Falling Kingdoms is a story about three countries, three neighboring kingdoms with nothing but deep-seated hatred between them. On two sides are Auran...moreFalling Kingdoms is a story about three countries, three neighboring kingdoms with nothing but deep-seated hatred between them. On two sides are Auranos and Limeros, both prosperous but different in everything but in wealth. Between them sits Paelsia, a poor, hungry kingdom drained by its neighbors from both sides. In all three kingdoms, resentment and prejudice are passed through generations, but they maintained peace for decades. Then a young and stupid nobleman from Auranos kills a young man from Paelsia and gets away with it, and in this situation the king of Limeros recognizes a chance to destroy a despised rival king.
Falling Kingdoms does not focus on a single hero’s perspective. It is told from several points of view (too many, some have complained) and we are offered insight into each of the three countries. It is a game of three kings, and as a huge fan of political intrigue, I enjoyed it immensely. What made it even more interesting was that I was unable to choose sides. All three kingdoms and all the central characters existed in a gray area, with only a few exceptions among the secondary characters.
Even in the darkest and most cruel person, there is still a kernel of good. And within the most perfect champion, there is darkness. The question is, will one give in to the dark or the light? It's something we decide with every choice we make, every day that we exist. What might not be evil to you could be evil to someone else. Knowing this makes us powerful even without magic.
In Auranos, the younger princess Cleo is to be engaged to a man she despises, a nobleman who killed a wine-seller’s son in Paelsia right in front of her for some petty reason and later showed no remorse. Cleo could maybe convince her father to choose someone else for her, but Lord Aron knows something about her that no one else must ever find out.
In Lumeros, the king’s only (legitimate) son Magnus, heir to the throne, struggles with his father’s eternal disapproval and cruelty while fighting to deny, even to himself, the inappropriate feelings he harbors for his younger sister Lucia. When his father decides to start a war with Auranos and use the opportunity to finally bring Magnus into his fold, the young prince is forced to choose between his desire to please his father and his desperate need to protect Lucia.
In Paelsia, Jonas, the wine-seller’s younger son, is desperate to avenge his older brother. But instead of focusing his hatred on the young nobleman who stabbed Tomas in the throat, he sees Princess Cleo as the embodiment of all evil.
There is, of course, the “small” issue of Magnus’ feelings for Lucia. The fact that they’re not really brother and sister won’t change much in the eyes of those readers who feel that being raised as siblings invariably makes any romantic feelings incestuous. It doesn’t help that Magnus had no knowledge of Lucia’s parentage; he really thought she was his sister. Personally, I wasn’t bothered by it. I am bothered by many things, but this does not offend my moral values in the least. However, I’m sure many readers will find it unforgivable. Consider yourselves warned.
The only thing that truly fell flat in a book I otherwise loved was a huge emotional scene in the second half that was meant to be a tear-jerker, but that left me completely cold. Surprised, maybe, but not nearly as sad as I was supposed to be. I suspect my lack of emotional reaction came from not being truly invested in the romance in question or the character(s) involved, but there were plenty of other characters that more than made up for it. The ending left enough things open for what will surely be an even better second book. Rebel Spring is a book I’m eagerly awaiting, and one I will undoubtedly pre-order as soon as it gets a cover, hopefully as pretty as this one.
Well, it seems I can still enjoy dystopian after all! Now, this statement (and my delight) may seem a bit odd to those of you who don’t know me very w...moreWell, it seems I can still enjoy dystopian after all! Now, this statement (and my delight) may seem a bit odd to those of you who don’t know me very well, but I was never a big fan of the (sub)genre in the first place, and there are only a handful of dystopian titles that I actually loved. (Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me trilogy and Ann Aguirre’s Razorland are the only two that quickly come to mind.) I was more than a little surprised and more than a little thrilled when I was able to add Defiance to this very short list.
The story is equally divided between two points of view, Rachel’s and Logan’s. These characters won me over in a heartbeat. Rachel, our heroine, is a strong, independent, stubborn girl in a society in which girls like her shouldn’t exist. While her peers sat demurely with their mothers or their Protectors and learned embroidery, Rachel was secretly being taught how to survive in the wilderness by her liberal father. Logan is her father’s apprentice, a brilliant young inventor who was orphaned as a boy when his mother dared walk the streets without her Protector and was whipped to death on the town square. As much as Rachel hates living under the Commander’s iron fist, Logan hates it even more because when he looks at their leader, he sees the man who murdered his mother.
When Rachel’s father disappears outside the town limits, where there are no guarantees of safety and a huge monster, the Cursed One, preys on the unprotected, Rachel and Logan will have to go against the Commander to bring him back.
Now that I think about it, the worldbuilding wasn’t nearly as complete as I’d have liked it to be, but in all honesty, I got so caught up in the action and the romance that I completely failed to notice until much, much later. In retrospect, there really should have been more background, more explanations offered. What little there was, however, I liked well enough.
The romance was multilayered and complicated, just the way I like them, and I was feeling things along with Rachel and Logan from the very first page. There were, however, hints of a love triangle in the last part and I fervently hope that C.J. Redwine won’t take that road and that she’ll continue to build the wonderful, honest, warm romance between Rachel and Logan without unnecessary drama.
I need Logan. Not because he could plan our way out of this. But because on some basic, soul-deep level within me, he is the solid ground beneath my feet. The one who will move mountains to keep his promises. The one who looks at me and sees.
Which brings me to Logan himself, (again) and let me tell you, he is one amazing guy. He’s not just Rachel’s love interest, he is a hero in his own right. I love that he’s both a skilled fighter and a brilliant inventor, and that he knows exactly what his goals are and what sacrifices he needs to make to accomplish them.
My hat’s off to you, C.J. Redwine. I can’t wait to see where you’ll take them in the next book.
4.5 stars I have book ADD, I really do. Even when I like a book, by the time I reach the second half, I get impatient, eager to be done with it and be...more4.5 stars I have book ADD, I really do. Even when I like a book, by the time I reach the second half, I get impatient, eager to be done with it and be free to discover a new world. It’s a definite downside of having so many books to choose from, and it’s something I need to work on.
Therefore, I was more than a little surprised by the enormity of my despair when I reached the last page of Sanctum. It’s rare that a book leaves me desperate for more. Sarah Fine’s rich and imaginative world, although grim and depressing, captivated me entirely. She almost (but not quite, I’m not crazy) made me want to visit Suicide City and look around for myself. It is where suicide victims end up, condemned to wander the city, lost in their own despair. Can you imagine a more hopeless place in this world or the next? And for the very few conscious enough to want to escape or cause trouble, there are the guards, merciless creatures led by a human, their fearless Captain, Malachi.
Enter Lela, a worthy, if somewhat unconventional heroine. She came to Suicide City willingly, to save he best and only friend, not knowing what she might have to do, but ready for any kind of sacrifice. From the very first page of Sanctum, the readers know they won’t be getting a Mary Sue: she smokes, she curses, and she beats up bullies with terrifying ease. It takes a while for her tender side to be revealed, but she is lovable from the very start.
And Malachi… oooops, there goes my dignity! I haven’t felt so strongly about a fictional character since Sean Kendrick and I doubt I will anytime soon. With his warmth and Lela’s unflinching bravery, it’s no wonder they’re my new favorite couple. Which brings me to the girl I can’t stop thinking about – Lela Santos. Some would say she’s damaged beyond repair, and in some ways, they’d probably be right. But there’s so much love and hope in her, despite not having had an ounce of luck her entire life.
Sanctum is a dark, dark book, and although most of it happens in this hellish, unreal place, the horrors described are very real. Brief glimpses of Lela’s past were more than enough to make me want to run the other way, but I guess I absorbed some of her astonishing bravery because I kept reading even when it made me sick. This is where I truly applaud Fine; a lesser writer would have chosen a safer, less controversial road, especially when writing for young adults, but I could tell that Sarah Fine doesn’t believe in pulling any punches, and I admired her for it.
I’m sorry, guys, I’m very much aware that this review is all over the place. It was hard for me to put into words how much I loved this book. On December 6th, Sarah will share Malachi’s journal entries on several blogs, including The Nocturnal Library, so make sure to stop by. If you haven’t met Malachi yet, you’ll definitely want to after that. Brava, Ms. Fine! I’m thoroughly impressed.
There’s nothing I love more than dark, gritty urban fantasy, and man, does Joseph Nassise know how to write it! I can’t even remember the last time I...moreThere’s nothing I love more than dark, gritty urban fantasy, and man, does Joseph Nassise know how to write it! I can’t even remember the last time I enjoyed UF quite so much.
A man’s daughter disappears right from under his nose. He spends the next few years desperately looking for her, losing his wife and his job in the process. As the years go by and his search remains without results, his methods become increasingly desperate. Left with no other options, he performs an arcane ritual which takes away his eyesight, but gives him the ability to see the spirit world. He occasionally assists the police with some particularly difficult investigations in exchange for information about his daughter’s case.
Parents experience a unique kind of fear. It is at once more visceral and more paralyzing than any other fear, a cold, clammy hand that squeezes your heart until your very blood starts to drip from between its fingers. It invades your mind like an alien presence, disrupts your thought process and ratchets your emotions right of the scale, until you can’t possibly think straight and every second is an eternity, an eternity where all you can do is think about all of the terrible things that could have happened to your precious child.
Jeremiah Hunt is a character of unusual complexity. To a reader, the pain Hunt feels over losing his daughter is far more terrifying than any ghost, fetch, witch or beserker he comes across. This is where Nassise truly impressed me. Every few chapters we’d get to jump back to those days around Elizabeth’s disappearance and see Hunt as he was then: a successful Harvard scholar with a nice house and a beautiful wife. Making the jump back to current events and Hunt as he is now was shocking every time, especially at the beginning, before the entire process was revealed. Of course, as the reader is offered more chapters about Hunt’s increasingly desperate search, his choices become more clear and understandable, but never easier to handle.
I really liked Hunt’s only two allies (if you don’t count Whisper and Scream, his ghostly assistants), Denise Clearwater and Dmitri. They are exactly the kind of people someone like Hunt needs: used to not asking a lot of questions and unwilling to answer more than strictly necessary, but more than willing to make sacrifices for a good enough cause. And if they do seem unusually loyal for relatively new acquaintances, it's because they aren't really loyal to Hunt himself, but to the Gifted community as a whole.
Readers who enjoy romance above all else might find themselves a bit disappointed, though. Hunt isn’t exactly interested in women, and although there’s some real attraction between him and Denise Clearwater, he is simply to obsessed with his search for Elizabeth to act on it, or even to give it much thought.
Eyes to See doesn’t end with a cliffhange but enough things were left open to make me eager to read the sequel, King of the Dead, as soon as I can. Luckily (and thanks to the lovely people at Tor), I have it right here. To conclude, I’ll just quote Seanan McGuire straight from the cover: “Make time for this one.”
And so my steampunk marathon continues. Surprisingly enough, I liked this companion novella more than I liked the book itself. But both are pretty awe...moreAnd so my steampunk marathon continues. Surprisingly enough, I liked this companion novella more than I liked the book itself. But both are pretty awesome. (less)
I have so much love for Rachel Hartman and this book! My five-star ratings are few and far between, but I’d give Seraphina ten if I could. It was so e...moreI have so much love for Rachel Hartman and this book! My five-star ratings are few and far between, but I’d give Seraphina ten if I could. It was so easy to get lost in this world of humans, dragons and those in-between – I still haven’t found my way back.
Hartman’s dragons are magnificent creatures, full of intersting paradoxes. On a physical level, they produce fire, but on an emotional level, they’re cold and tightly controlled. They go to great lengths to remain emotionless, even though their saars (human shapes) are more susceptible to emotions. They have ways to excise these unwanted emotions from their brains and they keep close watch on dragons suspected of harboring human emotions.
Dragons used meditation and what Orma called cognitive architecture to partition their minds into discrete spaces. They kept their maternal memories in one room, for example, because they were disruptively intense; the one maternal memory I’d experienced had bowled me over. Emotions, which the saar found uncomfortable and overpowering, were locked away securely and never permitted to leak out.
The world Hartman created has a distinctly Medieval feel, but with many exceptions and liberties that were quite unimaginable in the Middle Ages. She took the time to build this world, which resulted in somewhat slower pacing, but I didn’t mind in the least. I find that I’m willing to suffer through almost anything if that means I’ll end up with a complete and well thought-out world. Fortunately, Hartman’s intricate worldbuilding didn’t come at a price. From the very first sentence, Seraphina had me entranced. I took my time reading it and I appreciate that it allowed me to do that. The best books aren’t those that practically force you to turn pages. True works of art permit you to enjoy them slowly, at your own pace, and it takes a great author to achieve that.
As for Seraphina, oh my! If there was ever a heroine one could admire with no doubts or hesitations, a heroine whose every action is an inspiration, it’s Maid Seraphina Dombegh. Half-human and half-dragon, she isn’t even supposed to exist, and yet she finds a way to live so fully despite her need for secrecy. Phina has the best of both worlds: quick logical thinking and problem solving typical of dragons tempered with inherently human warmth and loyalty. I think these words directed to her by Dame Okra, another half-dragon, describe her better than I ever could:
Whatever else may be true of you, you do things your own way, with a refreshingly self-assured pigheadedness. I like that!
Over time, Seraphina falls deeply in love with Prince Lucian Kiggs, queen’s bastard grandson and fiancé of Princess Glisselda, heir to the throne. Kiggs is the captain of the Queen’s Guard, competent, fiercely intelligent, and loyal to a fault. When she first meets him, Seraphina thinks of him as plain, but the more time she spends with him, the more beautiful he becomes in her eyes. They share so much, these two – their curiosity and love for philosophy, but above all, their loyalty to Glisselda, which makes it impossible for them to be together. Such bittersweet, well-written romance would be my favorite part in any book, but in Seraphina, the competition is hard. Singling anything out would be unfair to all the other parts I absolutely adore.
As soon as Dracomachia gets a cover, I’ll pre-order a copy. I don’t pre-order books with no covers, it’s just another one of my oddities, but this one almost made me break my own rule.
I hope my friend Catie will forgive me for stealing her line, but I simply couldn’t resist: Fantasy lovers, rejoice!
This summer, I met a young girl from Croatia’s most war-affected city. She came here, on the other side of the country, to live in a trailer and work...moreThis summer, I met a young girl from Croatia’s most war-affected city. She came here, on the other side of the country, to live in a trailer and work in a supermarket for very little money. It was just a lousy summer job, but to her, it was more than good enough. When at home, she lives with her father, barely scraping by, both of them unemployed throughout the year because there are no jobs where she comes from. She told me about growing up hungry and going to school with her stomach completely empty. She told me how her mother refused meals to leave more for her, because she was still growing and she needed energy for her schoolwork. She told me how her parents took turns eating because there wasn’t enough for both. And she said it all with a big smile on her face, the smile of a person who refuses to be defeated.
I kept a brave face, but then I drove home and I cried for hours. I hugged my sleeping child and I swore that she’ll never experience anything similar. (I bet the girl’s parents made the same promise at some point, though, all parents do – and it scares me to death). But when I started thinking about things that could have been done to feed this girl when she needed it the most, things that SHOULD have been done, I felt deeply ashamed, even though back then, I was no more than a teen myself.
There’s really no point to this story, except that I felt it needed to be told. No and Me isn’t one of those books that try to convince you you’re equipped to save the world – you really aren’t, and neither am I. We do the best we can, most of us, and we live knowing it’s not nearly enough. And it’s because of that knowledge that we turn our heads the other way and try to protect ourselves from things we cannot change.
This is exactly why I don’t like reading contemporary YA. Things like bullying, abuse, even smaller family issues, make me feel hurt and powerless, and it’s something I tend to avoid at all costs. But No and Me is not one of those books. There’s something so very gentle about it because it doesn’t try to shock or hurt, nor does it try to change the reader in any way. It just is – it is a story, simple and beautiful, easy to read and even easier to accept, even while it’s breaking your heart.
In No and Me, a thirteen-year-old child genius Lou Bertignac interviews an eighteen-year-old homeless girl for a school project and subsequently decides to save her. She brings her into her home to live with her damaged family and treats her like a sister she’d lost when she was just a child. Lou Bertignac is an extraordinary character: understanding how her mind works (she has an IQ of 160) and how it reflects on her emotions was a challenge and a true delight. And of course she and I have a huge thing in common:
People who think that grammar is just a collection of rules and restrictions are wrong. If you get to like it, grammar reveals the hidden meaning of history, hides disorder and abandonment, links things and brings opposites together. Grammar is a wonderful way of organizing the world how you’d like it to be.
*sigh* I wholeheartedly agree.
This is the longest non-review I’ve written in my life, so I need to offer you an alternative. My friend Catie over at The Readventurer reads all these books I’m too much of a coward to pick up, and then she writes amazing reviews that are equal parts rational and emotional. She is my favorite reviewer in the world (and I’m not just saying that), and she’s the one who convinced me to read this book, so please check out her review if you can.
4.5 stars Unsettling, grim, nerve-wracking, action-packed, frightening, riveting, enthralling, intelligent, fast-paced, claustrophobic, eerie, appallin...more4.5 stars Unsettling, grim, nerve-wracking, action-packed, frightening, riveting, enthralling, intelligent, fast-paced, claustrophobic, eerie, appalling, passionate… Any one of these words can be used to describe Spark, and yet, not even all of them put together come close to explaining the all-consuming thrill ride that is this book. Amy Kathleen Ryan achieved something not many authors can: Spark is one of those highly adaptable books that can be read one way by a younger audience, and completely differently by someone older. Behind the exciting story are layers and layers of psychology and current issues that can be discussed for hours on end.
Spark picks up exactly where Glow left off. The girls are back on the Empyrean, but all they did by returning was replace one religious tyrant with another. Kieran is leading the ship with sermons, lies and deceptions, and not even his ex fiancé can stand in his way. Weaverly has more enemies than she can count, both on Empyrean and the New Horizon, and Seth has lost everything when Kieran took over.
She’d been through too much. Some part of her had snapped. Her humanity had gone on hiatus, and what was left behind was her animal instinct: kill, hurt, maim, survive.
There are no heroes in Spark. Each of these characters exist in a moral gray area, and Kieran, who started out as a classic hero in Glow, turned into something entirely different. The most frightening thing about him is his firm belief that he is right, that he is being led by God and that, as God’s chosen vessel, he can do no wrong. Weaverly and Seth are confronted with the impossibility of reasoning with someone like him while still trying to find the remnants of the person he used to be.
What makes Spark truly stand out is that Amy Kathleen Ryan doesn’t hide behind the age of her characters. She refuses to adapt, embellish or gloss over the ugly facts. There are some truly selfless and kind secondary characters because there have to be – there always are in life - but the leaders, our protagonists, are all power-hungry and selfish to the core. There’s nothing even remotely good in Kieran Alden anymore, and Weaverly Marshall is on the verge of insanity, crazed by her need for revenge. Oh, sure, Seth Ardvale had a change of heart and came to understand the error of his ways, but all that got him were a couple of fractured ribs and a place in the brig.
She’d known fear before, of course, but this terror at the end of her life had been new. It hollowed her out, debased her, turned her into nothing more than airless lungs and bloodless brain. A gray cloud had crept into the borders of her vision and a voice inside her had screamed, I’m dying! I’m dying now!
And the situations they’re in are even more dangerous than last time. In Glow, the crew was fighting an external enemy and the disaster was of much bigger proportions, but that somehow made it less personal. In Spark, the kids of the Empyrean are mostly fighting each other, and as it turns out, there’s nothing more dangerous or cruel than a group of young people left to fend for themselves, especially when the kids in question are motivated almost entirely by revenge. Survival takes the back seat in Spark. Kieran and his crew are willing to sacrifice almost anything to get their parents back and inflict revenge on the crew of New Horizon.
Spark is obviously not for the faint-hearted. It gave me food for thought but, quite frankly, these aren’t things I enjoy thinking about. Who knows how any of us would behave in such conditions? Extra brownie points go to Amy Kathleen Ryan for achieving the impossible and getting me out of my reading slump. Hurray!
The Diviners is my first book by Libba Bray, but I can tell you right now that it won’t be my last. I’m thrilled to have discovered another YA author...moreThe Diviners is my first book by Libba Bray, but I can tell you right now that it won’t be my last. I’m thrilled to have discovered another YA author of such talent and prominence. I would have given her a chance even before now, especially considering all the raving reviews written by my most trusted friends, but I simply never got around to it. Fortunately, she left me no choice with The Diviners. New York in the 1920s was impossible to resist.
I’ll start with my favorite part – the setting. Libba Bray did an extraordinary job in taking her readers to New York during the Prohibition era. I could hear the music and the laughter, smell the forbidden alcohol, and it made me want to put on a flapper hat and dance my feet right off. I could spend an eternity reading about the Roaring Twenties, and the ghost of a serial killer only made it that much more interesting.
Naughty John, Naughty John, does his work with his apron on. Cuts your throat and takes your bones. Sells ‘em off for a coupla stones…
Yup, you read that right: there’s a ghost of a vicious serial killer on the loose, and the only ones with any chance of stopping him are an 18-year-old psychic girl and a group of people that share the same dream. Even Evie’s uncle Will, who runs The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition and the Occult, also known as The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies, is powerless against this murderous ghost. And if that isn’t enough to freak you out, there are religious fanatics involved as well, and seriously, nothing is creepier than that.
To be quite honest, there were parts of this book that were a bit hard to get through. I’m not a fan of 3rd person, multiple points of view narrative to begin with, and The Diviners offered far too many perspectives for my taste. It’s so hard to connect with the characters that way, and Evie was the only one I really felt close too.
To top that off, Evie was a hard character to like. She was occasionally self-centered and a little too care-free. (I’m very organized and responsible and people who just breeze through life tend to annoy me.) But there were times when I felt I truly understood why she behaved in such a way, and I could connect with her regardless of her frustrating actions. The loss of a family hero, Evie’s older brother, damaged her family irreparably, and acting out was her way to cope.
But don’t let my ranting or those 600 pages scare you off. The Diviners is a book worth reading, although it will force you to read slowly and carefully – something I’m not quite used to. Bray’s talent for creating an eerie atmosphere is matched only by her intelligent humor. At times, I had to fight the urge to hide under my bed, only to burst out laughing five minutes later at something witty Evie said.
Uncle Will frowned. “Didn’t they teach you how to go about research in that school of yours?” “No. But I can recite ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’ while making martinis.” “I weep for the future.” “That’s where the martinis come in.”
Make no mistake, The Diviners is a demanding book. It requires your full attention, but whatever it takes, it gives back tenfold. If I were you I wouldn’t hesitate to pick it up. As for me, I’ll just sit right here, very patiently and without making a sound, and wait for Libba Bray to finish the sequel. Some things were left unsaid and I need to know, need to know, needtoknoneedtoknowneedtoknow… Oh, shut up, brain!
I knew very little about Catherine Fisher before reading The Obsidian Mirror, only that she wrote Incarceron, which I have yet to read, so it’s safe t...moreI knew very little about Catherine Fisher before reading The Obsidian Mirror, only that she wrote Incarceron, which I have yet to read, so it’s safe to say I went into this with no expectations whatsoever, just the usual excitement over a pretty cover. In a nutshell, The Obsidian Mirror is a Middle Grade adventure that combines Science Fiction elements (time travel, to be exact), with fairy lore. Had I realized this in time, I doubt I would have requested it since I normally avoid MG like the plague, but it would have been my loss. Fisher is an excellent writer with a good sense of pacing and wonderful imagination.
Time travel always confuses me a bit, but Fisher didn’t make it too complicated. Many questions were left unanswered, but enough was revealed for me to enjoy the story. The obsidian mirror itself, a time portal of sorts, remains a mystery, but one that will surely be resolved in the next installment. The only piece that simply refuses to fit are the fairies. They might be colorful and deliciously creepy, but they contribute nothing to the story and I can’t for the life of me understand their purpose. Perhaps it will be clearer in the second book, but for now, they’re nothing more than a decoration. (Not for me, though, I’m so scared of them.)
I am not a fan of multiple points of view and I think I would have liked this book more were it told from Jake’s perspective alone, preferably in first person. Third person, multiple points of view is my least favorite narrative choice as it often prevents me from creating emotional bonds with the characters and the entire experience can somehow seem cold and clinical. Switching from Jake to Sarah and back, with a few short chapters with other narrative voices broke the natural flow, and all the diary entries by the mirror’s original owner, although essential, certainly didn’t help.
I did like Fisher’s writing a lot, although it’s nothing like what I usually enjoy. Her sentences are short and clear, her style refreshingly concise, and yet she somehow avoids making it seem stilted. It worked well for The Obsidian Mirror, mostly because it’s a Middle Grade adventure and not very emotional at all, but I’m curious to see how it worked in Incarceron.
The Obsidian Mirror left so many questions unanswered and I simply can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel. I will also read Incarceron and Sapphique as soon as I can. Great job, Ms. Fisher!
3.5 stars Oh, I should have listened to this entire series on audio! It’s a completely different experience. With her great accents and excellent chara...more3.5 stars Oh, I should have listened to this entire series on audio! It’s a completely different experience. With her great accents and excellent characterization, Emily Gray breathed life into a series that very much needed it in its last installment. She’s done such an amazing job that I’ll purposely seek out other audiobooks narrated by her, regardless of the genre, and enjoy them while driving to work and back. Of all the narrators I’ve come across so far, she and Holter Graham are by far my favorites.
Unfortunately, Gail Carriger doesn’t deserve such praise. Timeless is essentially plotless, and what little excitement there is pales in comparison to previous books. Everything I used to love about this series is gone – even the humor isn’t what it used to be. The Parasol Protectorate simply lost its charm. It’s a good thing Carriger decided to end the series when she did – this is where we would have parted ways anyway. By making Timeless the last book, she allowed me to say my goodbyes with a smile and a little bit of nostalgia, instead of the bitter taste so many authors left me with.
Timeless picks up two years after the end of Heartless. Alexia’s daughter Prudence is an extraordinary child and she’s keeping her biological parents and her adoptive father, Lord Akeldama, very busy indeed. She’s even managed to attract the attention of Queen Matakara, vampire Queen of the Alexandria Hive, the oldest supernatural in the world. Alexia, Prudence and their numerous entourage travel to Egypt to indulge Matakara, and hopefully, to uncover Alessandro Tarabotti’s plans for the supernaturals. Meanwhile, Biffy and Professor Lyall investigate the murder of a Beta, but they somehow spend more time flirting with each other than actually investigating. The budding romance between these two was my favorite part of this book. I loved seeing a different side of Lyall – the reserved professor is surprisingly passionate under the surface, much to my (and Biffy’s) delight.
I never gossip. I observe. And then relay my observations to practically everyone.
After many adventures and several misunderstandings, the relationship between Lord and Lady Maccon is finally steady and calm, but never boring! After all, neither of them is very conventional and Lady Maccon becomes rather restless if she isn’t involved in at least three different conspiracies and secret societies at any given time. But the tenderness she shows her darling husband, and his complete and utter adoration for her turned this book into a satisfying conclusion, despite its many flaws.
You know I have to mention some of those flaws, right? I’ll try to make it quick, like pulling off a band aid. The most important thing is that I wanted more! Many questions were left unanswered and I’m still unclear on quite a few things. The humor… oh, the humor! I used to adore Lord Akeldama and his many fashion experiments, but he, too, became tiresome after a while. Much like the series, he just lost his shine.
In the end, I will go back to the beginning: if you’re considering reading this book, do yourselves a favor and get it on audio. Emily Gray made everything so much more interesting. As for the rest, this is one of those times when saying goodbye isn’t hard. I’m sure Gail Carriger has a lot more to offer, but in a different series and with a new set of characters.
A popular girl, queen bee’s best friend, in fact, but one that never felt like she really belonged, commits an unforgivable offense against the in-cro...moreA popular girl, queen bee’s best friend, in fact, but one that never felt like she really belonged, commits an unforgivable offense against the in-crowd and becomes a social outcast overnight. Left without other options and tired of being the target of abuse, she starts spending time with the weird girl and her group of friends and, after a lot of personal growth and quite a few enlightening moments, realizes there’s more to life than malls and glitter.
Yes, that is a description of at least a hundred YA contemporary books. Yes, Speechless is one of them. Yes, I usually stay as far away from them as possible, and I intend to keep doing that in the future. But this is Hannah Harrington, you know? And despite all my fears and reluctance, she truly made it work.
That’s not to say that I didn’t struggle at the beginning. The mean girls theme is one of my deal-breakers – those things I just can’t force myself to read about, and that’s what the beginning of Speechless is all about. It didn’t help that Chelsea, the main character, was constantly trying to prove herself to them. Such things always leave a bad taste in my mouth. I still remember Pink by Lili Wilkinson and the exact moment I realized that her main character, Ava, reached the point of no redemption. All those Very Important Life Lessons that came after couldn’t save her in my eyes. When you’re done, you’re done.
I loved that, loved that I mattered, that people were jealous. I loved turning heads. It didn’t matter that most of them were looking at Kristen; I was in their line of vision, and that totally counted for something. Being on the radar at all. It made me more than average. It was everything to me.
Fortunately, Chelsea realized the magnitude of her mistakes just before reaching that point. I was angry with her, but Harrington’s timing was superb, and that’s what saved the book for me. She turned things around at the very last acceptable moment, and she exposed her main character to abuse, which made me feel sorry for her first, and gave me a chance to genuinely like her later.
Oddly enough, romance was once again my favorite part. A slowly developed attraction between a normal-looking boy (no heart-stopping gorgeousness here) and a very flawed girl was simply too realistic and heartwarming to ignore. I loved how Sam changed in Chelsea’s eyes. At first, she saw nothing special about him, apart from the fact that he was being nice to her when he had every reason not to be, but after some time together she started seeing him differently, until suddenly nothing about him felt ordinary anymore. That’s the kind of love I want to read about – just people falling in love with other people. We can’t all fall for, or even appreciate, perfection.
… I was never happy before, and I never even realized it. You can be surrounded by people and still be lonely. You can be the most popular person in school, envied by every girl and wanted by every boy, and still feel completely worthless. The world can be laid at your feet, and you can still not know what you want from it.
In the end, I feel it’s necessary to point out that Speechless is nothing like Saving June. On the one hand, it’s a good thing. Diversity is always good and it would be a disaster if a young author like Hannah Harrington fell into a repetitive pattern. On the other hand, if you’re expecting to recreate the emotions Saving June left you with, you might end up just a little bit disappointed. Separate these two books in your mind and then go out to grab a copy of Speechless. I doubt you’ll regret it. (less)
Invincible Summer takes place over the course of several summers, during which the McGill family, not very put together in the first place, completely...moreInvincible Summer takes place over the course of several summers, during which the McGill family, not very put together in the first place, completely falls apart, only to reassemble itself entirely out of order, like a tile mosaic made out of pieces that don't quite fit together, in colors that don't quite match. When you think about it, the same happens to most families sooner or later, and therein lies the true strength of this book.
Invincible Summer is a quiet little book, a great example of postmodern literature heavily influenced by Camus’ existential prose. I took my time reading it, which is highly unusual for me. The McGill family was so easy to slip into, but then I’d suddenly feel the need to remove myself from their drama, run from them like the oldest brother Noah does all the time, and read something fun that has very little to do with real life.
This drama I mentioned isn’t the loud, obvious drama of soap operas. It is the quiet torture of being in a large family in which all the roles are reversed. Chase struggles with being closely connected to his large family, and yet somehow feeling isolated at the same time. His parents keep having more children, even though the oldest, Noah, is already eighteen years old and the youngest, Gideon, is deaf and requires a lot of attention, and despite the fact that they can’t seem to find common ground about anything at all. The family is full of paradoxes: they are extremely loud in everyday communication, but when they have a problem or a disagreement, they refuse to communicate. Two youngest (healthy) children, Chase and Claudia, are the most responsible ones, taking the role of parents to Gideon far too often. Noah, the oldest, feels very affectionate towards his family, but he can’t stand to spend much real time around them, so he often disappears without a trace for hours at a time.
Chase is going through his sexual awakening, suddenly aware of every girl around, especially his brother’s girlfriend Melinda. 12-year-old Claudia is drawing attention to herself by kissing waitresses in restaurants, Gideon is struggling with sign language and communicating in general, Noah is more restless than ever, and their parents are physically present, but completely absent in every way that counts.
From what I’ve read, most readers had issues with the overwhelming presence of Albert Camus in this book. He is everywhere, constantly quoted by characters and obsessed about, but he can also be found deep underneath the characters and the plot. His influence on Moskowitz herself and the structure of her novel is clearly discernible: if you think about it, the overly melancholic tone and strong sense of detachment are all reminiscent of Camus’ most famous work. Invincible Summer is very much an existentialist book. That part I didn’t mind, I’m a fan after all, but putting poor Albert in the mouths of teenage characters took away from their credibility and made me cringe several times. That is the only flaw I found, and one that is easily forgiven.
In Invincible Summer, Moskowitz did what she does best – she created characters that are impossible to forget and wrote a story that isn’t really a story at all – just a glimpse into a family’s existence: the disagreements, the tragedies, their love and connections. She’s not one for obvious drama, our Hannah, and yet, what could possibly be more terrifying than everyday life itself? Reading this book, it is incredibly easy to forget that Hannah Moskowitz is ridiculously young. In her case, all that means is that she has many great books ahead of her. At 21 years of age, she is a force to be reckoned with.
I’ll start this one with a confession: time travel stuff makes little to no sense to me. It’s true, my m...moreForget everything you know about time travel…
I’ll start this one with a confession: time travel stuff makes little to no sense to me. It’s true, my mathematical-logical intelligence is lower than my shoe size, and when I try to make sense of all the time lines and paradoxes, I get this throbbing headache in my temples that refuses to go away. Because of that, the opening sentence (Jackson’s words to Holly) meant very little to me – I knew next to nothing to begin with, but I’m happy to say that Cross’ version, at least, made sense. To me. Sort of.
Ever since it came out, Tempest has been receiving a lot of mixed reviews. Most of my friends and bloggers I usually agree with gave it a low rating, which is why I waited so long to give it a chance. But somewhere deep inside, I had this strange feeling that Tempest and I would get along, and as it turns out, we did.
As it usually happens, what I expected from Tempest and what I ended up with were two things a million miles away from each other. I obviously knew it was about time travel, but I thought it would focus entirely on the romance and saving the life of a girl our time traveler can’t live without. Boy was I wrong! It’s true, Jackson’s girlfriend Holly gets shot by the so called Enemies of Time and he jumps back in the hopes of saving her, but Tempest doesn’t focus on their undying love. In fact, Jackson approaches his relationship with Holly very maturely. Instead, this book is full of secret medical research, CIA agents, agents called Enemies of Time, parallel dimensions and guns. Sounds fun? I thought so.
A lot of reviewers thought that Holly was plain and unworthy of Jackson’s attention, and I agree that she doesn’t really stand out. But people we feel attracted to are often plain in the eyes of others, and it wasn’t me who was supposed to fall in love with her. So in a way, I'm glad she was pretty, but not stunningly gorgeous, smart, but not a Nobel prize winner, generous, but certainly not Mother Teresa. It made the entirety of their relationship seem that much more real to me.
The usual tropes were all there: no mother, dead sister, best friend the science geek, but the seat-gripping action helped me accept it all more easily and in the end, those 412 pages simply weren’t enough. I read this book at the beach, before going to sleep, during hours of insomnia, while I was eating and pretty much everywhere else, until I finished it. (I even fell asleep with it and I sort of dropped it on my own head, but that’s neither here nor there.) Of course it had its flaws, but it’s summer, it was fun, and quite frankly I just don’t care.
Almost two years ago, when I picked up a book called The Reapers Are the Angels (mostly because I liked the title), I never dreamed reading it would b...moreAlmost two years ago, when I picked up a book called The Reapers Are the Angels (mostly because I liked the title), I never dreamed reading it would be such a life-changing, earth-shattering experience. Not only did Alden Bell (pseudonym for Joshua Gaylord, author of Hummingbirds) take everything I thought I knew about genre fiction and turn it upside down, but his main characters, Temple and Moses (and what an odd pair they are) became permanent residents in my thoughts and in my heart.
Exit Kingdom is not a sequel, but a companion novel – a prequel in some ways – loosely connected through two characters: Moses and his paternal half-brother Abraham. The story begins after the events of The Reapers: Moses and Maury are sitting around a bonfire with some survivors and Moses is answering questions about their travels. When asked whether he believes in God, Moses offers to tell a story about his early adventures – one that explains why he knows with absolute certainty that God truly exists.
Like The Reapers, Exit Kingdom is very much a road novel, still influenced by Cormac McCarthy and William Faulkner among others, but the philosophy hidden within is somewhat different. Temple was a ray of hope in an otherwise hopeless world, and Moses’ perspective seems rather bleak in comparison. Many factors caused this huge difference between them, but the most important one, the one that Bell himself keeps pointing out in the few interviews that can be found, is that Temple was born in a world infested with slugs, while Moses still remembers what life was like before.
Bell’s writing is unusual and breathtaking: he skillfully uses language to create the right atmosphere and to bring his readers closer to a world where education had to take the back seat to survival. It’s interesting that a language can deteriorate so badly and still be so beautiful. Add to that Moses’ unusual way of speaking – for even the most mundane sentences become noteworthy coming from his mouth – and you’ll get a prose piece that is distinctive and impossible to forget.
My brother and I, Moses says, we’re hard to offend, friar. You likely couldn’t stumble by accident upon the offence to us – you’d have to give it your full effort and strategy. So don’t fret yourself on that account. We’re happy to get whatever you feel like offerin. And we’re happy to offer services in exchange.
Exit Kingdom is a story about God, or the absence of God, but it is not a religious story. God, like beauty, is very much in the eye of the beholder. Where one sees chaos, another sees harmony. Where one sees apocalypse, another sees rebirth. I think the last sentence (it’s not a spoiler, not at all relevant to our story), will tell you more about this book than I have in this entire review:
4.5 stars When I first felt myself being pulled into this story, I glanced down and saw the number 156 written at the bottom of the page. 156 pages of...more4.5 stars When I first felt myself being pulled into this story, I glanced down and saw the number 156 written at the bottom of the page. 156 pages of barely understandable, agonizingly slow and almost painfully dense prose - that’s what it took for me to start enjoying Stormdancer. But here’s the thing: now that I fully understand this book, I understand the necessity of such a beginning. This is how the rain becomes a flood. One drop at a time.
There’s something mesmerizing and magical about a world well-built, and Kristoff’s is more detailed than most. As hard as it is to understand it at first, once you become a part of it, it is unlikely to ever let you go. It is a grim, filthy world, poisoned by blood lotus, a plant that kills the land it grows from and is used for everything from fuel to drugs. It is a world of stark contrasts – excessive wealth and excessive poverty, mythical creatures and technology. Not much in it can be described as beautiful, and yet, the beauty of it in its entirety is undeniable. It is reminiscent of the most intricate filigree work. Even if it doesn’t appeal to your personal taste, you must appreciate the skill that was necessary to create it.
And yet, in many ways, this stunning, complex world quickly becomes overshadowed by the characters. Each of them was created just like the world was – slowly, with much attention to details, in a million layers, some more important than others. Yukiko herself cannot be reduced to a one-sentence description, but what truly surprises me is that none of the characters can either. They are all so many things at once, their histories interconnected, their stories all somehow related. Hatred doesn’t sprout from nothing in Kristoff’s world. Everything has an explanation, everyone carries some trauma and hurt, and every single character has hidden motives.
Among them, the thunder tiger stands out as the most fascinating by far. I must confess I’d never given much thought to mythological creatures such as griffins, but seeing Buruu through Kristoff’s eyes made me realize how blind I’d been. He is truly a magnificent creature, powerful and fiercely intelligent, yet tender and caring toward Yukiko, his Stormdancer. The telepathic connection they share is one of the most interesting things I’ve ever read about. Spending time in each other’s minds changes them both ever so subtly. The arashitora’s understanding of the human world increases, and she becomes slightly more explosive in nature. They call each other brother and sister because that’s what they truly are, and that’s how protective they are of each other.
The hindquarters of a white tiger, rippling muscle bound tight beneath the snow-white fur, slashed with thick bands of ebony. The broad wings, forelegs and head of a white eagle, proud and fierce; lightning reflected in amber irises and pupils of darkest black. It roared again, shaking the ship, cutting through the air like a katana in a swordsaint’s hands.
All good things come at a price and with Stormdancer, that price is your patience. Understanding the initial chapters or even caring about the characters won’t be easy at first, but if you persist, you will be heavily rewarded.
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.
Before I start praising Something Like Normal, I need to point out a little thing that’s really bothering me: the cover is doing this book a great dis...moreBefore I start praising Something Like Normal, I need to point out a little thing that’s really bothering me: the cover is doing this book a great disservice. This is not a romance. There is a guy and there is a girl, and they do get together eventually, but the guy is suffering from PTSD and the girl is his lifeline, and all they’re both trying to do is chase away the nightmares. This is, above all, a book about survival, loss and guilt. The couple on the cover seems somehow less than appropriate, or at least misleading.
After spending seven months in Afghanistan, Travis Stephenson has returned home for a 30-day leave. He is supposed to spend some time with his family and relax, but home isn’t home anymore, and Trav is having a hard time functioning among normal people. His family was never exactly warm; in fact, his overbearing father was the main reason Travis enlisted in the Marines. While he was away, his girlfriend started a relationship with his younger brother, his father started cheating on his mom, and he doesn’t feel that he belongs anywhere except in the muddy pits of Afghanistan, where he spent the most intense days of his life and lost his best friend Charlie. Spending time with Harper, a girl he knew back in high school, helps, but PTSD isn’t something that just goes away when you fall in love.
Trish Doller did her research, and she did it well. Writing about young soldiers in a war that’s so fresh was risky and brave, and I was more than a little worried. I was afraid she’d either idealize those boys, or completely fail to dig under the surface, but her raw honesty stunned me. Nobody is idealized in this story, not even Afghan children, and the truth is told – the good and the bad parts. Travis is a very complex character. Severely damaged, afraid of every sudden move and loud sound, he still longs for the adrenaline rush he gets from patroling the streets of Afghanistan. He feels completely detached from anything that’s even close to normal. He can’t even get mad at his brother for appropriating his life while he was away. His actions aren’t always easily acceptable, but they make sense in light of his condition.
Doller’s story is very emotionally demanding. It is never melodramatic; in fact, she approaches true pain and horror very matter-of-factly, which forces the reader to accept them in the same way. On her GoodReads page, Doller listed Cath Crowley, Kirsty Eagar and Melina Marchetta as her influences. It’s something I could have guessed on my own after reading her debut. Maybe she lacks Crowley’s magical touch, Eagar’s exceptional rawness or Marchetta’s finesse, but she is a force to be reckoned with. Give her a couple more books, and she’ll be standing with the very best.
Eva is an echo, a person weaved into existence to serve as some parents’ backup plan, in case something happens to their beloved daughter. Although re...moreEva is an echo, a person weaved into existence to serve as some parents’ backup plan, in case something happens to their beloved daughter. Although reserved for the rich, the practice is not uncommon and Weavers make new echoes all the time. Eva has no life of her own; she must experience everything her Other, Amarra, does, so when Amarra gets a tattoo, Eva has to get one exactly like it even though she hates it, and when Amarra goes swimming in the middle of the winter, Eva has no choice but to do the same.
But the city is the place that shelters Amarra’s ghost. And yet being in it alone is one of the few places I can let the mask slip away and instead of walking in her shoes, it’s like we’re two girls, ghost and echo, walking side by side.
Even though it’s been two hundred years since the first echo was made, the public still considers them soulless. They are illegal in some countries, but even where they’re legal, they have to hide from the hunters. This makes Eva’s life even harder as she’s not allowed to leave the cottage she shares with her guardians or spend time with people her own age. Luckily, there is Sean, employed by the Weavers to teach her about normal everyday things, everything she can never experience herself, at least not unless her Other dies.
The romance between Eva and Sean was not some flashy, unbelievable, overnight thing. Developed over time and built on a substantial foundation, what Eva and Sean had wasn’t something I’m likely to forget. The times when Eva’s lack of social skill showed, especially in the way she handled things with Sean, were my favorite parts of the book because they made her seem realistic and very endearing. For the most part, Sean was a perfect hero, unwaveringly loyal no matter how hard the situation, but he wasn’t without flaws, and it was those tiny things, his weaknesses and quirks that made him stand out for me. Those are, after all, the things I’ll remember months from now when the color of his hair or the way in which he smiles completely disappear from my memory.
Mandanna’s writing is also flawless, not overly decorative and not too bare. She demonstrated the kid of surety one expects from a seasoned author, not someone as young and inexperienced as her.
So if I liked the writing, the story and the characters, why four starts instead of five? I think anyone who’s ever lost a loved one, not a distant cousin but someone extremely close, will struggle with the premise behind this book. As a parent, I can’t even imagine wanting a spare child if something happens to this one, and as a person who’s lost someone irreplaceable, I can’t even wrap my head around the whole thing. I struggled with the concept, but most of all, I struggled with the contradicting decisions and actions Eva’s familiars (Amarra’s parents) made. None of it made much sense to me.
‘You are important,’ he says. ‘Even if I can’t quite believe my daughter survived, like my wife does, you’ve still given us reason to hope for something more. For life beyond death. It’s why we wanted you in the first place. For that hope. And the absence of loss.’
However, I think I’ve made it clear that I really enjoyed this book. I had a difficult time accepting parts of it, and some of it just hit too close to home, but all things considered, The Lost Girl is a truly astonishing debut. I expected no less after reading my friend Keertana’s wonderful review. She was also kind enough to take us on a virtual tour of all the places Eva visited in Bangalore. It’s so interesting, make sure to check it out.