Paula Brackston’s Witch series is actually a series of standalones, with each book set in a different time period, but united by a common theme: a you...morePaula Brackston’s Witch series is actually a series of standalones, with each book set in a different time period, but united by a common theme: a young witch struggling to find her place. After 17th century England and 19th century Wales, Brackston now takes us to visit the high society of Edwardian England.
At the center of the story is Lilith, a Duke’s daughter and a powerful witch. Lilith’s father just died, and while her brother inherited the title, Lilith inherited something much more important – his position as the Head Witch of the Lazarus Coven, as well as his backbone and his ability to keep the family together. Lilith is young, but she is both powerful and smart, level-headed and emotionally strong. One can help but admire her as she makes the decisions that affect more than just herself and the two men in her life.
At its very center, The Midnight Witch is a story about good vs. evil, but Brackston manages to turn this very basic concept into a truly captivating story. While there are admittedly some inconsistencies in the plot, there is emotional resonance from the opening moments of the story, and the characters are extremely relatable.
If possible, Brackston’s writing is even more elegant than before, combining deep emotionality and superb quality of prose. Even with third person multiple perspectives narrative, by far my least favorite, Brackston keeps a tight rein on her POV characters, never allowing them to take control or blend together. Her narrative mode almost takes us back to European literary realism, albeit with far stronger emotional attachments between us and the characters.
I don’t read historical fiction that often, magical realism or not, but if more authors wrote it like Paula Brackston does, that would change in a heartbeat. These books can be read in any order, so check them all out and see what sounds best, but don’t let them slip by you. They are not to be missed.
Delia’s Shadow is a wonderful combination of so many genres, it would be almost impossible to find the one that’s dominant. It’s historical, set in Sa...moreDelia’s Shadow is a wonderful combination of so many genres, it would be almost impossible to find the one that’s dominant. It’s historical, set in San Francisco, nine years after the great 1906 earthquake. It involves ghosts and spiritualists, which means it has strong urban fantasy elements. It is a murder mystery too, in which a deranged serial killer decides everyone’s fates. And finally, the strong romantic elements and dual narration mark it as paranormal romance as well.
All these things combined make a fascinating book, one that will hold your attention from start to finish. It is beautifully written, although the dialogues are occasionally just a tiny bit stilted, and the characters are perfectly developed. In addition, the story is excellently paced, with not a single dull moment to burden the narrative. Although this is Jamie Lee Moyer’s debut novel, she already writes with an impressive level of maturity and self-assuredness.
The story is told from two perspectives: Delia’s, in first person, and Gabe’s in third. Oddly enough, I found myself enjoying Gabe’s POV far more, probably because he showed more emotional complexity, and because his parts of the story were more eventful due to the murder investigation he was running. Delia, for her part, brought a certain calmness and unflinching honesty one can’t help but admire. As a heroine, she is easily likeable and dependable, but still somewhat of an enigma, someone I can see myself wanting to get to know better in later installments.
The secondary characters don’t fall far behind. Each of them equally fascinating and well thought through. Sadie and Jack make a wonderful couple, with Sadie especially interesting and quirky. I hope there will one day be a short story with them at its center. Officer Henderson is also someone I’d very much like to get to know better, as is Annie, Sadie and Delia’s maid and confidante.
The ghosts in the story were perhaps not as scary as they could have been, but that was not their purpose at all. They were a constant presence in Delia’s life, there with a purpose – to help catch the man who killed them all, a serial killer active for over 30 years. Moyer is excellent at building nail-biting tension, and her killer does not disappoint; he is intelligent, vicious, and completely sociopathic.
Two more books about Delia Martin were announced. They’re titled A BARRICADE IN HELL and AGAINST A BRIGHTENING SKY and scheduled to be published in 2014 and 2015. I’m very much looking forward to them.
Intricate and richly imaginative, The Bone Season is a book that clearly stands out, one of the very few titles completely worthy of the hype. Rarely...moreIntricate and richly imaginative, The Bone Season is a book that clearly stands out, one of the very few titles completely worthy of the hype. Rarely do I get so utterly swallowed by a book, living and breathing along with its characters, but Samantha Shannon’s debut held me prisoner for days. Though admittedly willing, I was no less a captive than Paige Mahoney was in Sheol 1.
And what a horrible place Sheol 1 is. Shiny on the outside, rotten on the inside, based on slavery and lead by the vicious Rephaim, it is a prison for voyants and unlucky humans alike. Paige is brought to Sheol from Scion London for killing a man by using her powers. She is immediately chosen by Arctrurus, Warden of the Mesarthim and the blood sovereign’s fiancée and taken to his tower for training.
Paige and Warden start as enemies: he her master and she his furious slave. She hates him, there is no doubt about it, even though it’s often obvious that he goes out of his way to protect her from his fiancée Nashira Sargas, the blood sovereign. Slowly, gradually, and above all realistically, their relationship changes from outright hatred to something akin to respect, closely followed by affection and attraction. It’s one step forward, three steps back for Paige and Warden, every ounce of trust has to be earned over and over, but to lose it is as easy as breathing.
He and I were natural enemies; there was no use pretending otherwise. And yet he had observed so much about me: the way I held myself, my tension, my vigilance. Jax was always telling me to loosen up, to let myself float. But that didn’t mean I could trust the man who kept me locked in this cold dark room.
The social structure, both in Scion London and especially in Sheol 1 is extremely well thought-out. Samantha Shannon thought of everything and she created a realistically structured society, based on fear and mistrust, as these things usually are. Shannon’s writing is well-measured and elegant, each word carefully chosen and each sentence a beauty to behold. I find it almost astonishing that this is her debut novel. With her prose, she shows a level of maturity many seasoned authors can only dream about. Even though The Bone Season is set in the future, her writing has that easy grace I associate with older, classical authors.
With her superb narration, Alana Kerr turned The Bone Season into what is surely one of the best audiobooks I’ve ever listened to. Her calm, steady voice gave Sheol 1 a three-dimensional quality and personality to its inhabitants. Through her interpretation, Paige Mahoney became more than just a character on page, she turned into a strong young woman, brave but slightly detached, and it’s because of this detachment that her emotional moments came across more strongly, making me shed silent tears while witnessing her heartbreak.
The second book has no description, cover, or even title, but I’m ready to sell a piece of my soul to get it regardless. Paige and Warden have a long and presumably dark journey ahead of them. I look forward to it more than I can say.
Holy cliffhanger, Batman! Darynda sure knows how to end a book with a jaw-dropping moment. It may take my poor heart a good long while to recover from...moreHoly cliffhanger, Batman! Darynda sure knows how to end a book with a jaw-dropping moment. It may take my poor heart a good long while to recover from this one, but seeing as the next book comes out in October, rest assured, recover I will.
At this point, picking up a new Charley Davidson book feels a lot like coming home after a long and rather painful absence. Darynda’s characters have such strong personalities that it’s almost too easy to imagine them having lives beyond these pages. Getting a glimpse of their hilarious existence is very much an honor and a privilege.
It’s not all sunshine and roses, though. Truth be told, Sixth Grave seems to be a bit of a rush job. I was disappointed by the lack of structure in this plot, some conversations that lead absolutely nowhere and more than a few loose ends. I realize that unfinished storylines can be expected this late in the series, but some of them seemed forgotten rather than left purposely for later installments. It’s not something Darynda normally does and while I enjoyed Sixth Grave overall, I felt just a little bit let down.
Be that as it may, the fact remains that this is a series one can count for fabulous entertainment, sizzling hot romance and too many sidesplitting one-liners to count. Charley herself takes few things seriously which makes her different from every other UF or PNR heroine out there.
I’ll keep this short because, at book six, there’s little to say I haven’t said before: the Charley Davidson has hordes of fans for a reason. I suspect Darynda Jones might have a hard time moving on from this series because there’s too much of her in Charley, but as long as she’s writing these, there’s not much to worry about. If making people laugh and swoon at the same time were a sport, Darynda would be a multiple Olympic gold medalist.
4.5 stars You may or may not know that I avoid paranormal romance like the plague. I’ve stated on several occasions that it gives me severe allergies....more4.5 stars You may or may not know that I avoid paranormal romance like the plague. I’ve stated on several occasions that it gives me severe allergies. But this is Jenn Bennett we’re talking about – I’d read just about anything if it had her name on it. And wow, did I make the right decision here.
As a huge fan of Bennett’s Arcadia Bell series, I went into this book hoping for unique characters and a well-built world. Witty, entertaining and hot as sin, Bitter Spirits was everything I’ve come to expect from Jenn Bennett, and then some. There’s no better place and no better time for two clever, flirtatious characters than San Francisco during the prohibition era, and when one your protagonist is a bootlegger, the danger implied is enough to make your heart beat faster.
Bennett knows how to write romances her readers can invest everything into. Her characters are never archetypal, they’re built to the finest details, and so are their relationships. It was so easy to love these two and want to see them together. Even when they were being difficult and pigheaded, it wasn’t hard to stay on their side and hope for the best.
It helped that they are, individually, very impressive characters. Aida Palmer is a medium, and she’s the real deal. She travels from town to town performing her show in clubs. She can both summon and banish spirits and she is no weakling. She is a modern, independent woman, opinionated and strong. Winter Magnusson is a businessman with a horrible, traumatic past. Having lost his family in an accident, he is determined never to marry again. They are attracted to each other from the start, but neither is in the position to hope for something permanent, at least not at first.
However, Bitter Spirits is not all about the romance. The paranormal mystery Aida and Winter end up investigating is not just something carelessly thrown together as a catalyst for the romance. It is thought through and exciting and it explores Chinese culture to a certain extent. Honestly, what more could one wish for?
In a typical PNR fashion, the second book will focus on Winter’s brother, the archaeologist, and his romantic interest. According to Jenn, there will eventually be a third book featuring Winter’s sister and his most trusted employee and friend. All I can say to that is: yes, please!
4.5 stars These Broken Stars, first in a new series by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, offers something we’ve been trained not to expect from YA: awe-...more4.5 stars These Broken Stars, first in a new series by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, offers something we’ve been trained not to expect from YA: awe-inspiring originality. Author collaborations are rarely successful, in my humble opinion, unless the authors involved are somehow closely connected. I am always hesitant to read such books, but these two have successfully proven me wrong. (This does not happen often, I tell you.) The story they came up with is not only beautifully written and entirely original, it is also stunningly complex.
At any given moment, my feelings for Lilac and Tarver perfectly reflected their feelings for each other at that point in the story. When they liked each other, I had warm feelings towards them both; when they felt nothing but contempt towards each other, I genuinely disliked them and resented them for how they treated each other. Needless to say I grew to love them both in time, just like they grew to love each other. This in itself is pretty impressive – a clear sign that Kaufman and Spooner are extremely competent authors who manipulate their readers’ feelings with ease. What makes it even more impressive is that they managed to portray a relationship that progresses slowly and naturally. Lilac and Tarver’s feelings for each other are always affected by their circumstances. This is not an empty, unbelievable, formulaic love story. It’s as real as it gets.
I find it interesting that a great number of authors who envision a futuristic society of any kind see us going back to old, almost Victorian values. It’s almost like they see that as a natural progression of our cultural and societal development, or better yet, something that occurs after the society reaches a breaking point. No matter how it comes about, it seems that the stiff Victorian societal rules are still considered to be superior to ours, which is, to say the least, fascinating. There is a certain Victorian prudishness in Lilac’s behavior, as well as that of her friends. Although they were certainly forced upon her, mostly by her father, Lilac often used these rules and ideas of what is proper as a shield.
The sci-fi elements were incorporated seamlessly. A lot happens in These Broken Stars and there’s a lot of information to take in, but Kaufman and Spooner found the right balance between worldbuilding, plot and character development. Their idea was brilliant, yes, but we see many great ideas utterly ruined every day. What matters is that they didn’t take a single wrong step in their execution, making These Broken Stars a read to remember.
The next book in this series will be more a companion novel, with different protagonists. Although Lilac and Tarver’s story has a nice, well-rounded ending, I still see so much potential and I hope the authors will go back to them at some point. I am quite fond of them both and I’m finding it extremely hard to let go.
There are very few authors who can do no wrong in my eyes. Not when the entire first half of their book seems rather aimless. Not when they neglect qu...moreThere are very few authors who can do no wrong in my eyes. Not when the entire first half of their book seems rather aimless. Not when they neglect quite a few secondary characters I adore. Not when they bring in the evil ex-wife, which is usually a deal-breaker for me. In fact, now that I think about it, there’s only one author who can do all those things at the same time and still keep me as a devoted fan, and it’s Patty Briggs.
That’s not to say I wasn’t disappointed and even a bit panicked during the first half of Night Broken. Unfocused and slow, it showed all the usual signs of a filler book. Christy’s reappearance scared me and, in the interest of full disclosure, there were moments when I wished that Briggs had chosen to do anything but bring her back. I feared she would slip into those dreaded soap opera patterns, turn Mercy and Adam’s situation into a torturous love triangle and create and unnecessary rift in their relationship.
Shame on me. I should have known better.
While a part of me still wishes that Christy could have stayed exactly where she was – far, far away from Tri Cities and Mercy – I have to admit that Briggs handled the situation elegantly, showing once again why we all love our level-headed and mature Mercy. As the story progressed, the sharp contrast between her and Christy became obvious to everyone, even to those who’d have preferred not to see it. For me, as a reader, it helped that Mercy and Adam always remained on the same side, never once allowing the seed of doubt to be planted between them.
Mercy’s enemy in Night Broken is very exotic and interesting, but not as nuanced as those before him. He is, in part, overshadowed by several subplots, including Mercy’s newly discovered half-brother. Mercy’s constant struggles with the pack are also a constant in the background, as her need for acceptance – not for herself, but to make Adam’s life easier – influences every decision she makes.
Lorelei King performed flawlessly and showed us, once again, why she’s one of the best narrators in the world. This was my first Mercy Thompson audio, but I liked that I couldn’t just race through the long-awaited book. One of my favorite things about audio format is that it stops me from finishing a book in a couple of hours and allows me to savor it instead. I’ve come to associate King’s voice with Charley Davidson, which was somewhat problematic at first, but I quickly separated the two in my mind and enjoyed her rendition to the full.
Even after eight books, this remains my favorite series, which I suppose says more than enough about its quality. There’s still so much to be said, so many unexplored possibilities for these characters. I hope we’ll have many more installments to look forward to.
4.5 start Stories about the sudden popularity of spiritualism during and right after World War I seem to be all the rage these days. First there were T...more4.5 start Stories about the sudden popularity of spiritualism during and right after World War I seem to be all the rage these days. First there were The Diviners by Libba Bray, then came In the Shadow of Blackbirds by CatWinters, and now there’s Born of Illusion, their equal in both quality and entertainment value. Even though this is only her second young adult novel, it is already quite clear that Teri Brown deserves her place among the best.
Have I told you lately how much I love a good ghost story? No? Well, Born of Illusion is not a ghost storyper se but it’s close enough to make your heart race on several occasions. Brown’s writing is my very favorite kind: elegant and unobtrusive, the author’s voice completely transparent. With a voice like Anna’s, another strong presence was wholly unnecessary, and Brown did an excellent job of making herself disappear behind her words.
Anna was raised by a mother who routinely cheats people out of their livelihood by holding fake séances and pretending to communicate with the departed. But unlike her mother, Anna is the real deal, a Sensate, a psychic, and very determined to hide it. Nothing good could come out of revealing the truth, especially to her self-centered, opportunistic mother. But at the same time, Anna must find a way to uncover truths about herself and control her talents, before they end up controlling her.
Complicated mother-daughter relationships are among my very favorite things to read about, and Anna’s mother turns passive-aggressive behavior into an art form. She is a performer on and off the stage and a master manipulator to boot. She’s never much cared for Anna, aside from the benefits of having a talented magician for a daughter, and she’s ready to do just about anything to control her – so when she says Harry Houdini is Anna’s father, Anna isn’t sure she can trust her.
Attack and counterattack. Strategy and schemes. Why is my relationship with my mother more like a chess game than a family bond?
Anna is so passionate about her work as a magician, a competent young lady with firm opinions and a strong attitude. But Brown didn’t make her seem too old, her naiveté shone through at just the right moments, and it served to remind the reader that she is indeed 16, and not 36, as it sometimes seemed.
At this moment, I’m not a girl with an overbearing mother. I’m not a girl who likes a boy who’s only interested in her strange abilities. At this moment, I am a magician.
Most of Anna’s naiveté and inexperience shone through in dealings with her romantic interests. She had no idea how to behave around Cole or Owen (and yes, there are two boys fighting for her attention), and she often handled things poorly. But in this context, her innocence and immaturity weren’t frustrating, they were somehow endearing. As far as love triangles go (oh, the dreaded words!) this is a mild one, but there nevertheless. I know many readers have issues with them and I do too, but be patient with our Anna, she’s only now learning to navigate the complicated world of romantic relationships.
Despite there being a sequel in the works, Born of Illusion wraps up quite nicely, which is yet another point in favor of this gorgeous book. A nice, clean ending doesn’t mean I’m not looking forward to the next book – as far as I’m concerned, it can’t come soon enough. Teri Brown truly is a force to be reckoned with.
It’s safe to say that Wrong Ways Down is the best thing that happened to urban fantasy in a very long time. With this long-awaited, anxiously anticipa...moreIt’s safe to say that Wrong Ways Down is the best thing that happened to urban fantasy in a very long time. With this long-awaited, anxiously anticipated and rather longish novella told from Terrible’s POV, Stacia Kane gave her readers exactly what they desperately needed – a glimpse into the complicated psyche of a well-beloved character.
If you know anything about Stacia’s books, you might have noticed that she doesn’t have almost-fans or lukewarm readers. People either hate or love her books, but for those who have loved the previous five novels, Wrong Ways Down will seem like a gift fallen from the sky. Not only do we get to see the inner workings of Terrible’s mind, but we get to see Chess through his eyes: a beautiful, confident and well-put-together version of her.
Somewhere in the back of my mind, I was always painfully aware of Terrible’s insecurities, although it’s easy enough to forget them while seeing his strength through Chess’s eyes. In Wrong Ways Down, Stacia Kane brings them all skillfully to light, thus giving a new and much needed dimension to a well-loved character. Suddenly, Terrible doesn’t seem neither untouchable nor invincible. He is as vulnerable as you and me, but all the better for it.
And when he was doing it, using his fists, his whole body... he felt right. Like his body did the thinking he mind couldn't seem to get, and when he was fighting he thought faster than anyone else. If fists were brains he was the smartest dude in the city, and he couldn't help how that made him feel good.
Terrible’s POV means that Downspeech is heavier than ever. Chess’s education is evident in her narration, as is Terrible’s lack of one. Stacia proved herself as a writer a hundred times over even before this novella, but for this, she should get a standing ovation. Everything about Terrible’s language was consistent and well-thought-out and Kane’s attention to details. I hope someone someday will write a paper about it, purely from a grammatical standpoint.
I realize $6 seems like a lot for a novella (that’s the EU price, I’m not sure about US), but Wrong Ways Down is actually the length of a short novel, and brilliant to boot, so trust me when I say it’s money well spent. In addition, I don’t often see a self published work that is so well edited and has such a wonderful, non-generic cover.
Downside fans, get yourselves a copy as soon as possible. The rest of you don’t know what you’re missing. :)
Some books should be sold with a companion novel, a cheerful, nonsensical one people would read immediately after the main story to lighten up their souls. If there was ever a book that left me in urgent need of some cheering up (and a cup of spicy hot chocolate), it’s this one. But would I change a single thing about it? Not in a million years!
There are some things most people would rather not think about. I dare say Spanish flu is one of them. It’s a nasty scar in human history, and October 1918 possibly the worst month humankind has ever endured. Not only was the world desperate and exhausted by the First World War, but far worse was the second wave of influenza that killed anywhere between 50 and 100 million people.
This is the month Cat Winters chose to write about, and she did so with the surety of a seasoned author (I still can’t believe that this is her debut) and a thorough research behind her. In the Shadow of Blackbirds is a story built on the contrast between a young, innocent love and the war that tried (and succeeded) to steal that innocence away. Everywhere Mary Shelley turned, she saw nothing but ugliness and death. In her world, human warmth and compassion disappeared behind fear and mistrust. The gauze masks people wore to protect themselves from the flu are very symbolic of the period, and of the terror and distance between people.
”Oh, you silly, naive men.” I shook my weary head and genuinely pitied their ignorance. “You’ve clearly never been a sixteen-year-old girl in the fall of 1918.”*
Through it all, Mary Shelley Black is practically alone. Her father is in prison, accused of being a traitor, her 26-year-old aunt is superstitious and unsupportive, and her young boyfriend Stephen died in a battlefield in France. As a very unconventional girl who enjoys taking things apart to see how they work, Shell is quite used to a lonely life, but at least before she always had Stephen to talk to. He was the only one who ever appreciated and even admired her eccentricities.
When Stephen's spirit starts showing up next to Mary Shelley in photographs taken by his opportunistic half-brother, Mary has to consider the possibility that he isn’t resting peacefully and investigate the circumstances of his death. In this book, the brutally realistic and the paranormal collide, and the reader is never quite sure how much of it is truth, and how much is the product of overactive imagination (actually, the words ‘group delusion’ and ‘mass hysteria’ come to mind).
I’ve never given much thought to the things people hold on to in difficult times to alleviate their fear, but the sudden (renewed) popularity of spiritualism during World War I makes perfect sense, as do the folk remedies people resorted to to protect themselves from the flu. It’s very easy for us to be judgmental and ridicule people who stuffed salt up their nose, but in October 1918, I’m not sure I wouldn’t have done the same.
I don’t need to be a clairvoyant to see the future that lies ahead of Cat Winters and her debut: awards, critical acclaim, translations to more languages than I can name (I’m a linguist, I can name a lot of languages). If you squint at the cover, you can already see the shiny William C. Morris medal in the top left corner, possibly even a Printz. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.
For a book that is mere 180 pages long, Absent is surprisingly heart-wrenching. It is a poignant story about coming to terms with death, accepting thi...moreFor a book that is mere 180 pages long, Absent is surprisingly heart-wrenching. It is a poignant story about coming to terms with death, accepting things and moving on. Although short, Absent has many great qualities, like Katie Williams’ simple, yet beautiful writing and many subtle messages that delicately, but firmly teach us the truths about life.
Paige is dead. She fell off the roof of her high school during her physics class and ended up tied to the school grounds along with two other ghosts, Brooke and Evan. She spends her days in classes, listening to conversations, hoping to hear that she’s missed by someone other than her best friend Usha. Instead, she hears rumors that she committed suicide and she knows exactly who’s to blame.
Paige soon discovers that she can possess any person, as long as that person is thinking about her. The memorial being painted by the school entrance ensures that people remember her, at least in passing, and she’s free to possess whomever she chooses. She uses this ability to stop unwanted rumors, spread different ones and make sure that everyone gets exactly what they deserve.
Paige isn’t a bad person at all, but she’d been deluding herself in life and death has a way of opening your eyes even when you don’t want it to. Her desire to be mourned by the boy she liked despite herself, the same boy who refused to acknowledge her in public when she was alive, helped me see the lonely girl underneath her masks. All three ghosts had to come to terms with their untimely deaths and the damage the left behind. They had many regrets and things to forgive themselves for, but they all learned that it’s never too late to become a better person.
Even with three ghosts at the center of the story, Absent doesn’t address the matter of life after death. Williams never even tries to offer her version of the afterlife, nor do her characters question their ties to the school. I saw this as an admission that the hows and whys aren’t for us to question, which I really appreciated.
The subtle message of this tiny book is that not all wrongs can be put to right and that sometimes the cards you’ve been dealt don’t matter – all that matters is making peace with the things that went wrong and moving on. Absent wasn’t what I expected it to be, but what I took away from it was more valuable than it first seemed. This is a book you’ll think about long after you finish it, and the more you think about it, the more you’ll like it.
Based on the cover and the (admittedly vague) synopsis, it would be easy enough to assume that Recalled is just another formulaic paranormal book told...moreBased on the cover and the (admittedly vague) synopsis, it would be easy enough to assume that Recalled is just another formulaic paranormal book told from alternating POVs, but dismissing it as such would be a grave error. When I signed up for this tour, I had no idea what to expect. I’ve heard great many things about Cambria Hebert’s work, almost all of them positive, but I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy her style. I do.
Right now, off the top of my head, I could probably name about seven YA books that revolve around the theme of dying/crossing over/grim reapers, and yet, Cambria Hebert found a way to offer something new. Her worldbuilding, although quite narrow, is very imaginative. She found a perfect balance between creepy and fun, and the tone of this entire novel was somewhere in the middle, with a healthy dose of sweet to make it even better.
Dex and Piper are both wonderful characters, completely unpredictable and fun. I enjoyed the many differences in their voices, and I enjoyed never really knowing what Dex would do next. He didn’t make it easy for us to like him and he made some very questionable choices, but that’s precisely what I loved about Recalled. It kept me on edge. Oh, but you have to meet the grim reaper! He is something else. In fact, nothing in this book is quite what you’d expect. It’s far from perfect, true, but I enjoyed every second of it.
The final part was where Recalled lost half a star. It was a bit all over the place, unfocused, like Hebert didn’t quite know where to take it or how to get there. The switches between two points of view came far too fast and I was a tiny bit confused at times. Wow, I made it sound bad, didn’t I? In reality, it was just a minor thing that bothered me precisely because what came before was so good. Recalled is an excellent book, fun and at times surprising, and if you’re into paranormal romance but have been craving something original for a very long time, trust Hebert to deliver.
I signed up for this tour not knowing a single thing about Oxford Whispers other than its intriguing title and the lovely cover. Usually when I do thi...moreI signed up for this tour not knowing a single thing about Oxford Whispers other than its intriguing title and the lovely cover. Usually when I do this, I end up sorely disappointed, but fortunately, there are many things I enjoyed about Marion Croslydon’s debut.
Oxford Whispers focuses partly on Madison’s ability to see and communicate with ghosts as well as her family history and beliefs, and partly on her romance with the young future Earl Rupert Vance. The paranormal parts of this story were quite original, which isn’t something I get to write often, and I loved all the jumping between the past and the present.
Unsurprisingly, my favorite thing about Oxford Whispers was the setting. Like our Louisiana girl, Madison, the author spent some time studying in Oxford, and her familiarity with it was evident on every page. Oxford Whispers is not just Madison and Rupert’s love story, or even Sarah and Robert’s, it is the author’s love letter to Oxford, and it’s a lovely one at that. I learned a few things from it, and it thrilled me to find out some new details about such an astonishing place.
It was far easier for me to connect with Madison’s love interest, the young and gorgeous future Earl Rupert Vance, than Madison herself. Yes, he was just a bit too handsome, a bit too rich, a bit too eloquent. His father hated him far too much, his girlfriend Harriet was an evil Barbie doll, his car was extravagant and his friends were mostly rich jerks. For over four years, he carried around a huge guilt, and then he got rid of it in a single night, all because he found the perfect girl. In other words, he was no more than a cliché. But underneath it all, I managed to find some genuine feelings, a character that could potentially become everything I want in a love interest, or even a second main character, judging from the way things are going.
Clichés aside, with the events of the past foreshadowing current ones, there really wasn’t much room for surprise. About 90% of this book was painfully predictable. But then, in the very last part came a shocking revelation, a thing I never would have guessed, which made me both increase my rating and decide to read the next book.
And since I’ve mentioned the next book, it’s supposed to be about the Tudors – who wouldn’t want to read that?! I only hope that the author will flesh out her characters just a little bit better in the next one because, as I already pointed out, they definitely need more work.
Beyond is the second young adult book by a Canadian male author I’ve read in the last year (first was The Repossession by Sam Hawksmoor), they were bo...moreBeyond is the second young adult book by a Canadian male author I’ve read in the last year (first was The Repossession by Sam Hawksmoor), they were both published by Hodder, and they’re both original and refreshing. I’m even more picky and difficult with horror than I am with steampunk, which is why I’m especially happy to report that the horror parts of this story met my extremely high standards. But I’m getting ahead of myself here…
Jane is afraid of her own shadow… literally. Every time she faces any kind of danger, her mind goes numb and her shadow takes control, moving Jane’s body towards peril instead of away from it. If there’s one thing Jane can be sure of, it’s that she’s not making it up; her best friend Lexi witnessed her shadow trying to force her to throw herself in front of a train. But since it’s not a story she can actually share without ensuring a bed in the psychiatric ward, everyone including her parents thinks she’s suicidal. It’s up to Lexi and Jane to find a pattern and discover the mystery and horror behind Jane’s shadow.
Although Beyond wasn’t without its problems, the idea behind it was thrilling and so very original. It was unlike anything I’ve read before, and the mystery kept me on my toes until the very end. It wasn’t easy to even try to guess the outcome of this, or the solution to the mystery, and the premise behind it was simply exhilarating. There’s nothing creepier than being threatened by your own shadow… it’s the only thing you can never hide from, and seeing it take over, start moving on its own and even control your movements is a waking nightmare. *shudders* Poor Jane.
The writing style was also fairly unusual. McNamee prefers short sentences that create a steady staccato rhythm; in that, he reminded me of Lisa McMann, whose Wake trilogy I happen to like very much. Generally, I adore this sort of thing – any peculiarity in someone’s style is enough to keep me interested and fascinated even when the plot becomes tiresome. McNamee wasn’t consistent enough to be truly impressive like McMann, but his writing still made the book more memorable for me.
However, I don’t understand why Jane couldn’t have been a teenage boy instead. The story would have worked just as well, if not better, from a male point of view, and quite frankly, McNamee knows about teenage girls about as much as I know about quantum mechanics. Jane and Lexi both thought and acted more like adolescent boys than sixteen-year-old girls, and this was especially apparent in their romantic endeavors. That is not how girls think about boys, Mr. McNamee, not even close, and that is not how girls talk to each other. Suffice it to say that changing this to a male protagonist wouldn’t take much work at all – a simple name change (from Jane to John, since we’re being original and all) would have been enough. No other modifications would be necessary, the voice is already distinctly male. This, too, is the second time that I’ve encountered this problem lately, the first being Vesper by Jeff Sampson.
Nevertheless, few books truly scare me anymore, and Beyond made me want to sleep with my lights on for the first time in many months. McNamee is an excellent horror author with a unique style, but he should definitely stick with male protagonists from now on, in which case I’ll probably read whatever he writes next.
4.5 stars This review is entirely spoiler-free and consequently a bit all over the place. I hope you’ll forgive me.
There isn’t much I can say about Th...more4.5 stars This review is entirely spoiler-free and consequently a bit all over the place. I hope you’ll forgive me.
There isn’t much I can say about The Infernal Devices that hasn’t been said already. In my life, I’ve finished more series than I can count, but there was never an ending that broke me in quite so many pieces and left me feeling as emotionally exhausted as this one. In that, The Clockwork Princess is unparalleled. For the longest time I refused to go anywhere near this series because of the bitter disappointment I felt after City of Fallen Angels, but once I finally succumbed to peer pressure, I immediately became just another prisoner of Cassie Clare’s magic. There is something in the quiet beauty of this trilogy that quickly finds its way to the very center of your heart. By the time you realize you’ve started caring, it’s far too late to protect yourself. You are fully invested and well on your way to getting your heart utterly broken.
We all waited on pins and needles to learn the fate of our three heroes. There were no advance copies to be had, no early cries of either outrage or joy on Twitter and GoodReads, just silence and endless speculations. Let’s not kid ourselves, discovering The Magister’s plans came second to learning whom Tessa would choose in the end and what role fate would play in their heartbreaking situation.
Fortunately, secondary characters weren’t swept away by the Jem-Tessa-Will hurricane. Clare took the time to give each of their stories a proper conclusion. All of them were present, and some, like the Lightwood brothers, played a crucial role in the main plotline.
I had every intention of writing a long passage about the epilogue and how much it bothered me, but I can’t seem to force myself to do it. The first 545 pages were pure perfection that cannot possibly be outweighed by the final 19 pages of fan service. Let’s just say I could have done without it and leave it at that.
I think #1 spot on the New York Times Bestsellers list, #2 spot on the USA Today Bestsellers list and #1 spot on the Publisher’s Weekly Bestsellers list tell you all you need to know about this book. I expected as much, but it’s still nice to see definite proof of how many lives it touched.
Aside from The Dark Artifices trilogy set in modern day Los Angeles, there’s talk of yet another Shadowhunter trilogy, which (mysteriously) goes by the initials THL and takes place in 1903. It will follow the next generation of Shadowhunters after Will, Tessa and Jem. A release date hasn’t yet been announced.
I’ve been walking with this odd ‘I can’t believe it’s over’ feeling for days now, slightly dazed and overwhelmed. I can often be seen frantically paging through my copy, revisiting certain passages, laughing and crying all over again. It will fade eventually, like everything does, but that will only give me a chance to reread and relive it all with a renewed intensity.
My warmest thanks to Walker UK for the gorgeous collector’s edition. I haven’t been able to stop staring at the shiny cover. (I might have hugged it a couple of times too, but I’d never admit to it in public.)