I'm usually very slow on the uptake, but lately it seems like I've seen every plot pOriginally posted at Small Review
Hoorah! I'm dense again!
I'm usually very slow on the uptake, but lately it seems like I've seen every plot point coming from page one. Not so with Clarity! Kim Harrington threw so many possible suspects at me, and each and every one of them was believable. I was constantly on my toes and looked at everyone with suspicion. The final reveal surprised me but was still totally believable.
The paranormal parts were nice, blending seamlessly into the overall plot without overwhelming it. I liked seeing the ways Clarity and her family used their abilities, but I also liked how there were rules that restricted what they could do. Their abilities could have threatened to make the story overly simplistic (just ask the dead person who killed them! Ta da!) but the limitations Kim Harrington created kept the story from becoming too easy.
I did like the mystery and it did keep me on my toes, but I never really felt invested in the story beyond surface-level curosity. I never had that feeling of "OMG I HAVE TO KEEP READING!!!" The mystery was interesting, but it wasn't packed with action. Still, the book is very short and the pacing is steady and to the point. Almost every scene ties back to the mystery in some way, so there aren't any wasted scenes you need to slog through to get back to the main point.
I'm not sure if I like you, Clare
Clarity has an easy narrative voice that I instantly fell into. She's straight forward and didn't bore me with a bunch of internal wallowing. Which is a big feat considering how much her life sucks. Her ex-boyfriend cheated on her with her nemesis, she has a nemesis in the form of a popular mean girl, and she has no friends. None! Luckily Clare just rolls with the punches, throws a few of her own, and focuses on solving the murder mystery.
Except...eh, sometimes I got the impression that Clarity's leper status might be her fault. Maybe she's too prickly. I wonder if people would be so cruel to her if she approached them with honey instead of vinegar. After all, her brother is just as much a psychic as she is, and he has friends and girls lining up to be with him. There is a tiny hint dropped about this, so I suspect this question will be expanded on further in the sequel. I think it's a seed planted, not sloppy writing.
It's a family thing
Family plays a big part in Clarity. The family business was a fun feature that, while it didn't play a huge role in the actual story, it set a stage that I loved. How cool would that job be? Though the whole mom having mind-reading powers thing could suck in real life (Could you imagine how much of a drag it would be if your mom you read your mind?). I like that Clarity's mom was a part of the story, but she seemed kind of wimpy and fragile to me. I don't like it when the kids seem to parent the parents, and that was sort of the case here.
Clarity's brother was a fun character and I couldn't help but like him...even though objectively I should be kind of disgusted by him. He's a womanizer and a suspect for murder, but I liked him. Kudos to Kim Harrington for creating a character I loved even though I would normally hate him. I hope he plays a larger role in the sequel.
I don't love you
There's a love triangle here that does take up a large part of the plot. It doesn't overwhelm the mystery, but it is a constant presence. I didn't like it, mostly because I didn't like either of the guys. Clarity is such a strong character and neither of these guys seemed worth her time. She can do better.
I also found the love triangle frustrating because it doesn't have any clear winner. Now I know this is the first book in a series and it was refreshing to have a female MC who wasn't tripping all over herself for a guy, but it was dissatisfying to leave the love triangle completely up in the air at the end. Clarity doesn't make any choices in this book and there isn't anyone in the lead. Who she's interested in is as much of a mystery as the murderer (but at least we get a resolution on the murderer).
Where do we go from here?
Clarity ends nicely as a standalone...at first glance. The murder mystery is wrapped up, but that's about it. Clues were dropped about Clarity's father and those clues make it sound like something big is coming with all sorts of secrets and history. Or maybe I'm reading too much into things. There was also that little clue about why Clarity doesn't have any friends that still needs closure. And of course the love triangle needs to be settled.
I don't feel a burning desire to get the next book RIGHT NOW, but I will read the sequel eventually. I like Kim Harrington's writing and the story overall was nice and to the point. Plus, I just like the idea of psychic investigators.
The thing about fairy tale retellings is that, well, they're retellings. So right off the bat you've already got that "been there, done that" thing going on. I also find it practically impossible not to draw comparisons to both the original story and other retellings.
And herein lies my biggest problem: Entwined just didn't stack up well enough against the two other 12 Dancing Princesses retellings I've read--and ADORED (Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George and The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell).
I didn't find the twist to the original story as inventive or compelling, the villain wasn't as intriguing, the world building wasn't as immersive, and the explanation for why the princesses were dancing and couldn't talk just didn't hack it for me. And the family thing? 100 times better in The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall.
This isn't to say Entwined was bad. It's just that I didn't head-over-heels love it like I love those other three books and I couldn't help myself from constantly drawing comparisons (I know, totally unfair to Entwined).
Maybe it is a little bit you
Remember how I've said I'm not the kind of reader who really takes note of writing style? Well, I took note here. And NOT in a good way. There were far too many repetitive phrases. If Azalea dug her nails into the palm of her hand one more time I was going to reach into the book and throttle her. She seriously does this all the time. I felt so sorry for her hands. The king also sucks in his cheeks a lot. And do we really need to hear about Bramble's freaking yellow-green eyes every single time she does anything?!
That said though, I thought the Penderwick-like titles for things like The Great Rosebush and Snowball Scandal were absolutely adorable.
But Azalea, oh Azalea. She's the focus of the third-person narration and she rivals Agnes when it comes to main characters who do stupid things that annoy me because they're so childish and dense. I know people will love her, and truly I did like her in a lot of scenes, but the way she treated her father really bugged me. I thought she was very unfair and childish when it came to him. She pouts, throws fits, and does these totally impulsive and stupid things. Then there's this one scene where she earns herself the Dumbest Move Ever award.
It's characters like Azalea that make me feel really old and stodgy because I just want them to pull it together and be responsible already. On the flip side, I liked pretty much all of the other characters and I loved the responsible and sweet sister Clover. I would have loved this book so much more if Clover were the focus of the narration instead.
Enough "character girl" let's talk about the plot already!
The 12 Dancing Princesses tale is one of my favorites to retell because it has a few key plot points that can be taken in a bunch of interesting directions. Here they are, and here's what I liked and didn't like with Entwined's version:
The mystery of the dancing princesses:
WHY are they dancing?! This question sets up the story right away with a mystery and, usually, authors answer this question with some sort of curse or other type of entanglement. Given that the name of this book is entwined, I was expecting something awesomely creepy that wrapped the princesses up in layers of dastardly spells.
Ya know what I got instead?
Yeah. Now before I start knocking that too much, I have to admit that this was an approach I hadn't read before and for that I appreciated it. The focus on emotions and the relationship development that followed between the sisters and their father after the death of their mother (in the first chapter) was emotional, complex, and ultimately endearing. This is really the crux of the plot, with everything else taking a backseat to the family's relationship.
That said, a creepy curse would have been so much cooler than petty princesses who don't feel like following the conventions of mourning their dead mother. It also would have fit in a lot better. As it is, the magical elements and more obvious parts of the retelling seemed almost out of place to me. It often felt like Heather Dixon had a beautiful story about a family coming to terms with grief and the growth of their relationships but then felt like it needed some sort of drama, so enter the 12 Dancing Princesses retelling bits.
Also, why are there 12 princesses? Why did the mother die? These are key features of the original tale that are usually integrated in the retellings, but they aren't explained in this version. They just ARE, and I was very disappointed with that. It felt sloppy.
Ok, here's the thing, I don't like useless damsels, but, come on, isn't the idea of a dashing young man pledging himself to rescue the princesses in distress kinda hot? Well, I think so. And the guys in the book are all so sweet.
Did you catch that plural? Not one, not two, but THREE girls have romances with three very different but all totally crushable guys. Each romance is different and fitting the personalities of the different sisters, but each one is adorable in its own way. My one complaint is that I wish the guys and the actual romances were fleshed out a bit more than they were. They're all very MG-level.
I also thought the king was pretty swoon-worthy, too, but I'm older so that's ok. (He just might be my favorite character with all of his complex stoicism covering up a softie heart).
The idea of some creeper living in a magical kingdom under your bedroom is already pretty scary, but when he magically forces you to return to him night after night to dance until your feet bleed with no escape, well, that can be downright terrifying. And here's where I'm really disappointed with Entwined.
The villain is creepy, no doubt about that. While the rest of the book is all very MG, the stories about the villain's past deeds and some of the things he does to the girls were totally unsettling for me and would be far too brutal for some of my MG girls who would otherwise love the book.
Even with that, I never felt that terrifying trapped feeling I usually get with this tale. The stakes never felt that high to me (though that might have been because I couldn't care less if Azalea was stuck down there forever). The fact that the princesses were always willing dancers also seriously took away from the sense of consuming peril.
When bad things finally started to happen (in, like, the final 100 pages) I couldn't help but feel like giving them the "Talk to the hand" signal because they were only getting exactly what they had been courting for the past 300 pages. Actions have consequences, girls!
The world building
I am a total sucker for world building, and ever since I read Jessica Day George's version of the underground kingdom I've been utterly captivated by the possibilities of the 12 Dancing Princesses' underground world. Merrie Haskell created an equally vivid world that is both like and completely unlike JDG's imaginings. But Heather Dixon?
Totally gypped me on the world building! I could hardly visualize anything in the villain's domain. The silver forest, the lake, the pavilion, nothing. I was SO disappointed, especially given that the regular world was described well. (Bramble's stupid yellow-green eyes must have used up the rest of the description quota).
I know I'm complaining, a lot, and I do stand by that. I was straight up disappointed with this version. That said, I did still like enough of it to warrant a 3.5 star rating and I'll probably even reread it. This is a nice retelling and I'm glad I read it and own a copy.
It's a very quick read with a page count that's a lot longer than it seems. Even with the less action-oriented plot, Entwined never felt like a long book. I do wish the pacing had been a little brisker, but it's not that type of story.
Though I had a lot of bones to pick with Entwined, I liked it enough that I am on the lookout for whatever Heather Dixon writes next.
There was a blurb on Supernaturally that said something along the lines of “Comes closer than most toOriginally posted at Small Review
"The Buffy mark"
There was a blurb on Supernaturally that said something along the lines of “Comes closer than most to hitting the Buffy mark.” Well, Buffy fanatic that I am, any sort of comparison to Buffy usually sets me off…and not in a good way. Because can anything really come close to the awesomeness of Buffy? I didn’t think so.
Now Kiersten White is no Joss Whedon. Her humor is completely different and it isn’t really fair to either of them to try to compare Evie to Buffy. They’re just different. Yet, that blurb is totally spot on.
What Joss Whedon managed to do so perfectly that makes Buffy epic was create a show that had incredible humor, but also incredible depth and seriousness. These aspects are then balanced in a way where both complement and enhance one another. THIS is where Kiersten White nails it. This is how she "hits the Buffy mark."
I love these people
Evie is one of the funniest characters I’ve ever met. Just like in Paranormalcy, the first page--heck, the first line--had me laughing. I knew this book would be awesome by that first sentence alone. Evie's the kind of girl who looks at the world, says exactly what I would be thinking, but does it in a way that’s a million times funnier than I could ever dream of being. The best humor is the kind that resonates, and Evie is so utterly relatable. Whenever I read Evie, all I want to do is make her real and have a million sleepover parties together and buy BFF charm necklaces.
She also so gets my high school gym experience.
And yet…beneath all the cute glitter and pink is a deceptively sad story. It might be easy to get wrapped up in the light tone of the book and believe there is no more here than superficial fun, but that would be a mistake. There’s a darkness here that is breathtakingly tragic.
The characters Kiersten White creates are so real and possess such depth. My heart aches for them. Even the Big Bads are complex people with logical reasons for why they act the way they do. If you’re the type of reader who wants villains that transcend the black and white confines of Good vs Evil, then look no further.
Supernaturally gives greater insight into Paranormalcy’s Big Bad while also introducing a new BB to the mix. While they’re both bad, the funny thing is that I feel protective over them. I like them. Yeah, ok, they’re not good people, but I get them. I see where they’re coming from, even if they’re wrong. I want to cry over their completely heartbreaking stories. The best part is that Evie sees it too, and watching her grapple with the confusion this leads to adds the depth of both character and plot that elevates Kiersten White from “good writer” to “superb writer.”
Middle books are different
I was blown away by Paranormalcy, and while Supernaturally is made of awesome it doesn’t quite hit the same mark Paranormalcy did. The plot of Paranormalcy really grabbed me and took me on a roller coaster of a ride. The impending threat of the Big Bad going around murdering paranormals and the mysterious nature of that BB kept my eyes glued to the pages.
Supernaturally’s Big Bad is a lot more subtle, and, for me, that subtlety lessened my “OHMYBLEEPINGGOSHWE’REALLGOING TODIEEEEE” excitement that I had going with the first book. Don’t get me wrong, the story is still fun and there’s still a mysterious aspect to unravel (which I sadly managed to figure out too soon), but it didn’t have the same edge-of-your-seat feeling that I loved so much.
In some ways Supernaturally is very much a “middle of a trilogy” book, but in this case that isn’t a bad thing. Evie’s life changed completely in Paranormalcy, and Supernaturally shows Evie dealing with all of that fallout. It’s a very character-driven story. Too often major things happen to characters and the impact of those events is glossed over for the sake of advancing the plot. Now, you know me, I have a very short attention span. I want ACTION! So when I say I truly appreciated the time Kiersten White takes here in letting Evie figure everything out, you can be confident that this isn’t a boring filler book.
(To put it in terms Buffy fans will understand, Supernaturally is Buffy’s season six. There isn't really a gigantic Big Bad like in the other seasons. The focus is instead more inward and focuses on the characters themselves. Supernaturally obviously has totally different events, but think the soul searching and character development end of things.)
There are so many clichés in YA paranormal books right now that complaining about the clichés is practically a cliché in itself. But Kiersten White? I need to create an altar to bow down in front of and give massive thanks for turning paranormal clichés on their heads (but there will be no animal sacrifices at this altar! Will offerings of sparkly things suffice?)
I may need to offer a few sparkly pink taser holsters in penance for ever doubting her, too. Hear me out though, ok? I mean, Paranormalcy was chock full of a whole bunch of paranormals, and they were all totally different from how we’re used to reading about them (noooo pretty vampires here!), but not in ways that are lame (sparkles are for jewelry, not vampires). This was awesome, but I really wasn’t expecting Kiersten to have the imaginative reserves left after all that to create even more unique paranormals and add even more depth to the already established ones. Now having read Supernaturally? Me=IDIOT.
Diana Peterfreund was the sole occupant of my “Authors who make COMPLETELY AWESOME AND ORIGINAL Unicorns” pedestal, but I now need to put in an order for a wider pedestal. Kiersten White is soo getting a spot on it now. I’m not even going to mention the other paranormals so you don’t get spoiled, but I will say this: Reading Kiersten’s books is like taking a stroll through a paranormal amusement park. (That's a good thing).
Crazy for you
I’m so torn on all of the scenes of peril. I want to go running around screaming in fright, giggle like a seven year old listening to a fart joke (um, still do that), and clap my hands in delight over the new spin on the paranormals. So, uh, Kiersten? Thanks for making me look like a COMPLETE LUNATIC when I read your books in public. Ugh, Readers, take it from me and don’t even try to explain to (non-cool) people why the cloud scene in Supernaturally is made of win. (But, seriously Kiersten, thanks. The reading experience is so worth those weird looks).
Final proof that Kiersten White is a genius?
The chapter titled "Sparkles Make Everything Better" Yes they do, Kiersten. YES THEY DO!
If you loved Paranormalcy, then I’m certain you’ll love Supernaturally. Luckily I’m tiny so I can hide from you pretty easily if I’m wrong and you try to hunt me down for misleading you. But I don’t think that’ll happen. You definitely have to read Paranormalcy for Supernaturally to make any kind of sense, but Supernaturally ends nicely without any pull-your-hair-out cliffhangers (Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!). I can’t wait for the third (and final *sniff*) book, but that’s because I just want more.
My only complaint is that there isn’t nearly enough Reth and I really wanted to learn more about him. His scenes are wonderful, but too infrequent and riddled with cryptic clues. *Sigh* That is just so like him.
As much fun as it is to hear about book long before their release date, it can also be a really bad thing. In the casOriginally posted at Small Review
As much fun as it is to hear about book long before their release date, it can also be a really bad thing. In the case of Wake Unto Me, I was so looking forward to reading about that charming ghost who visits Caitlyn at night but the reality didn’t live up to my expectations.
Can I strangle her, please?
CAITLYN! Ugh, I so hated her. She’s very angsty and she looks down on almost everyone around her because she’s convinced that she’s “special” and doesn’t belong with the rest of the inferior people around her.
The peons of Caitlyn’s world include not only her classmates, but also her entire living family…who clearly love her and go out of their way to treat her well. Right off the bat I hated the main character and wished nothing but very uncharitable thoughts on her.
Now, before you get too disappointed, keep in mind that I’m not the age of the target audience. When I was that age, I probably would have eaten this angst-fest up. Caitlyn reminded me very strongly of Jessica from Amelia Atwater-Rhodes’ book Demon in My View. I loved that book when I read it as a teen, and even though I kind of roll my eyes at Jessica now, I have enough nostalgic love to keep me rereading that book. So consider that when reading my thoughts on Caitlyn, for what it’s worth.
The ghostly romance that wasn't
I was expecting a ghostly romance, but that isn’t really what happens here. The guy is not a ghost. Instead, there’s time travel through Caitlyn's dreams. Ok, I could get on board with that given how much I love time travel, but I was disappointed that I was sold a ghost romance and then not given one.
The romance was also 100% INSTA love (major emphasis on the "insta"). It all happened so fast and that, combined with a lack of character development, made it so I couldn’t get into their romance at all.
Not only wasn’t he a ghost, but the guy himself was also just ok. There wasn’t anything wrong with him, but he wasn’t much more than a sketch of a generic caricature. I couldn’t help but compare him to Marcello and the guys in Lisa Bergren’s River of Time series (an EXCELLENT historical time-travel romance) and he just fell completely flat in comparison. I don’t even remember his name.
I would like it more if I actually understood it
There is so much potential here for this to be an awesome story. The plot points are fantastic and there are some truly original parts here. The problem is that none of it was developed enough for me. The delivery of information felt convoluted and unevenly paced.
I read through chapters and chapters about boring and irrelevant stuff like Caitlyn complaining about the food or her inability to find her classrooms and then there’s a dump of tons of information. The information chapters were great and I definitely enjoyed reading them, but the deluge of information that was only somewhat explained left me really confused.
It was fun reading about the historical parts and piecing them together, but I’m not sure I ultimately understand how it all works. I don’t get Caitlyn’s power and why it happened to HER of all people. I can’t ask my questions here without giving out major spoilers, but suffice it to say I have a ton of questions.
I think these questions were explained and I just didn’t understand the explanation, so it’s not like I’m supposed to have them and wait for a sequel for the answers. I don’t even remember them all now and, honestly, I don’t really care.
The historical parts were fun for me, but I think you really do have to be into history for them to be appealing. Frustratingly though, it also wasn't filled with historical factoids. So, it was pretty much too much historical fic for someone who doesn’t like that genre, but not enough for someone who does want that genre.
The evil but maybe not evil sisterhood thing also felt like a caricature with no original meat. They came into the story early on and then disappeared for most of the book. They didn’t serve much of a purpose outside of only tenuously explaining why Caitlyn is special. They had so much potential to be awesome, but their history, function, and goals were never fully explained. I don’t even know if they’re good or not.
I was disappointed by the mystery, but it did grab my attention well enough to keep me reading in spite of a main character I couldn’t stand. I can totally see why people would like the book because the basic story is pretty great (especially the "big reveal").
For me though, this felt way too much like a draft that needed more revisions. The original parts were wonderful, but were overshadowed by lack of development and too many cliches.
I don't know if this is supposed to be a standalone or not. It wraps up as if it is a standalone, but who can tell these days. If there is a sequel, I don't know, I guess I might give it a try through the library to see if the writing has caught up to the ideas.
This is the sequel to Shattered Mirror and book 7 in the Den of Shadows series, but DON’T STOP READING YET! I promise this review doesn’t have any spoThis is the sequel to Shattered Mirror and book 7 in the Den of Shadows series, but DON’T STOP READING YET! I promise this review doesn’t have any spoilers for the previous books.
But let me just gush about Shattered Mirror for a minute
Shattered Mirror was published in 2001 when Amelia was a teenager, but you’d never guess her age based on her book. I devoured Shattered Mirror and have been singing its praises for years. Two hot vampire brothers—one good, one seductively bad—and the girl in the middle of the two (sound familiar?). Only in Shattered Mirror, the girl is a witch and vampire hunter, which adds in a whole level of delicious forbidden love and conflict.
The vampire and witch lore is so thorough I feel like that world could actually exist around me. Her characters were real and likable. I care about those people. I squeaked with joy when I heard there would be a sequel.
Time Gone By
While ten years have passed in the real world, practically no time has passed between Shattered Mirror and All Just Glass. The events of this book take place over the course of a mere 24 hours. I thought this was gimmicky and unnecessary, adding nothing at all except mild annoyance. I suggest just ignoring the time stamps at the beginning of each chapter. You won’t miss anything.
Who the heck are these people?!
All Just Glass features almost all of the main characters from the first book and throws in a few more. The cast is HUGE and I had a hard time keeping track of everyone. I could barely tell the difference between a bunch of characters, having to rely solely on superficial traits (that one’s the witch with vampire blood, that one’s the witch with psychic powers, etc).
Even worse, the characters I knew and loved from the first book had nothing in common with their versions in this book. Nikolas had such a strong and distinct personality in Shattered Mirror, but here he’s completely different and barely present. This was the biggest let down for me.
The other characters from the first book met the same fate. They all felt washed out and incomplete, relying solely on the development of the first book (which in many cases contradicted their actions in this second book). As the characters stand in this book, I don’t care at all about any of them and they all score a big whopping ZERO on my WWMCD Test.
Where am I? Who am I?
The plot pacing felt uneven, jumping around with repeated promises of interesting events and then fizzling out. The tight plotting and steadily building pace of Amelia’s earlier books was absent here. Instead events seemed to meander around without coherent form or goal. I wanted to chuck the book across the room at the epically anticlimactic ending.
Making matters worse are all of the competing narrators. The book is written in the third person, but the focus shifts from character to character with little rhyme or reason. Some characters’ focuses are returned to again and again, while others only have one or two scenes (scenes, not even whole chapters). This felt sloppy and convoluted, especially since most of the characters all sounded the same.
Secrets were revealed for many characters, presumably to create depth and “shades of gray.” I ended up disliking them even more. I also felt like this added confusion because none of their secrets are revealed coherently. Ever run text through a translator and eventually you get the gist of what was written but the details are missing and you’re left with a jumble of broken English? That’s what this felt like to me.
Whatever tension there might have been was completely killed for me after numerous letdowns and the realization that even my memories of these characters couldn’t make me care about what happened to them now.
Read Shattered Mirror! And, really, all of the first four books in the series. Each ends as a standalone, so you can pick one up and not have to worry about reading a whole series or dealing with loose ends. I’m very disappointed with All Just Glass, especially since I know the author is capable of much better.
YES FINALLY THANK YOU! Ann Aguirre's world building has two things going for it: 1) It makes logicalOriginally posted at Small Review
YES FINALLY THANK YOU! Ann Aguirre's world building has two things going for it: 1) It makes logical sense, and 2) I can picture it perfectly. Reading Enclave was like watching a movie unfold before my eyes. Her world is immersive, it's scary, it's oppressive, it's bleak, and it actually makes sense!
They make sense, too! I can't say I exactly like Deuce or relate to her, but I do find her intriguing to read about. I loved seeing the world through her first person narration. Enclave's society is like a really screwed up psych experiment (a la Lord of the Flies) with a bunch of malnourished kids calling all the shots. I'm horrified, but I'm totally fascinated. 10000000 points to Ann Aguirre for making her characters and society develop in a way that is actually consistent with human psychology (something a few recent dystopian authors have failed to do).
The dystopian awakening
Deuce of course realizes her dystopian world isn't as full of win as she had originally thought. In YA dystopians this great epiphany usually comes from the insta-love guy or the quirky best friend. Not here! Yay! More points to Ann! Deuce doesn't really do a 180 in her thinking. She was always very logical, and so when she gets new information about her world, she logically adjusts her conclusions. Hey authors, see how much better that is than relying on the quirky throwaway best friend?
I was loving the romance during the first half of the book. It's a slow burn based on mutual admiration with not a speck of insta-love in sight. Fade is badass, mysterious, and he so nails the "sexy but innocuous touch." But then the author totally KILLED it in the second half! The stupid love triangle rears its head and Fade becomes a complete weenie. Seriously, he becomes that dog that pisses all over itself while rolling onto its back. What's up with THAT? As if that wasn't bad enough, the other guy in the triangle is an ugly scarred up sadistic RAPIST. He's vile in every way. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? How in the world am I supposed to get on board with that?!
Heck yeah! Does the idea of post-apocalyptic badass zombie killing sound fun to you? Then you're going to LOVE it in Enclave. Deuce and Fade are both hunters and so they spend most of the book killing zombies (or, in this book, Freaks). The fight scenes were so awesome in that heart-pounding, makes-me-wish-I-could-hit-things-without-hurting-myself kind of way. THIS is what kept my eyes glued to the pages and is the reason I cannot wait for the sequel.
What? Oh, there's a plot? I'm sorry, I was so absorbed by the fight scenes that I forgot we're actually supposed to be doing something here. So, ok, the plot is actually pretty sparse and unfinished in this installment, but it does set up some interesting questions. If you're cool with that wandering type of plot like in Cormac McCarthy's The Road or Richard Matheson's I am Legend, then I think you'll be just fine with the plot of Enclave. It's even got a bit of a quest-y feel to it.
The fighting and near-constant peril make for a brisk pace that keeps the book from dragging. Short chapters help, too. I was sucked in from page one and couldn't put it down until I had finished (like, a day and a half later...ok, I had to sleep at some point). There were a few things I thought were flat out stupid and out of place (those little creatures, the "dream"), but they were minor and I kind of just ignore them.
Pretty much a cliffhanger. If I cared about a certain character who is left in peril with their fate unknown then I'd probably be ripping my hair out. As it is, I couldn't care less about that character, so I'm fine with the ending. Things leave off on a turning point, so it's a good place to stop, but this is very much only part one of a story (no story arcs are resolved). I'm totally on board for more zombie-killing action when Outpost is released in 2012.
Let me just start out by saying I am so disappointed with this book! (Can you hear my foot stomping in petulant frustration?) This was one of my mostLet me just start out by saying I am so disappointed with this book! (Can you hear my foot stomping in petulant frustration?) This was one of my most anticipated reads of 2011 and when I got an ARC I was beyond excited. And then, argh, I didn’t love it. How crappy is that feeling of book disappointment, right?
Ok, ok, you don’t want to hear me sob. I know you want to know why I was so disappointed. Here’s why, and most of it is my own fault. Part of the reason I enjoy historical fiction so much is because it’s a fun way to learn about history. I also have a strange fascination with learning about diseases. I was hoping this book would teach me a bunch of facts about typhoid and the early discoveries about the disease, but that didn’t happen.
We do learn about typhoid a little, and so I guess if a person really knows very little about the disease then they would learn a bit. But me, I guess I knew too much already because I learned nothing new. There was also very little about the disease itself: the symptoms and progression, how many people died, etc. You know, the gory details.
That turned out to not really be the focus of the book though, so you can chalk up my disappointment here more to my false expectations than any failing on the author’s part. Instead, the focus of this book was on the social and moral implications of quarantining an unwilling person. The question of where you draw the line between an individual’s freedom and the safety of the population at large was explored sensitively and in a way that really did make me think.
My second complaint is, again, not the author’s fault. Deadly is categorized as a YA book, but I think it really should be MG/juvenile. Prudence is a YA in age, but in voice she struck me as much younger. Her thoughts were simple and there was a certain immaturity to her voice. I found myself unable to really connect with her because of this.
The writing is simple with short chapters, a very straightforward plot, and subject matter suitable for a younger reader. I think this might have been a more enjoyable story if it had been written in the third person instead of journal entries (usually I enjoy journal entries). Part of this is because Prudence speaks in a very clinical, detached voice and that also made it difficult for me to connect to her.
I actually think the perfect audience for this book would be girls who adored the American Girl series but have recently outgrown them. There’s just something about the writing style, Prudence’s voice, her dilemma, and the little drawings that accompany her journal that reminded me of the American Girl books. If this book had been categorized as a MG/juvenile title I would have given it a higher rating (probably a solid four). As it stands, the book just doesn’t have the weight or depth of some other YA historical fiction novels (like Cate of the Lost Colony).
I do recommend this book to people who know very little about typhoid and don’t mind the younger tone. I think this book would also be a hit among MG/juvenile girls who enjoy the Dear America series, The Royal Diaries series, or the Lady Grace Mysteries.
I had been anticipating this book all the way back to when it had a different cover, so I was very happy when I was asked if I would like a copy for rI had been anticipating this book all the way back to when it had a different cover, so I was very happy when I was asked if I would like a copy for review. I did enjoy this book and I do recommend it, but I did not love it.
As a character girl, I had to subtract some stars because I just could not connect with the characters. They weren’t bad or annoying, but they never felt alive to me. When I did the WWMCD test (that’s the What Would the Main Character Do? Test) I find these characters did not score high. Unfortunately, these are not characters I will carry with me in my heart for years to come.
Outside of that, the story itself was actually a lot of fun. I love time travel books, and Dark Mirror did things a little different than what I’m used to. Instead of going back in time, Dark Mirror begins in Regency England and then travels forward in time to WWII. Watching the characters react to all of the new (and now old to us) technological advancements made for a fun twist.
The story had a light feel to it that I enjoyed, but it was also appropriately serious. The characters all faced decisions between what is easy and what satisfies duty, honor, and sacrifice. I really liked the patriotism and strong female characters that made up the backbone of the book.
The first half of the book moves along at a good pace, following Tory as she acclimates to her new school. For a while I thought I had been misinformed about the time travel aspects, thinking this was instead a boarding school book. The time travel comes about midway through the book and at that point the pace really picks up.
I like fast paced books, but I thought things moved almost a little too fast. The characters jumped around from one task to another, accomplishing each one with relative ease. I think I would have enjoyed this more if I had connected with the characters. As it was, I followed the events happily enough but I never felt invested.
The romance was nicely paced and I think will be received well by both fans and detractors of insta-love. The two characters do have an instant connection, but there is a forbidden love aspect that keeps them at a distance. Their connection is never explained, but maybe an explanation will be explored in the sequel.
Though this book does have a sequel, it works well as a standalone. All of the main events are tied up cleanly, so you need not fear any cliffhangers. There also aren’t a ton of little details to worry about having to remember.
I enjoyed the first book in the series (The Ghost and the Goth, review), so I was super excited when I found out theOriginally posted at Small Review
I enjoyed the first book in the series (The Ghost and the Goth, review), so I was super excited when I found out there was going to be a sequel. The first book ends well as a standalone, but this second book relies enough on the events of the first that you shouldn't read the sequel until after you've read the first book.
The Ghost and the Goth tackled serious issues with a good dose of levity, and that same winning combination is here as well. Alona provides mean-girl snark but still manages to be completely lovable. Will is a lot more sure of himself now and seems to be in the process of taking control of his life again. Both characters grow a lot throughout this book and it is their growth that adds a depth to the series that isn't really hinted at on the covers. It was nice to fall back into the swing of things with this pair. They work so well together; I could happily read many more books featuring them.
...Which brings me to the biggest downside of Queen of the Dead: Alona and Will's relationship. The book opens with the two of them together, tentatively feeling out (literally, though maybe not so tentatively then) a romantic relationship. The first few chapters are absolutely perfect! Wow, who knew PG/PG-13 kissing could be so hot?? Even though they're together, they still maintain a love-hate relationship that sizzles.
The honeymoon ends far too quickly though, and instead of getting a book full of Alona-Will goodness, most of the time they don't even share page time. Huge, teasing disappointment.
Instead, Will spends a lot of time with Mina, a ghost-talker like Will. I understand why Will wants to spend time with Mina--she's a ghost-talker AND she has connections to his father, but, ugh, I so hated her. I bonded majorly with Alona over our shared dislike of Mina.
While Will is being a traitorous meanie (ok, so I'm biased), Alona spends her time getting into trouble. Alona is a strong personality and she can totally stand on her own without Will (can you tell how much I love Alona? She's a BFF character for sure), but boy does she know how to make a mess of things. These parts were fun because she just kept digger her hole deeper and deeper. I enjoyed her scenes a lot more than the Will/Mina scenes.
I should probably mention that the book alternates chapters between Will's perspective and Alona's perspective. Both voices are completely distinct and the dual narration does a really good job in allowing the reader to connect with the characters when they're talking and also see another side of them through each other's eyes. It also helps events move along at a nice pace and teases you to keep reading ahead.
The story itself is good, but I wanted a little more. The first book had more of a mystery than this one. Honestly though, this isn't a series that I read for the plot. I read it because I love the characters and the world of ghost-talkers. We do gain more insight into ghost-talkers in this book, but our understanding is still tantalizingly incomplete. We also learn that Will's dad had a whole lot of secrets that Will is only beginning to uncover.
I'm not sure how I feel about the resolution. It's, well, I can't really say anything without giving away spoilers, but I'm not sure I like it. I trust Stacey, though, so I'm holding out judgement on that until after I see how she handles it in book three.
This one is wrapped up pretty well, so I'm not sure what the blurb is talking about with a "killer cliffhanger." This isn't really a cliffhanger--killer or otherwise. I mean, there's definitely more to Will and Alona's story, but this main story arc is wrapped up just fine. That doesn't mean I'm not still impatiently awaiting the next book, because I so am! If you liked The Ghost and the Goth, then definitely check out Queen of the Dead.
I’m trying to hold back the OMG squeeeeeees here, but it’s kinda hard. You see in the description where it mentions Italian hottieCan you say *SWOON*?
I’m trying to hold back the OMG squeeeeeees here, but it’s kinda hard. You see in the description where it mentions Italian hotties? Notice how it’s plural? Oh wow is it plural! There are three guys in this book that I would risk plague and travel back in time for. Yet, delightfully, there isn’t any annoying love triangle. The main character loves her guy and sees the other two as good friends (which means I can have them then, right?)
Ah, they’re physically attractive, but they also have super attractive personalities. The main character travels back to the 14th century, so these guys aren’t the modern guy who will share his feelings with you over a latte (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
Oh no, these are the kind of guys that make you let out a primal groan and call them MEN. They’re all commanding and manly and make me want to say really dorky things like “Oh take me you big man you” (I’m ready for my romance cover shot, please). They also have swords—one of the most popular accessories of hot men everywhere—and they’re totally willing to get all sweaty and sexy using them.
But, come on, am I superficial enough to give a book a five star Special Shelf rating on the basis of hot guys alone? Um, yeah, ok, I actually so am. But this book has other redeeming features, I promise.
Girls rock too
How about that main character? As awesome as the men are, she’s pretty kick butt herself. So fine, maybe I’m not buying that being a fencing champ makes her able to wield a 30 pound sword, but hey, it’s the thought that counts, right? And the thought is really great. The guys are all like, “Lady, you need to stay in the castle and let us do man work” and she’s all, “Yeah, whatever. You think I’m going to miss out on this? Pfft!”
But you know what’s great? The men aren’t peeved by this. They’re impressed! Again, maybe not so historically accurate (they probably would have burned her as a witch or sent her to a nunnery or something), but I don’t care because I was having so much fun.
Oh, I probably should mention that the main character isn’t a Mary Sue at all though. I realize I might have made her sound like that a little, but she’s not. She makes a ton of mistakes and has a lot of “Oops!” moments. There was one scene where she was all, “Hold my lance and watch this!” but the guys and me are face-palming like we’ve never face-palmed before. She recognizes her mistakes and learns from them. She reminded me a lot of Meliara from Sherwood Smith’s Crown Duel (please tell me you’ve read this book. No? Ok, go get that book ASAP. Seriously).
Can I be so lucky?
Great characters are wonderful and all, but you really do need a solid plot to back them up in order to be a 5 star book, right? Well, the plot here was so, so good. How’s your knowledge of 14th century Italy? Yeah, mine sucks too. So I don’t have a clue what is based on truth (if anything) and what’s the author’s creation. Either way, it doesn’t matter.
The plot starts out fun enough with the main character trying to fudge her way through 14th century life, a plot device I always find amusing. Add in a missing sister she needs to find and a romance with a super unattainable guy and the plot would have been solid. But there’s more! War, battle, political intrigue! Ah, I just had this silly grin on my face that kept getting wider and wider the more I read.
But wait, isn’t this Christian fic?
This sounds all good and everything, but…maybe you heard this book is considered Christian fiction. Maybe that’s not your thing (it’s not my thing either). No problem! There are a few lines here and there where the main character wonders if she was sent back in time by God. The guys pray sometimes, but I don’t think that would be out of place in any historical fiction book because that’s what they would likely do anyway in the 1300s. That’s pretty much the extent of it. If Christian fiction isn’t your genre, please don’t feel turned off from reading this book. I really don’t think you’ll be bothered.
What are you still doing here?
This book ended up taking me a really long time to finish (5 days!), but that wasn’t because I wasn’t into it. I was completely into it. I never wanted it to end. I kept carrying the book around with me and not reading it because I didn’t want the story to be over. Thankfully, there are two more books and they’re both coming out this year, which I immediately added to my Goodreads list as soon as I finished Waterfall (Cascade in June and Torrent in September). All of the main events of the story wrap up pretty well so I don’t feel like I’m hanging on a major cliffhanger, but the stage is set for the sequel. If you like those courtly intrigue books with manly men and a strong heroine, then I highly recommend Waterfall.