This series has become a great way for me to step out of my comfort zone and away from my usual genres. Spy thrillers are generally not my thing, but...moreThis series has become a great way for me to step out of my comfort zone and away from my usual genres. Spy thrillers are generally not my thing, but with this series, the combination of excellent writing and skilled narration is proving to be quite irresistible.
While he was in China searching for his father, Michael Chase’s numerous talents have been recognized by his father’s agency, the CIA. He has been recruited and trained in an accelerated process and now he is, once again, following his father’s clues, albeit with the agency’s support.
This time, Michael travels to Istanbul to fight a terrorist group intent on using one of Nikola Tesla’s devices to hold the world hostage. The pacing of this book is relentless. Michael jumps from one dangerous situation straight into the next, leaving the reader no time to breathe at all. And yet, Lars Guignard leads us through numerous plot twists quite skillfully, never allowing confusion to join us on our journey.
I’m generally uncomfortable when the audio narrator changes in the middle of a series, but this time, the change was for the better. I enjoyed Ben Sullivan’s narration of the previous book, but Russell Jonas gives Michael and extra something that simply wasn’t there before. His uses his calm, no-nonsense voice to deliver the never-ending action scenes and bring them to life, crystal clear in the listener’s mind. Since this is his narrating debut, I hope he’ll prove to be versatile enough and transfer the same skill to other genres. I’d be very happy to buy books narrated by him in the future.
I’ll certainly be going back to this series when the opportunity arises. It has become a favorite of mine even after the first book, but Blown Circuit succeeded in cementing my affection for Michael and his story. I just hope the audio publisher will keep Jonas on as the narrator.
Please note that some minor spoilers for this year’s Veronica Mars movie were inevitable.
I just love the 21st century, don't you? A TV show gets cance...morePlease note that some minor spoilers for this year’s Veronica Mars movie were inevitable.
I just love the 21st century, don't you? A TV show gets cancelled, leaving behind millions of grieving fans. After years of struggle, a movie gets made, crowdfunded by adoring viewers who were unable to let go. While this is happening, creator of the show Rob Thomas (originally a novelist), decides to start a book series, which will pick up exactly where the movie leaves off. And all of it, every single thing ends up being a huge success. At this point, one can safely call Veronica Mars a multimedia sensation.
Veronica may have been gone for many years, but Neptune is still the same cesspool of crime and corruption. It gets even worse during spring break, when thousands of adolescents, unsupervised and wild, travel there to drown in alcohol and irresponsible behavior. When two young girls go missing, no one is really surprised, least of all Veronica herself. But she is surprised when she discovers that she has a strong personal connection to one of the girls and that she has to find a way to put aside her own emotional turmoil in order to work the case. To make matters worse, her father is still unhappy that she gave up her career in law and he’s still recovering from a grave injury. Logan has been deployed and a bad Skype connection is all they have for comfort. Corruption in Neptune is worse than ever, which means Veronica has to work around the inept Sheriff if she wants to make any progress on her case. And then, just to push things from bad to worse, her Mom shows up…
I’ve come to admire Veronica even more now that she’s an adult. She is emotional and soft, but fiercely independent. At this point, she doesn’t need anyone to come to her rescue. She is perfectly capable of defending herself. That’s not to say that she doesn’t have a very supportive group of friends! The entire old gang is back right alongside her, and with the exception of Logan, they all help in some way. For his part, Logan is the one she turns to for emotional support. When push comes to shove, she is far more likely to e-mail him than talk to anyone else.
Really, if you think about it, audio is really the best choice if one wants to enjoy this book fully. Narrated by Kristen Bell (because who else could narrate it?), it’s almost like Veronica herself is sitting beside you, telling you her story over cocktails and snacks.
The second book, titled Mr. Kiss and Tell, is scheduled for release in late October 2014. My copy is already pre-ordered, what are you waiting for? (less)
What on God’s green earth is going on with Richelle Mead? She keeps throwing these beautiful, dark works at us and expecting us to just roll with the...moreWhat on God’s green earth is going on with Richelle Mead? She keeps throwing these beautiful, dark works at us and expecting us to just roll with the punches! Take is easy on us, Richelle. We readers are such sensitive creatures.
Consider that your warning, my friends: Silver Shadows is Mead’s darkest work so far. Starvation, torture, interrogation and mindless self destruction are just some of the things are heroes have to deal with. Compared to that, Rose’s time as Dimitri’s personal snack bar seems like a walk in the park. Our heroes are strong and they are smart, but even the strongest break if you put them under enough pressure. Mead puts Adrian and Sydney through hell in this book, facing them with the kind of things that are likely to have lasting consequences.
Like The Fiery Heart before it, Silver Shadows is told both from Adrian’s and Sydney’s perspectives, and both are done excellently. Richelle Mead has such good grasp of these characters and she has once again proven herself to be an excellent psychologist. Even in this subgenre that doesn’t always strive for emotional complexity, she gave us characters that are genuine in their actions and emotional reactions at all times.
I have to reiterate: parts of this book are very difficult to read. My heart broke for Sydney and Adrian, and even Adrian’s self destructive tendencies didn’t make me want to strangle him like they usually would. We always knew Sydney was the stronger one, but Adrian can be depended on when push comes to shove.
Everything else I could possibly say about this book is a spoiler, and I’d never do that do my readers. Silver Shadows ends with a cliffhanger that leaves us in breathless anticipation of The Ruby Circle, sixth and final installment of the Bloodlines series. Things are so painful and complicated already, I don’t know how my poor heart will handle any more, but my copy is already pre-ordered and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.
Well this was a rather pleasant surprise! In Solstice, P. J. Hoover fascinatingly combines Greek mythology with a natural disaster/dystopian...more3.5 stars
Well this was a rather pleasant surprise! In Solstice, P. J. Hoover fascinatingly combines Greek mythology with a natural disaster/dystopian scenario. Her idea is breathtakingly original and her execution, for the most part, superb. There were times when the transitions between the two worlds weren’t as smooth as they should have been and they required a bit more patience and good will, but overall, worldbuilding is Solstice’s strongest quality by far.
On the outside, Paige’s world is in ruins. The global warming has reached alarming levels and the world is in the middle of Global Heating Crisis. Nothing functions as it used to and protecting people from the sun is everyone’s biggest concern. Heat bubbles regularly form over cities and cause people to suffocate.
But Paige isn’t just a girl in the middle of a natural disaster. Her ties to Greek gods and the Underworld are strong, even though she doesn’t realize it. It isn’t until she finds out the truth that the story really picks up. She then takes us bravely into the Underworld, across the river with Charon and straight into Hell in Hades’ arms.
Once we arrive in Hell and Elysian Fields, we are overwhelmed by vivid imagery P.J. Hoover provides. She has a great talent for succinct but effective descriptions that have a certain cinematic value. Paige’s first arrival to the Underworld was by far my favorite part of the book.
At first, Paige seemed far too bland for me to really like her, but as she discovered the truth about herself and the people around her, she became stronger and her personality really shone through, which made it possible for me to like her. I did struggle a bit with how she reacted to Greek gods showing up around her. She just took everything in stride, believed what she was told without a hint of disbelief. Hades and Ares, Charon and Cerberus, she accepted them all in a heartbeat, never doubting that they were real.
I also honestly think Solstice would have been a much better book without the love triangle, but for those of you who despise them as much as I do, I should point out that this one wasn’t as bad as most. Things were pretty clear from the start, and the third person was more of a nuisance than an actual threat.
Refreshingly enough, Solstice is a standalone, and it has one of the most satisfying endings I’ve come across in a very long time. After a lovely epilogue, we even get a bonus chapter that will leave an even bigger smile on your faces. I love it when authors do this since there are very few things I love more than basking in the happy endings of characters I’ve grown to love.
Fractured doesn’t suffer from the dreaded middle book syndrome, not in the least. If anything, the stakes are higher, the plot more complicated and th...moreFractured doesn’t suffer from the dreaded middle book syndrome, not in the least. If anything, the stakes are higher, the plot more complicated and the characters better developed. It is a tense read, a thrill ride from start to finish. There were times when I was genuinely afraid for Kyla, even though the rational part of me insisted that nothing too terrible could happen to her.
Most of the anxiety I experienced was caused by Nico, an important person from Kyla’s past. Even when she didn’t know who or what she was, due to being slated, she knew he was no ordinary teacher. His presence brought forth some very strong emotions, but she didn’t quite know what to make of him. As her memories started returning in Fractured, her feelings toward him became even more complicated. For the most part, he was kind and supportive, and Kyla kept getting this urge to please him, to gain his approval. But even when he was smiling at her, there was a feeling of wrongness she couldn’t shake. As the story progressed and her past with Nico came to light, I as a reader understood that what Kyla was experiencing was some form of Stockholm syndrome, but her confusion and constant changes were done excellently. The nuances of their relationship, the creepy undertones, were impossible to ignore.
Thanks to Nico and his many forms of tough love, Kyla is actually three different persons in Fractured: Kyla, the slated girl; Rain, a Free UK fighter under Nico’s command; and Lucy, the little girl who was taken and broken by Nico, only to be rebuilt into a terrorist. Handling an MC with a multiple personality disorder of sorts on top of Stockholm syndrome would probably prove challenging for most authors, but Terry dealt with it beautifully. I was (although it seems a bit rude to admit it) more than a little surprised.
Ben was mostly absent in Fractured, but he was always present in Kyla’s mind and a great many of her actions were in some way motivated by her desire to protect him and reunite with him. He was, in his absence, perhaps more important to the story than he would have been had he actually been there. Through him, Terry showed that a feeling as strong as love can work against any kind of conditioning.
Some old secondary characters were given more important roles, and some exciting new ones were introduced. Tori, Ben’s supposedly re-slated old girlfriend played an essential part and caused some emotional conflicts, and then there was Katran, another Free UK fighter and Rain’s (Kyla’s) greatest rival for Nico’s affection and approval.
All in all, I thought Terry did an outstanding job with this sequel and I simply can’t wait for the final installment in the Slated trilogy.
3.5 stars My grandmother makes the best bean stew. (I realize this is an unusual review opener, but bear with me just a little while.) Yes, my grandmot...more3.5 stars My grandmother makes the best bean stew. (I realize this is an unusual review opener, but bear with me just a little while.) Yes, my grandmother’s bean stew is quite the celebrity in my family. I don’t know how she does it, but it’s not like she’s keeping it a secret… quite the opposite, in fact. She shared her recipe and showed me how it’s done many, many times. But although I’m a pretty decent cook (if I do say so myself), I always end up with something else entirely. A pretty good bean stew, yes, but the magic is simply not there. In truth, if you give five cooks the exact same ingredients, they’ll each come up with a different meal, and no more than one, if that, will be truly unforgettable.
These days, books aren’t all that different, really. No matter how many times a certain recipe is used and reused, the end result is never the same. Ten authors can use all the same tropes, and they’ll each end up with a different story. Eight out of ten resulting books won’t be worth your time, one will be moderately enjoyable, and one will shine like a comet. There’s always an author capable of making even the most (ab)used tropes work.
Jennifer Archer is one of those authors. On the surface, The Shadow Girl is really and truly a cliché fest. A recently deceased parent. A best friend in love with the heroine. A mysterious new boy in town. An agonizing (read: annoying) love triangle. A secret waiting to be revealed. I see you all waving your heads in disgust, but I promise you, aside from the horrible and unnecessary love triangle, The Shadow Girl is a great and exciting read.
I pride myself on the fact that I can guess pretty much everything these days. (Sometimes I curse myself for it, too.) But with The Shadow Girl, I made all the wrong assumptions. Despite all the foreshadowing, my guess was nowhere near the truth. Honestly, I was lucky to go into this book knowing next to nothing about it. Everything is a spoiler with The Shadow Girl, even mentioning the genre it belongs to. I strongly recommend avoiding anything even remotely spoiler-ish.
This whole experience would have been much better without the love triangle. Even I, a well known hater of divided hearts, have to admit that there are love triangles that work. However, Jennifer Archer wrote hers almost as an afterthought, a painfully predictable and tragically unnecessary thing. Let’s not kid ourselves, Lily’s best friend Wyatt never really stood a chance. Their sudden forced attraction was explained with their fear of separation, of going to college and losing each other, but while that certainly makes sense, it should have stopped the second Ty Collier showed up. It was always clear who Lily would choose, which made her constant wavering all the more aggravating.
But that is one flaw in an otherwise excellent book. Lily’s relationship with her other, Iris, was a true delight to read. This concept is perhaps not the most original, but as I wrote earlier, Archer made the best of it. Lily also struggled with her mother’s strange behavior, especially after her father died, and as the story progressed, their relationship increased in complexity, and as frustrating as it was at times, it was an essential part of the book.
I’d hate to spoil even the smallest thing for you guys, so I’ll stop here. I’d recommend downloading a sample to see if it works for you like it did for me. The first 20% should make it clear enough.
When you read as much as I do, the words ‘consistently mediocre’ are nothing to frown upon. After all the ups and downs I go through with my other rea...moreWhen you read as much as I do, the words ‘consistently mediocre’ are nothing to frown upon. After all the ups and downs I go through with my other reads, it’s nice to pick up something and know exactly what I’ll be getting.
If nothing else, Heart of Iron is significantly closer to the actual steampunk genre than its predecessor. Through Lena, a skilled maker of clockwork toys, some steampunk elements were introduced that simply weren’t present in Honoria and Blade’s story. It’s still a far cry from real steampunk novels, but at least this time, I didn’t feel cheated.
This book is also more tightly plotted than Kiss of Steel. The humanist movement is looking to destroy the Echelon, and Lena, hunted and hurt by the Blue Bloods, decides to join them and spy for them from within. Through a series of events and manipulations, she and Will end up on opposing sides, but neither of them realizes it, although Will strongly suspects. Creating characters too headstrong and proud to communicate seems to be McMaster’s preferred way of building romantic tension. Lena and Will shared so little with each other when at least part of their problems could have been avoided with a simple open conversation. This is why I tend to avoid romance and it’s precisely what bothered me in the first installment. While Lena was slightly less difficult than her sister Honoria, she still made a mess of everything she touched.
I must say that McMaster took some very unexpected turns in Heart of Iron, things I did not see coming at all. One doesn’t expect surprises from paranormal historical romance, but after putting her characters in an impossible situation, she chose a way out I simply didn’t predict. In the end, her solution worked perfectly, and so did the unexpected, jay-dropping surprise.
Once again, Alison Larkin’s narration is nothing to write home about. She does a fairly decent job with Will and Lena (and of course, Blade and Honoria) but she still has the habit of making all the secondary characters sound horribly nasal. She could have done a better job with the sex scenes as well, but overall, her performance is good enough.
I will, of course, continue this series. The next book is about Jasper Lynch, leader of the Echelon’s Nighthawks, and Rosalind from the humanist movement. I only hope the two of them will start talking to each other openly I pull all my hair out.
4.5 stars Hmm, let's see: steampunk noir, fantastic worldbuilding, characters I fell in love with almost instantly, crime scenes worthy of Patricia Cor...more4.5 stars Hmm, let's see: steampunk noir, fantastic worldbuilding, characters I fell in love with almost instantly, crime scenes worthy of Patricia Cornwell, clockwork, LOTS of sexual tension and a heart-stopping conclusion. All in a single book, my friends.
Centuries ago in a land called Hy Breasil, native Ferishers and strayed humans saw marriage as a way to stop the war between their two races. Sons and daughters of the two great Courts married the conquerors in an attempt to save themselves from annihilation. Today, very little Fey blood remains and the gifts it offers are often both unwelcome and dangerous.
In the great city of Dorstaad, two Criminal Investigation Division inspectors, Celeste Ritsuko and Janus Mikani, do excellent work despite the hostility they occasionally face. They are each other’s exact opposites: she, measured, well organized and precise, excellent at drawing conclusions from evidence she pedantically collects; and he, a charmer who mostly runs on intuition and solves cases using gifts his Fey blood provides.
Ritsuko and Mikani begin as co-workers and friends and they remain friends. It is a wonderful thing they have, a purely platonic relationship built on trust and mutual understanding. There is attraction of course, but neither of them is willing to risk what they already have for something that may or may not work… probably not, considering Mikani’s track record. Neither of them admits, even to themselves, that they might be moving towards something more, a different kind of relationship, no longer safe, but risky and exciting at the same time. Theirs is a subtle, tentative dance, a slow-burning romance at its finest and one that will leave you desperate to know if and when they’ll take the plunge.
(You WILL be jumping up and down in your seat, chanting “Do it! Do it! Go for it! Kiss her, you moron! Kiss her!”)
Their characterization is superb. I find that I often use the words ‘astonishingly good’ to describe Aguirre’s work, but I can’t help it when they always apply. Bronze Gods and its characters didn’t sprout over night, they’re the result of a decade-long work, which is obvious on every page. I’ve read my fair share of crime novels and seen enough crime shows that I’m not easily impressed. I think we are all desensitized as readers and viewers, and yet these crime scenes gave me the chills. Each included a different mysterious, inexplicable device, the purpose of which was entirely unclear to Ritsuko and Mikani.
I am, as I’m sure you all know, a bit demanding when it comes to steampunk. I want well-defined worlds, age-appropriate language and at least a few creative gadgets. Ann and Andres Aguirre gave me all that and more. I need book 2 more than I need air... or bread.... or...well, maybe not blueberry muffins. But close.
I love tales about thieves and con artists, book series like The Curse Workers and movies like Ocean’s Eleven. I love it when seemingly random events...moreI love tales about thieves and con artists, book series like The Curse Workers and movies like Ocean’s Eleven. I love it when seemingly random events come together neatly and cleverly in the end. Therefore, I loved Heist Society. It is admittedly not as clever as White Cat, for example, but I had a hard time putting it down and that’s a big deal these days.
Fifteen-year-old Katarina Bishop is a very experienced con artist. She may be ridiculously young, but in her line of work, she’s one of the best. Descended from a long line of skilled con men and educated by her own father, Kat knows every trick in the book. But the kind of life she’s been leading for as long as she can remember can be very tiresome so she’s decided to try something different – get a proper education. At the beginning of Heist Society, Kat is being expelled from a very prestigious boarding school she’d conned her way into. Her best friend and fellow con artist, W.W. Hale the Fifth, set her up and had her expelled, all because her father’s in trouble and needs help. Someone has stolen five absurdly expensive paintings from Arturo Taccone, a very rich and unscrupulous man who is convinced that Kat’s dad is responsible and is ready to do anything at all to get them back. He doesn’t care that her father has an alibi and that he’s being watched by the Interpol. He just wants his property back, and to give it back to him, Kat and her friends have to steal them from a place no one has ever broken into – the Henley museum in London.
I’m not sure why I waited so long to read Heist Society – it’s exactly the kind of book I usually can’t resist – light, fast and utterly unputdownable. Once I started thinking about flaws, I realized it is also a bit too short. There was room for a few more plot twists, and although I’m not normally a fan of watered down plots, I did feel that things were happening far too fast.
The characters were all interesting, colorful and full of quirks. I loved getting to know them and figuring them out, enjoyed trying to understand their motives and loyalties. Although Kat is the main character, I feel that I’ve learned more about the others than I did about her, but some things were made clearer towards the end and I can’t wait to discover more in Uncommon Criminals. Although there are two gorgeous boys in Kat’s world, Heist Society is really romance-free. There are hints of a relationship and some scenes did feel a bit love triangle-ish, but it is quite clear who Kat belongs with, and I’m pretty confident that’s who she’ll end up with.
To make the long story short (*gasp* Yes, I do that occasionally!), I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a quick summer read.
It should take me no more than three words to convince you to read this book. They are the same three words that convinced ME to read it, and I haven’...moreIt should take me no more than three words to convince you to read this book. They are the same three words that convinced ME to read it, and I haven’t regretted it at all. Those three words are… are you ready? Four hot brothers. That’s all you need to know.
*sigh* Oh, okay. I suppose I should write a “proper” review. Here it goes:
Four Merrick brothers have a very strong connection to the elements: Michael controls earth, twins Gabriel and Nick control fire and air respectively, and the youngest, Chris, controls water. All four of them are far more powerful than they should be which causes the other Elementals to fear them and attack them at every opportunity. The brothers can’t use their elements to defend themselves because they’re all young and untrained and loss of control on their part could mean the loss of many innocent lives.
When two older boys ambush Chris and beat him almost to death, a girl from school comes to his rescue. She somehow chases them away and gets him home but Michael, his legal guardian since their parents died, practically chases her out of the house. Chris doesn’t really know her, even though she’s in some of his classes. He’s heard about her, though, everyone has. People say that she sleeps around with anyone who asks nicely enough. But Becca isn’t like that at all. She’s been through a lot and she’s just trying to keep her head down and avoid being noticed. Then, suddenly, she is in the middle of Chris’s drama, and a gorgeous new boy is showing a real interest in her.
You probably figured out from that last sentence that there is a love triangle in this book. In my humble opinion, there’s no such thing as a good/interesting love triangle, but I can tell you that this one is less painful than most. It made sense in a strange kind of way and it kept me in suspense because, unlike with other love triangles, I actually wasn’t sure which boy Becca would end up with. Another thing worth mentioning is Brigid Kemmerer’s writing – it is much better than I expected when I first heard about this book. Her style doesn’t draw attention from the story itself, it is straightforward, clean and very easy to read.
Storm doesn’t end with a cliffhanger, but it has a pretty open ending. So many things are unresolved and I can’t wait for Gabriel’s book to be out. This is the type of not-quite-cliffhanger I can live with: everyone is safe, but there are a lot of questions that need answers.
If you are going to read Storm, definitely read the short story prequel first. It takes place about 4 years earlier, and it helped me understand why Michael is the way he is. My recommendation: go read it. Just keep those smelling salts near – these boys will make you swoon!
Guess what, folks! It is entirely possible to write good urban fantasy without relationship drama or love triangle drama. Who knew?! Well, I did, and...moreGuess what, folks! It is entirely possible to write good urban fantasy without relationship drama or love triangle drama. Who knew?! Well, I did, and I guess Jenn Bennett did too because that’s what she delivered. After the sweet beginning of Cady and Lon’s relationship in Kindling the Moon, I thought they would surely start having second thoughts, realize that their age difference and Lon’s teenage son are too much to handle, or at least that one of them would be attracted to another person as well. I mean, that’s how these things go, right? Wrong! I never in my wildest dreams expected them to communicate, to be supportive and ready to commit to each other, but most of all, I didn’t think they’d end up solving paranormal mysteries together, like a family. Shows what I know.
Now that Arcadia Bell finally knows the truth about her parents, she’s free to live her life with Lon and his son Jupe, work in her tiki bar and learn about her Moonchild abilities. Or at least she should be. When Earthbound teens start disappearing and the connection is made between current kidnappings and a 30-year-old unsolved case, Cady and Lon are asked to investigate. Normally they would refuse such an assignment, but all the kidnapped teens are connected to Hellfire, a club of Earthbounds Lon belongs to, which means that Jupe might be next. With Lon’s son in danger, there’s really no way they could refuse.
As if that isn’t enough, Jupe is developing his knack earlier than most part-demons. His knack is very dangerous, especially in the hands of a fourteen-year-old boy: it turns out that he can compel people to do anything he wants just by talking to them. The parental struggles that ensue are both heartwarming and at times hilarious.
Everyone who has a soft spot for Kate Daniels’ kid Julie like I do, will fall in love with Jupiter in a second. Most of the humor in both books comes from him, but he also made me tear up once or twice. He is sweet, intelligent and very realistic.
I think I’ve already made it clear how much I love Cady and Lon together. I’d continue the series just for that, even if the rest wasn’t that good. I got a little angry with Cady in the second half when she didn’t stand up to Mr. Dare, but I understand her fear and the need to hide her identity. Again, what makes it better is that Lon knows all her secrets so she doesn’t have to worry about him abandoning her in the future.
If you’re like me and you’re always on the lookout for a good urban fantasy series, Arcadia Bell is an excellent choice. I don’t know when book three is coming out, but I know I’ll pre-order it.
Update 04/17/12: Stop by The Nocturnal Library to read a guest post by Elizabeth Norris and enter for a chance to win a hardcover copy of Unraveling....moreUpdate 04/17/12: Stop by The Nocturnal Library to read a guest post by Elizabeth Norris and enter for a chance to win a hardcover copy of Unraveling.
I never give five stars easily, but I'd give this book ten if I could.
I always feel this strange sense of accomplishment when I discover a book I can add to my all-time favorites. There aren’t many books that mean so much to me and that I keep going back to over and over again. I take that short list and adding books to it very seriously. Therefore, I needed to give myself some time before reviewing this because I was afraid that my initial reaction was entirely emotional and that my enthusiasm will drop once I calm down. I slept on it, I finished a very different book by one of my favorite authors, but none of that changed how I feel. If anything, I am now convinced more than ever that I found something truly special in Unravelling (that’s two Ls in the UK edition, only one in the US).
Janelle Tanner is living with her parents and her younger brother, working as a lifeguard at the beach and dating a gorgeous and extremely popular high school senior, Nick. Her life looks perfect on the outside, but on the inside, her mother is bipolar and needs to be taken care of, and her father, no matter how wonderful, has a job that’s keeping him away most of the time. He’s the head of counterintelligence in the FBI’s office in San Diego, and he just got a case that’s driving him and the other agents crazy. An explosive device has been discovered and it’s counting down days, but no matter how many experts they bring in, no one has any idea what it is or how to disarm it. As if that’s not enough, unidentifiable bodies, almost completely melted from radiation, are suddenly showing up everywhere. One of these bodies was found in the car that hit Janelle on her way home from work. She seemed more or less fine after the accident, but what no one knows, what no one would ever believe her, is that she died when the car hit her, and a stoner kid from her school, Ben Michaels, brought her back to life and healed her. Who is Ben? Where are all the bodies coming from? What’s going to happen when the countdown finally hits zero? Is it all somehow connected? Janelle and her best friend Alex always enjoyed ‘borrowing’ her father’s case files from his home office and discussing his cases, but this time, they may be in over their heads.
Elizabeth Norris’ writing is flawless. It doesn’t draw attention to itself, but it keeps you engaged and controls your emotions in a way that doesn’t make you feel manipulated. Unravelling is action-packed from start to finish, but that doesn’t mean that it lacks depth. It was truly heartbreaking, and I gave myself a headache from all the crying. If you think this is just another YA novel, think again, because Elizabeth Norris pulled no punches. She kept surprising me on every page, and each time I thought I had it all figured out, she did something entirely unexpected. It was like watching the awesome first season of Fringe all over again, but with a likeable heroine instead of Olivia.
Don’t you just love a girl who doesn’t spend all her time consciously making one mistake after another because she lacks the backbone to do the right thing? That’s our Janelle for you, a girl who knows exactly what she wants and doesn’t hesitate to make it happen. She’d been a victim once and she has no intention of being one ever again, so she thinks hard about every choice she makes and doesn’t allow herself to be influenced by anyone else’s opinion. She’s my new character I want to be best friends with. I always expect YA heroines to disappoint me sooner or later, because they almost always do, but with Janelle, that never happened. I can count on the fingers of one hand the characters that impressed me as much as she did.
(Did you guys notice how I avoided writing about Ben as much as possible? I'm trying to be serious here and I don't think gushing about that boy would help my cause much. But rest assured, he IS perfect.)
I think I’ve made my opinion pretty clear: I cannot recommend this highly enough. I can’t wait to find out how other people will feel about it. Do yourselves a favor and preorder this one, you won’t regret it.
A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher, HarperCollins UK, for review purposes.
Reviewing this book feels much like walking through a minefield. (Not that I know what that feels like, but I can imagine, you know.) On the one hand,...moreReviewing this book feels much like walking through a minefield. (Not that I know what that feels like, but I can imagine, you know.) On the one hand, I can’t reveal too much of the plot. I can’t reveal almost anything, really, lest I ruin the experience for you guys. On the other hand, I have to write just enough to make you want to pick this book up because it’s one you don’t want to miss. Trust me. I suppose I could just point you to Maggie Stiefvater’s wonderful review and leave it to her to convince you, but I’m not that much of a coward. *coughs* I just did that! *coughs*
So here goes nothing…
I don’t normally read historical fiction unless it’s highly recommended. Code Name Verity was, directly or indirectly, recommended to me by two of my trusted friends, Chachic and Jo, and, as I already mentioned, my favorite young adult author Maggie Stiefvater. And of course they were right.
Code Name Verity is a story about two best friends, Maddie and Queenie, fighting in World War II. They probably never would have met in peacetime, as they come from entirely different circles of society: Queenie is Scottish royalty who grew up in a castle, while Maddie is a bike shop owner’s granddaughter. That didn’t stop them from becoming best friends while serving together in WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force), and staying close even when the war took them in different directions. All Maddie ever wanted was to fly airplanes. She was in training before the war and when the war started, she waited patiently for them to accept female pilots, which eventually they did. Queenie’s talents lie elsewhere: she is fluent in both German and French and able to momentarily slip into any role, be herself one second, and someone entirely different the next. Although these two have very little in common on the surface, deep down they are both incredibly strong, intelligent and compassionate women.
But for me, the most fascinating character was Queenie’s capturer, Hauptsturmfürer von Linden. He starts as pure evil, of course, but as the story progresses, we are offered small details of his life that give him an entirely different face, one that is complex and multi-layered and that causes the reader to be just as conflicted as Queenie. I don’t know what I expected, but he just looked like anybody - like the sort of chap who would come into the shop and buy a motorbike for his lad’s 16th birthday – like your headmaster.
Our story starts when Queenie gets captured by the Gestapo in France. Upon breaking her with torture and turning her into a collaborator, von Linden allows her to write down the events that led her to his cruel hands, and her written testimony is what we are given.
The narrative itself takes some getting used to. Queenie tells her present story in first person, but switches to third person and focuses on Maddie every time she talks about the past. It was a little strange at first, having the narrator talk about herself in third person, but I soon realized that it was an excellent way for Wein to help her readers adapt to constant alternations between the past and the present.
Every once in a while you know that you’ve stumbled upon a classic. Code Name Verity might have been published in 2012, but there is no doubt in my mind that it will endure the test of time. It has the weight (although not quite the genius) of The Book Thief. I'm sure it will receive awards and critical acclaim.
And so ends yet another series. Darn. I really wanted more of this one.
I can’t decide if Laura Anne Gilman is better at worldbuilding or character bu...moreAnd so ends yet another series. Darn. I really wanted more of this one.
I can’t decide if Laura Anne Gilman is better at worldbuilding or character building. The idea of Talent, people with the ability to control electric current, the new generation of witches and wizards; and fatae, the non-human magical creatures, is too good not to be explored in detail, which is why Gilman had two loosely connected series set in this universe. While I never made it past book two in The Retrievers series (not because I didn’t want to, but because I can’t seem to find the time), I’ve been following her Paranormal Scene Investigations series closely, stalking the poor woman, pestering her on Twitter and doing other things I’m too ashamed to admit here and now. It’s her fault, though. *points finger accusingly* You can’t write characters like Bonnie, Venec, Ian, Sharon, Nicky, Pietr and Nifty and expect not to be stalked and begged for more.
The PUPs have a lot to deal with in Dragon Justice, even more than usual. A serial killer has been killing male Talents for the last thirty years, and he appears to be human, not fatae. An untrained storm-seer saw both Ian Stosser and Wren Valere dead in the near future. An unknown Talent is gathering young girls into a coven in Central Park for an unknown purpose. And, most delicious of all, Ben Venec and Wren Valere go against each other, him tightening the security of a museum, and her trying to “retrieve” (by which I mean steal) an item from it, to Bonnie’s never-ending amusement.
Once again Gilman brings her two series together: Wren Valere showed up shortly in Tricks of the Trade while Bonnie was apartment-hunting, but she played a much more significant role in Dragon Justice. I must say that I was very excited about seeing these two heroines work together, although to me, The Wren is far less familiar than Bonnie. I also enjoyed the scenes with their two love interests, Ben Venec and Sergei Didier, especially when they started growling at each other.
If I understood correctly (and really, my attention span is not that short), there will be no more books set in this world. Two e-novellas from Danny’s perspective will be released in 2013. After that, we’ll really have to say goodbye to this world. Gilman is working on a new series I know very little about for now, but I’m definitely curious about that project. (less)
My full name’s Ed Kennedy. I’m nineteen. I’m an underage cabdriver. I’m typical of many of the young men you see in this suburban outpost of the city...moreMy full name’s Ed Kennedy. I’m nineteen. I’m an underage cabdriver. I’m typical of many of the young men you see in this suburban outpost of the city – not a whole lot of prospects or possibility. That aside, I read more books than I should, and I’m decidedly crap at sex and doing my taxes. Nice to meet you.
After accidentally preventing a bank robber from escaping, Ed Kennedy receives his first playing card with three addresses written on it. He understands that he needs to deliver a message to each of these places, but the card offers no further instructions. Relying on his intuition alone, Ed starts touching people’s lives and trying to understand what he has to do. The messages vary from simple to horribly complex and painful, but they all have one thing in common: they need Ed to shake them up and save them from themselves.
I think the most wonderful thing about Zusak is the surprising humanity of his characters. Not only do they come alive for the reader, but they also take so many different roles in the process. Their simple acts of kindness often end up being impressive and life-changing. I’d noticed this about so many characters in The Book Thief and I feared it was a one-time deal, but Ed might be the best of them all. In complete contrast to the ending, Ed is one of the most real and tangible characters I’ve ever stumbled upon. The fact that he’s completely unaware of how extraordinary he is just adds to his charm. My only regret is that the same cannot be said about Audrey. I really needed her to be just as well developed, but she was the only one who didn’t feel real to me, and that’s the sole reason for my 4-star rating.
I Am the Messenger will make you happy in at least three ways: it will give you a truly authentic, approachable story that will go straight through your heart, it will make you examine the way you treat complete strangers and it will catch you completely off guard. I wish I could hold up that knife and tear open the world. I’d slice it open and climb through to the next one. In bed, I cling to that thought.
I suppose many people will not be comfortable with the ending. I thought it was unexpected, brilliant (like the man himself), mind-blowing (still picking up the pieces) and audacious. It didn’t take anything from the story, it didn’t diminish the importance of any of the characters, and it added an extra dose of memorability the book wouldn’t necessarily have otherwise.
Choosing a favorite quote this time was just like choosing a favorite child, but there was one I needed to share: What would you do if you were me? Tell me. Please tell me! But you’re far from this. Your fingers turn the strangeness of these pages that somehow connect my life to yours. Your eyes are safe. The story is just another few hundred pages of your mind. For me, it’s here. It’s now. I have to go through with this, considering the cost at every turn. Nothing will ever be the same.