the characters. Plus, the aforementioned young lord shows up pretty fast. While it didn’t pass my stringent Rules of Titles tests (is the Countess of Edgmont called Lady Edgmont [right] or Lady Charlotte [wrong]?), Summerset Abbey was entertaining enough to keep me going. For a while, anyway.
Where the book fails isn’t in its representation of the era in which it is set. It fails in its characters. There are three main ones, and the story alternates between those mentioned in the description: Rowena, Victoria and Prudence. Each sister has a story, complete with a potential love interest–fortunately. Unfortunately, all of the characters are lame. There really isn’t a better descriptive word.
Rowena manages to arrange for Prudence to come to Summerset Abbey despite her uncle’s objections, but then proceeds to ignore her and treat her like a servant. And when she feels bad about doing so? She only acts more stuck-up. Victoria, the youngest of the three, is all talk and no action. She badgers Rowena for forcing Prudence to become a lady’s maid and then forgets about her for pages at a time, and doesn’t do anything to actually help Prudence. Unless you count her last, ridiculously misguided attempt. And Prudence complains about her situation as a lady’s maid–an outsider among the servants and and outsider among the inhabitants of Summerset–but doesn’t do anything about it, either. Ultimately, she makes a TSTL decision that makes no sense at all.
Here’s what really gets me: Prudence’s situation (lady’s maid job aside) is actually a really compelling one, and perfectly suited to the time period. The 1900′s–especially in England–were a time when old traditions were starting to lose ground. The master-servant relationship was being tested and redefined. There were more opportunities for men, but more importantly–women. It makes me weep to see such juicy meat for a story go to such waste.
I think Summerset Abbey will definitely find an audience. Fans of the Luxe Series by Anna Godberson will probably enjoy it. The more discerning reader, however, will need to keep looking.(less)
I HATED the love interest and the heroine wasn't much better, either. However, the author excelled at creating her story. I can't fault her writing, e...moreI HATED the love interest and the heroine wasn't much better, either. However, the author excelled at creating her story. I can't fault her writing, even if I think her characters were extremely lacking. I'm hoping her next book will appeal to me more!(less)
I should have listened to Small. This was so, so bad. I couldn't even get past the third chapter. None of the characters felt like they came from the...moreI should have listened to Small. This was so, so bad. I couldn't even get past the third chapter. None of the characters felt like they came from the book's era--which is a ginormous pet peeve of mine. Another was the million little historical/social inaccuracies that built and built until reading on became impossible. I can't believe how disappointing I found Cinders & Sapphires and, oh, how I wish I could find a well-written teen historical from this era.(less)
The beautiful cover of What I Saw and How I Lied attracted me way back when it was first published in hardcover, but it took me a long time to pick it up and read it. I would like to add that in addition to being a nice cover, the image of a girl putting on bright red lipstick turns out to be terribly relevant to the story. So, a nice pat on the back for Scholastic. The time period of the 1940s is one of my favorites, so I was looking forward to reading this book. Not many authors write about the post-war period, especially Teen authors, so this book was like a double treat. I expected to fully enjoy this book—after all, it won the National Book Award in 2008—and I’m sorry and, perhaps embarrassed to say that I didn’t. Now comes the hard part: explaining why.
The first reason that I did not like What I Saw is because I was hard pressed to find a character I enjoyed. It wasn’t Evie. It wasn’t her mother or her stepfather. It sure wasn’t Peter. It wasn’t Wally or even Grandma Glad. This, right off the bat, is a terrible way to read a novel. I thought, at first, that Evie was going to improve—this is, after all, a coming-of-age story. It’s the kind of book where you can expect to dislike some aspect of the character’s personality. The problem was, I never moved past my initial dislike. I didn’t like Evie at the end of the book any more than I liked her in the beginning. In fact, I thought she was kind of an idiot. For the next part of my review, I’m issuing a spoiler warning, so beware!
* * * * * SPOILER * * * * *
Judy Bundell paints (or tries to paint) Evie as a young, naïve character. There are things going on all around Evie that she fails to understand. For example, her mother is sleeping with the man that Evie has a crush on. Her stepfather is not as financially secure as he has led Evie to believe. There is Anti-Semitism in the world. Gah! The things that Evie doesn’t know could fill a book—oh, they have already, haven’t they?
Let me give you the general plot line: Evie is a fifteen-year-old girl from Queens. It’s 1947 and her stepfather has return from Europe and the war and started chain of stores that sell household appliances. One day Evie’s stepfather, Joe, decides to take the family to Florida for a late summer vacation. When they get there, Evie, her mother and Joe make friends with the Graysons, a stylish couple that owns a hotel in New York. They also meet young ex-GI Peter Coleridge, on whom Evie immediately develops a crush. Unbeknownst to Evie (who thinks that Peter returns the instant attraction) her mother and Peter begin an affair. Though Evie views her mother as cover for her daily car rides with Peter, she doesn’t realize that she is the one who is the third wheel. There is also the fact that there is some thinly veiled animosity between Peter and Joe. Finally, Evie is struggling with the fact that she has always lived in the shadow of her beautiful, glamorous mother. She is struggling to have the confidence in herself to become the woman she wishes she were.
I was fine with Evie struggling to find herself. I could understand her desire for a man who was a man and not a boy. What I didn’t buy was that she was too naïve to sense that there was something between Peter and her mother. I’m not saying that Evie should have been able to guess exactly what was going on, but there were times when I couldn’t believe that she didn’t sense any underlying currents. I guessed what was going to happen the first time Peter and Evie’s mother met, and I didn’t go out with them every day, day after day. It made me think not that Evie was young and naïve, but that she was as dense and perceptive as a brick.
So not only is Evie completely blind to the situation between her mother and Peter, she is also completely oblivious to the nature of the relationship between Peter and her stepfather. Evie knows that Joe doesn’t like Peter, but even though Peter drops some pretty heavy hints, she never even guesses at the nature of the conflict between the two. This bewildered me. As a teenager I was constantly making up stories. Maybe I’m alone here, but I think of teenagers as being ace at jumping to conclusions. But maybe Evie is the exception to the rule.
I also never felt like I was really immersed in the post-War period. Blundell definitely dropped hints and made chronologically relevant allusions to 1947, but I was never quite able to suspend my disbelief. It just felt like modern day to me, despite Evie’s reflections on Victory Gardens and rationing.
I also want to write about it Peter. I didn’t like him and, frankly, I couldn’t see why Evie did. Sure, he was “movie-star handsome”, but he was also a liar and a thief. Not to mention he was sleeping with her mother. Granted, Evie didn’t know any of this, but that’s partly my point. Evie never questions anything Peter says, even when he slips up. The author’s hints that Peter isn’t who he says he is are blatant enough for the readers to suspect him almost in the beginning. I remember being a teenager, and I remember being gullible, but Evie is more than gullible; she’s slow on the uptake. I also failed to understand her repeated insistence that Peter “was a good man”, even when all was finally revealed about him.
This review is getting pretty long, so I’m going to try to wrap this up. I can’t finish this review without touching on the main thrust of the novel—the lies that Evie tells. I can understand why she told them. I can’t say that I wouldn’t have lied if it meant saving my own parents, no matter what they did. But there was something off about Evie’s decision. The fact is that Evie’s lies drastically changed her relationship with her parents in a significant way. In the beginning of the novel, Evie is controlled by her mother and by Joe. At the end, due to the lies that she tells, she ends the novel as the person who now has the power. Evie seems to revel in this, which, in my opinion, puts a distasteful spin on her actions and makes them not as noble as they appear to be. (less)
In the Shadow of Blackbirds is my most favorite type of novel. It’s A) historical, B) Gothic and C) takes...moreThis review was first posted on Ruby's Reads.
In the Shadow of Blackbirds is my most favorite type of novel. It’s A) historical, B) Gothic and C) takes place in the 20th Century. (Note: I love 19th Century historicals, too, it’s just that they’re easier to find than 20th Century ones). It’s no surprise, then, that I enjoyed Cat Winters’ debut novel. Even if it does take place in San Diego–which is about as far from a Gothic setting as I can imagine. Far too much sun.
Blackbirds tells the story of Mary Shelley Black, beginning with her arrival in San Diego. Her father has been arrested for helping young men avoid the draft, leaving Mary Shelley with no choice but to head south to live with her Aunt Eva. The Spanish Flu is ravaging the nation and World War I is in its fourth year. Death is everywhere and All Things Ghostly are the rage. Charlatans are making money off the grieving, not the least of whom is Julius Ember, the brother of Mary Shelley’s first love.
Mary Shelley is a headstrong heroine. In any other era, she would’ve driven me up the wall. However, she’s perfectly placed where she is. Everything was changing, from emerging technologies to women’s suffrage, and she was on the forefront of that; believable in her modern views, not so much ahead of her time as a product of them. If I sometimes felt like rolling my eyes at her, well, she was a sixteen year old. They’re not known for their perfect logic, intelligent decision-making or their tolerance of their elders. I’m sure that was true, even in 1918.
In the Shadow of Blackbirds is part mystery, part coming-of-age story. It’s also a story of first love, of the hardships of life, and of striving in lieu of obstacles and tragedies. It’s Mary Shelley’s story. There are external characters–notably Mary Shelley’s Aunt Eva–but Mary is an intensely cerebral, private person. With school discontinued because of the flu, she doesn’t have any peers, much less anything to occupy her scientific mind. It makes all the sense in the world that she would set out to solve the mystery of Stephen’s death. The memory of him is the only friend she has left.
While I liked In the Shadow of Blackbirds, it was a slice of life novel. It may be argued that all novels fit this definition, and I couldn’t deny that life-changing events occurred between the pages, but Blackbirds lacked something. It felt a little scattered, as though it didn’t really know what kind of book it wanted to be. I’m not sure I could identify one theme that stood out above all others. While Mary had a number of experiences in the novel, they lacked the coherence that should have tied them together.
I’m excited to hear that Cat Winters is still writing. She’s an author with tremendous potential, and I would like to see what else she can do. If In the Shadow of Blackbirds is any indication, we’ll be in for a real treat when her sophomore novel hits the shelves.(less)
I basically can't discuss this book without spoiling.
* * *
I knew, when I sunk my teeth into Lily of the Nile, that I was going to be in for a great deal of angst. I don't mind angst so long as it's tempered by a happy ending, but the angstier the angst, the happier the ending needs to be for the balance to work out. I didn't find this to be the case in Song of the Nile. Selene suffers, then she suffers and after that she suffers some more. She does have a brief moment of happiness, but I didn't think it was going to last and it didn't. Because of the level of angst I experienced while reading this novel, it's hard for me to be objective about it. Song of the Nile was an emotional roller coaster ride. White hot rage, bone-deep weariness, intense, incredible sadness, wrenching, nauseous anticipation--I was wrung out by the mere experience of reading the book. I can't imagine what it was like for Stephanie Dray to have written it. Writers that can evoke such visceral responses are rare and Stephanie Dray has created a masterful piece of literature. Unfortunately, despite all that the Cleopatra's Daughter books had to recommend them, my feeling on reaching the last page of Song of the Nile was one of relief. I was glad to be finished with it, and glad to leave Selene's life story behind. Don't misunderstand me. I think Stephanie Dray is a talented writer, and she clearly knows her subject. Her characters zoom off the page, though I wished many of then would have stayed firmly in their fictional arena. It was the setting that Dray absolutely nailed. I can picture the hole in the wall that Selene and Helios used to communicate. I felt those African siroccos on my face just as Selene did. With all of these things to recommend it, there isn't much I can say beyond it wasn't the book for me. A lot of this comes back to my (unhealthy?) addiction to happy endings, especially vis a vis the romance. My favored romantic pairing had its moment in the sun, but it didn't triumph in the end. I don't actually think any romantic pairing did. But, again, Song of the Nile isn't that kind of book. Which, sadly, makes it a book that doesn't work for me. And, for that reason, I'm not giving Song of the Nile a grade. You'll either have to check out Small's review or win a copy so you can decide for yourself! (less)
Oh, man, was this ever my Most Highly Anticipated Historical Fantasy of the year! It has everything! A handsome lord! A historical setting! A fantasy element! Yeah, that's pretty much all I need to make me happy. However, while this story has a few things to recommend it, it's not the shivery, delicious Gothic fantasy I was hoping for. I think Darker Still reads well on the surface, but it's not a novel with great substance. It will appeal to the same audience that adores the Fallen books and maybe the Rebel Angels series, but not the reader of Song of the Nile or Daughter of the Forest. As the description mentions, the main character in Darker Still is seventeen-year-old Natalie Stewart. What it doesn't tell you (bizarrely in my opinion) is that Natalie is mute due to a childhood trauma that also resulted in her mother's death. Also interestingly, Natalie isn't an Elite New Yorker. Her world isn't the Golden Age described in the Luxe novels. Her father is the director at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is still in its infancy. Natalie's father is her connection to the art world and, thus, to the painting of Lord Denbury. Natalie's muteness has kept her from interacting with many people. Lord Denbury's portrait and its entrance into her life, mark a radical change for her. And while Natalie may not speak, that doesn't mean she's shy and retiring. She can take care of herself, and keeps her head held high when confronted with those who have little sympathy or understanding for her condition. I'll admit that Darker Still was strong coming out of the gate. I was titillated by the idea of a portrait of a handsome lord whose life had (supposedly) ended in mystery taking New York by storm. I think I would have enjoyed the novel a little more if the main twist hadn't been in there--that is, if Natalie had never gone in the mirror. Lord Denbury, once met in person, quickly lost his charm. I didn't like him nearly as much in three dimensions. And you know me--if the hero fails me, the story is pretty much a wash. Lord Denbury was not, unfortunately, the only character that palled. Margaret, Natalie's potential friend, is as disappointingly boy-crazy as our first glimpse of her suggests, and her aunt is ponderously heavy-handed with her knowledge of the occult, her faith in Natalie’s ability to save Denbury, and the flaws of her niece. I kept waiting for Hieber to redeem Margaret in some way, but her storyline (and character arc) was dropped like a sack of potatoes. Finally--and this is really just me nit-picking—but I hate it when authors refer to characters as Lord Fragglerock and don’t give them an actual title. There are plenty to choose from. If one is a lord, one might be a baron, a viscount, an earl, a marquis or a duke. One might also be a younger son (though in that case he’d be called “Lord Jonathan” and not “Lord Denbury.” Also, I presume he’s the heir because of the property he was set to inherit pre-being stuck in a painting. Just, I don’t know, roll a die or something. One can be "younger son" and six can be "duke." Since the turn of the century was known to be the era of Robber Barons and Dollar Princesses, you can be sure New Yorkers would have known whether Denbury was a baron or a duke. 3 1/2 Points I'd flirt with this book over drinks. (less)
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...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 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. (less)
While I have greatly enjoyed the various editions of Robin Hood that I've seen throughout the years, I can't say that I've ever actually read a Robin Hood-themed novel. The primary reason for this is my lack of interest in the romantic pairing. Robin Hood and Marian have never particularly compelling to me--and you know that I've gotta love romance in order to love the story. I've always seen Marian as a kind of ineffectual, inconsequential heroine. In fact, I hesitate to call her a heroine at all. Rather, she personifies the kind of woman the age of chivalry deifies. Women didn't take active roles according to the mores of the time, and that's a concept I can't get behind. All this is to preface this statement: It took a modern author to bring the legend of Robin Hood into the 21st Century. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it wasn't to me. I didn't know I loved the tale of Robin Hood until I read Scarlet. In fact, I don't think I loved Robin Hood at all until I read A.C. Gaughen's interpretation of him. For those two reasons alone, I loved this book. And the really wonderful thing is that it has so much else to offer besides. Scarlet achieves three lofty goals: One, it creates a strong, believable, admirable heroine who remains true to her time period. Two, it seamlessly weaves a new twist into a classic tale. In other words, it uses the good that the tale had to begin with, and makes it even better. Three: It tells a fantastic story. I honestly can't say enough good things about this debut. A.C. Gaughen is an author to stalk, and I sincerely hope to see more of her. Though, I must admit, that I hope she doesn't use dialect in her next book. It's the only thing that kept this book from being a perfect six. 5 1/2 Points: I would have this book's babies.(less)
Fateful was one of my most highly anticipated reads of the fall season. Small and I were discussing whether or not I should do a review of it, and I simply couldn't fathom not reviewing doing so. It seemed so perfectly "me." It's a historical fantasy set in the early 1900's and there's a werewolf love interest. Hello? Did Claudia Gray write this book specifically for me? I confess, I half expected to be mentioned in the acknowledgments. Or at least, to be featured in the dedication:
"For Ruby, who inspired me to write about hot, historical werewolves."
Being the inspiration for a werewolf story is the apex of my blogging ambition. It'll happen someday, I just know it. Unfortunately, despite how perfect the concept was for me, the execution wasn't far from the same. I vaguely remember starting Claudia Gray's vampire series, but I don't think I finished it. Despite that rather lackluster introduction into Gray's writing, I was cautiously optimistic about Fateful, because I knew it could easily be just as forgettable. Having read the book at last (I got it in early September, but once I knew HFJ was on, I set it aside for the event), I can say that the book isn't so much forgettable as disappointing. My main issue was one of characterization, though I didn't think that Gray did a very good job of transporting me into the dichotomous worlds of First and Third Class aboard the Titanic. The main character is Tess, who has served as a below stairs for the aristocratic Lisle family for many years. Recently, however, she was promoted to ladies' maid. Despite the promotion, Tess has no intention of remaining in the Lisle's employ. For one thing, those beneath stairs know everything, so Tess is well aware of the Lisle's financial difficulties. For another, she discovers a Lisle family secret that hits close to home. It's unfortunate that, despite the first person narration, I never warmed to Tess. She was self-righteous, which I found annoying, but also out of place for a character in her position. Her thinking fell into the trap that never fails to irritate me--Tess is a modern girl with modern notions--she's just been plopped into a historical setting. Since this is my number one pet historical fiction peeve, my opinion of the rest of the novel suffered as a result. Another thing I had trouble with was Tess' approach to sex, which didn't fit the time period. Neither did it make sense to me given what happened to her sister. Also, it may be that I've seen Gosford Park too many times, but Gray's portrayal of the relationship between English aristocracy and their servants didn't ring true for me. Too much of the Lisle family's interaction revolves around Tess, when servants were rarely, if ever, acknowledged. Yes, it's Tess' story, but many a skilled writer has portrayed the main character as an observer. It could have been done. The nail in the coffin was the hero. Despite being a werwolf, he wasn't an alpha personality. Since this is 99.999999% of the reason I like werewolf heroes so much, my disappointment on this front was enormous. Alec wasn't dynamic enough to interest me. He was just kind of there, emoting. Or, maybe it's just that I don't go for the moody, fatalistic type. Whatever the reason, the romance stirred me not at all. Finally, I didn't really understand why Gray chose the Titanic as her setting. You would think, given the fact that everyone who reads the novel knows, going in, that the boat is going to sink, that it would to play an important role in the climax. It doesn't. In fact, the Titanic sinks so fast I had to back and reread to check to make sure it had really happened. Gray might have set her story on any posh luxury liner--even a modern-day one. That's a fact that makes me unutterably sad. I'm going to conclude this review by saying that the one positive thing that Fateful did for me is revive my interest in Titanic-based stories. I'd love to read more. Any suggestions?(less)
Presenting Ruby and Small's First Ever Joint Review!
The Characters Ruby You're probably going to be sick and tired of me saying things like this, but Princess of the Wild Swans' Meriel couldn't hold a candle to Daughter of the Forest's Sorcha. She was spoiled and a bit thin on personality and character development. I know that I should expect a princess to be a bit spoiled, but I do expect spoiled characters to move, gradually toward a place where they are less spoiled. Meriel ostensibly did this, but not in any particularly interesting way. I also didn't think we got to know the brothers very well before they were turned into swans. They fell too neatly into categories (artistic brother, introspective brother, etc). I wasn't invested enough to really care that they were gone, and I didn't feel the tension when Meriel was fighting to get them back. Small Review I agree, Meriel was very spoiled. I’d even say bratty. I do think she grew as the book went on, but she annoyed me so much in the beginning that I had a hard time letting that go. The brothers were disappointing to me, too. It wasn’t even like they just fit into categories, it was like they were categories. We didn’t even get to SEE an expression of their character traits (like the artistic one being artistic, or the introspective one being introspective) we were just TOLD that those were their traits. That made them feel even less alive than if they were simple caricatures. I almost wish the story had been about Liam, Danica, and their mother—the original characters. They were easier to like and hinted at depth. I felt their family bonds a lot more clearly. The only time I really felt invested in the story was when one of them was in peril. Ruby I agree! I can't think of a single thing the brothers (aside from Cullan) did! But I didn't like Liam, Danica and company as much as you did. I felt like they were caricatures of kind-hearted villagers. The Fairy Tale Ruby: Daughters of the Forest (by JM) also retells this story. And, frankly, she does it so much better that I don't think this book is going to work for me. This is the Lite version. I literally could not stop comparing Princess of the Wild Swans to Daughter of the Forest. The fact that Meriel could communicate with Liam and Danica telepathically made me want to tell her that she had it easy compared to the things Sorcha had to go through. What I can't decide is if I would have enjoyed this story if I hadn't read Daughter of the Forest. I read MG novels occasionally because that's the age I teach (and probably the reason I don't seek out the genre), so I know the only issue wasn't the audience Zahler was writing to. I've read more sophisticated stuff geared towards younger audiences. I just didn't connect with this story. The action also flies past without real substance, and the conflict was too neatly resolved. If you've read Juliet Marillier's guest post, you know what I'm talking about. It's one of the tidiest happily ever afters I've ever encountered. The only thing it's lacking is the babies. Small Review It’s hard to look at a book objectively when you hold a similar book in such high regard. I know we’re not supposed to compare, but how can you not? I think as far as MG books go, this one will be a hit with its target audience (when I was reading this at work I had three girls ask if they could borrow it and if I would order it for the library—all in the target age group), but it likely won’t be as successful with YA or adult readers. I usually don’t mind—and even sometimes welcome—neat happily ever after endings, but for some reason this one fell flat for me. Easy peasy "trials" and then neat ending. They didn't DESERVE that ending. They didn't work for it. I also never fully connected with the characters, so I didn’t give a pass on the sappy ending when I otherwise would have (I would move mountains to give my beloved characters a saccharine sweet HEA). Ruby Good to know! I'll take my copy to my classroom and see if it draws the interest of my students. I think the question of why the saccharine ending bothered us so much is a good one. I'm a happy ending person, too. I get pissed if the main characters go through ridiculous amounts of suffering only to have medium happy endings. I agree with Small, that also you need to feel like the characters have earned their happy endings--and I didn't get that feeling here.
2 1/2 Points: I'd Glance at This Book Through a Store Window. (less)
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. (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 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! (less)
The Twin's Daughter is that rare find in the Teen section these days: a Historical novel that is not paranormal. Some of my favorite Teen books are Historicals. So when I saw the Twin's Daughter, I prepared myself for a Bewitching Season-style fantasy. Don't get me wrong. I loved The Bewitching Season (not so much its sequel), but I was dead happy to finally come across a Teen novel that wasn't either a Fantasy or about a doomed character (i.e., Jane Grey). But before I get started with the review, here's the blurb from the dustjacket:
Lucy Sexton is stunned when a disheveled woman appears at the door one day…a woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to Lucy's own beautiful mother. It turns out the two women are identical twins, separated at birth, and raised in dramatically different circumstances. Lucy's mother quickly resolves to give her less fortunate sister the kind of life she has never known. And the transformation in Aunt Helen is indeed remarkable. But when Helen begins to imitate her sister in every way, even Lucy isn't sure at times which twin is which. Can Helen really be trusted, or does her sweet face mask a chilling agenda?
Filled with shocking twists and turns, THE TWIN'S DAUGHTER is an engrossing gothic novel of betrayal, jealousy, and treacherous secrets that will keep you guessing to the very end.
I don't know if I've ever expiated on my love of Gothic novels. I, well, love them. Especially historical ones. It all started when I read Mary Stewart's Madame, Will You Talk? I was hooked. Unfortunately, Gothic authors aren't all as awesome as Mary Stewart. Then again, she's a hard act to follow. So I was excited to see a Gothic--especially in the Teen section--that was as new as The Twin's Daughter.
The only problem with Gothic novels is that there is, inevitably, a twist to the plot. You know it and the author knows it. He or she works hard not to give it away but--consciously or not--you've got your eye out the whole time you're reading a book. You just know the author's going to pull the rug out from under you. Now that I've said that, here's your spoiler warning: I'm going to write about the ending of The Twin's Daughter. I've thought about it and decided that it would be impossible for me to write a review without mentioning it. I'll try to be as unspecific as possible--but be warned that I might give something away. If you are afraid (and you might well be), stop reading...nowThe Twin's Daughter is, first of all, a good Historical. I liked the detail that Baratz-Logsted included, though I have to admit I wasn't certain what the time period was until I looked up Gilbert and Sullivan's Patience on Wikipedia. (The year is 1881, for those interested). The narrator, Lucy, fits well into this time period. She is both old-fashioned and yet has modern ideas about the role of women. I can see her, ten years after the end of the novel, fighting for women's suffrage. But I'm getting ahead of myself.When we first meet Lucy, she's 13. The novel opens on the pivotal event in the novel--the arrival of her's mother's twin, Lucy's Aunt Helen.
Aunt Helen, though she looks a great deal like Lucy's mother (Aliese), has been raised separately and very differently from her sister. She has come to their house from a workhouse. She's undernourished, uneducated, unrefined and, frankly, unladylike. Lucy, her mother and her father take Aunt Helen into their home and a transformation is wreaked. It doesn't take long for all the superficial differences between Lucy's mother and her Aunt Helen to be completely erased.
Helen and Aliese's interchangeability is the crux of this novel. Eventually, even Lucy is unable to tell the two apart. This is the meat of the novel, and the root of the mystery. Who is Mother? Who is Aunt Helen? The answer to this question is ultimately a great deal more tragic than anyone could ever imagine.
The lesser aspect of this novel is Lucy's coming of age, and the romance she has with a neighbor boy. Time passes swiftly in this novel. It's necessary for Lucy to age for the sake of her romance--but often years were passed with few words. I didn't like this. I think it took away some of the urgency that drives a Gothic. Also, years pass--presumably four or five--and we learn that Lucy makes the transition from child to woman. But the novel isn't really about Lucy and Lucy's own story suffers from that. In fact, I think Baratz-Logsted tried to right three different novels at once. And didn't quite pull it off. I felt cheated on Lucy's behalf. She doesn't have much of a teen-hood and her adulthood doesn't shape up to be much better.
I think my main frustration with the novel was that Lucy felt like a prop. I wasn't much interested in her story because I wasn't given much to be interested in. Life seems to be lived by Lucy's Mother, Father and Aunt. Her own life is given far less attention. This would be okay, except that this is a Teen novel. And I really wanted Lucy's life to be the contrast to the other, more sordid and tragic elements of the book. Instead, this book left me with a bad taste in my mouth. This could be entirely my own baggage, but I don't want to read books like this. I don't need a complete 100% happily ever after. But even the epilogue didn't make me feel better after the resolution. I scowled at the dust-jacket when I closed the book for the last time.
Therefore, I'm only giving The Twin's Daughter two points. I don't want to spend any more time with it than I already have.(less)