Consider checking out Tatiana's review before reading this book, as I should have done. Because there's nothing terribly wrong with Ruby RedDNF - 25%
Consider checking out Tatiana's review before reading this book, as I should have done. Because there's nothing terribly wrong with Ruby Red other than the fact that it feels very young and immature. I think I would have loved this about 10 years ago, but now the silliness and mental age of the narrator is off-putting.
The characters are in their mid-to-late teens but all of them feel like middle school kids. Take these two early scenes:
Mr Whitman took Gordon's test back from him, turned a page, and read out, "Elizabeth I was so ugly that she couldn't get a husband. So everyone called her the Ugly Virgin." The class giggled.
"Lesley thinks it may be a good thing that James died young. With a name like Pympoole-Bothame, how would he ever have found a wife?" I said, after making sure James was out of hearing distance. "I mean, who'd marry a man with a name that sounds like Pimple-Bottom?"
Notorious villain - Ballister Blackheart - gets a new sidekick to help him wreak havoc, obtain vengeance, and fight the Institution. But his new sidekNotorious villain - Ballister Blackheart - gets a new sidekick to help him wreak havoc, obtain vengeance, and fight the Institution. But his new sidekick - Nimona - is a shapeshifter with a mysterious past and a mind of her own. Plus, he also has a love/hate relationship with his friend-turned-nemesis - Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin.
Heroes & villains, science & magic, bloody battles & so many giggles...
Hey! You there! Please listen. On May 19th this book will be released - on that day go to this page or this page or another retailer of your choice anHey! You there! Please listen. On May 19th this book will be released - on that day go to this page or this page or another retailer of your choice and download the free sample of this book. If, by the end of that small sample, you are not convinced that this book is amazing, never think of it again. BUT, I sincerely doubt that will be the case.
Because it took me ONE CHAPTER - well, a few pages really - to make me realize that this book was going to steal every bit of my spare time until I'd devoured it all. And it did. It was magical, surprising, incredibly well-written, and so very funny. And not funny in a Terry Pratchett comedy/fantasy kind of way, but just funny because these characters are so real and charming.
There are those well-drawn, vivid books that have great world-building, beautiful descriptions without being overly descriptive, and get lauded by critics. Then there are those books that are delicious chocolate-ice-cream-with-sprinkles pieces of entertainment that drag you in and just provide so much enjoyment. Uprooted is a rare beast - because it's both.
It's just so goddamn charming. It's exciting and creepy with regards to the plot and world, but it's made especially wonderful because of the character dynamics. Agnieszka and the Dragon are hilarious together - they operate with a kind of love/hate dynamic that makes for some really funny scenes and some heart-warming ones.
What a magical, though strangely honest and thoughtful book. I'm avoiding saying too much about the story because the blurb is deliberately vague for a reason, but I will give you a little something. Uprooted opens in a village where once every ten years, the Dragon (actually a man and wizard who rules over the land) comes and picks a seventeen year-old girl from the village and takes her to his palace. Nobody knows what happens to them, but they are not seen for the next ten years and they always come back changed.
It made me smile because it sounds a little like the premise for Cruel Beauty (which I loved) and A Court of Thorns and Roses (which I didn't love), but it's better and different than either of those. There's a touch of the romantic (and the heart-poundingly sexy), but Novik is both a tease and someone not concerned about being PG - which made the book infinitely better on that front than either of the other two mentioned.
Also, one of my favourite things was the creepy Wood - a literally evil forest that is alive with a dark corruption that will claim you if you ever enter it, or get touched by one of the monstrous beings that come out of the Wood. How weird and creative and scary... I LOVED it.
No one went into the Wood and came out again, at least not whole and themselves. Sometimes they came out blind and screaming, sometimes they came out twisted and so misshapen they couldn’t be recognized; and worst of all sometimes they came out with their own faces but murder behind them, something gone dreadfully wrong within.
I can't praise this book highly enough. I'm desperately trying to string together the right combination of words to make other people pick this up. I just hope I've been successful, because it was truly a magical, entertaining experience.
“There was something about him. Something worth knowing. That much was certain.”
In life, there are times when you meet someone and realize "there's“There was something about him. Something worth knowing. That much was certain.”
In life, there are times when you meet someone and realize "there's just something about them". Maybe you know what I mean. Those people who may not be the best-looking, not even your usual type, not the smartest, the funniest or the "best" at anything really... but, for some reason, you're drawn towards them. And it's wonderful. You don't have to be a romantic to think there's something incredible about being pulled towards someone by some strange unseen force - God? Fate? The very chemistry of the universe? How wonderful to think your bond with someone goes beyond the physical and the rational.
I understand that. And yet... it doesn't work for me in books. Or, at least, it never has yet. Perhaps it's because this feeling that warrants a "there's just something about him/her" is very personal to the one experiencing it. That's the beauty of it, right? That no one else really gets it. But, as the reader of a romance novel, I kind of need to get it. If I want to fall in love with a couple, I need to feel the chemistry between them. I need to love them too.
And that's why instalove never works for me. "There's just something about him/her" never works for me. For me, ineffable emotions don't work in novels when all I have are the words before me. I appreciate in real life there are times when you can't describe how you feel with words; but, in books, being unable to describe something with words is kind of a big problem. Or, not even describe, but SHOW. No need to tell me how you feel, it's even better if you show me through character experiences, dialogue and the details between them.
This book has an interesting premise. It's historical with a fantasy aspect and in this story "Love" and "Death" are actual beings who select players in a millennia-old game. In the past, Death has always won, but can Love finally prevail when it comes to Henry and Flora?
The best bits about this book are the 1930s setting and the subtle explorations of race and homosexuality going on in the background. Henry is a wealthy white boy with a college scholarship and little to worry about, even though this is Depression-era America. Flora is a black girl who sings in jazz clubs by night, hoping to one day become the next Amelia Earhart. And then there's Ethan, a boy struggling to come to terms with his sexuality in a society that would never accept him. The little subplots were excellent, though sadly overshadowed by the "Game".
When Henry sees Flora, he is immediately mesmerized by everything about her for no real reason except it is their "destiny". What then follows is pages and pages of him being cheesy every time she appears:
“He’d never heard anything like her voice, which made him wish he had his bass in his hands, just so he could return the sounds, a mix of chocolate and cream, something he wanted to drink through his skin.”
Not only that, but people do an awful lot of "sensing" in this book. I've said in the past that I find this kind of storytelling lazy - when the characters either do or don't do something because they "get a feeling" about it. Like not trusting the bad guy because they "have a bad feeling". It's lazy and I don't buy into it.
All this being said, the author writes some beautiful descriptions of 1930s Seattle and the jazz scene. Plus, the subplots about race and sexuality were handled in a sensitive and engaging way. If the author branches off from destiny-inspired romance in her future books, I might come back to her work.
I have only read one other Ishiguro novel and that is Never Let Me Go. Nevertheless, I too was intrigued about what would happen when a highly-acclaimI have only read one other Ishiguro novel and that is Never Let Me Go. Nevertheless, I too was intrigued about what would happen when a highly-acclaimed author of literary fiction transitioned into fantasy. Unfortunately, having read the book, I'm still not even sure.
What happened here? It's one of those novels where I can't help wondering if there's some underlying symbolism or metaphorical brilliance that totally went over my head. It's a simplistic, emotionally-detached and - at times - boring story, so I'm inclined to assume Ishiguro was aiming at smarter people than me who would take something deeper from it.
But I don't think so. I find myself leaning towards Craig's interpretation that Isiguro gives us the information and lets us decide what to do with it. Interpret as you will, I guess. Especially with that ending that Kirkus believes to be "one that will shock you". Well, I would not say I was shocked. I would say I was mildly surprised that Ishiguro had convinced me to keep reading the last 300 pages when all I got was a fizzled out ending and no answers.
Screw subtlety and interpretation! I want answers, dammit.
Credit where it's due: I was very intrigued in the beginning. I'm fascinated by all kinds of stories about memory and memory loss, whether it's a thriller like The Girl on the Train, a sad contemporary like Still Alice or a fantasy like this. My memories define who I am and the thought of losing them is terrifying to me. Considering that this book opens on a premise of an entire village experiencing weird memory loss - forgetting people who have left, sons they haven't seen in a while, or arguments they just had that morning - I was ready to love it.
But the exploration of this memory loss with Axl and Beatrice was unsatisfying and really damn repetitive after a while. I guess people who constantly forget what they have said are likely to keep saying it again but, hell, it makes for a tedious read. I grew tired of hearing about how their son was waiting for them, how Beatrice experienced some pain but, oh, it was nothing really, how maybe they had an argument but neither can remember so let's forget it, and pretty much everything about King Arthur was mind-numbing.
Also, I called this emotionally-detached and I'd like to explain what I mean. I don't think we ever develop an emotional connection with the characters. Axl and Beatrice have no personality (does anyone?) and speak so formally to one another. It's so... strange. This has to be the most polite fantasy I've ever read. I know this is set just after the Roman period in Britain but, come on, I find it difficult to believe an old couple spoke to each other like this. And not just them, there are battles and bloodshed and everything is so weirdly polite.
Person 1: I say, old chap, I'm afraid I'm going to have to slay you! Person 2: Dear me, that is unfortunate. But fight I shall and perhaps I will win!
Yeah, that's not a direct quote, but I swear there are pieces of dialogue like that.
And Axl calls Beatrice "princess" all the time. ALL THE TIME. I know you might be thinking that's sweet, but ALL THE TIME. At the end of every sentence, he addresses her as "princess". When they're afraid for their lives, he manages to find time to slip "princess" into every thing he says.
This book is weird enough that I'm sure it'll inspire many exciting interpretations, but my imagination isn't playing. It's a boring journey with boring characters and a fabulously anticlimactic non-ending.
I've been waiting to jump on the Moskowitz fanwagon for years, but I couldn't even finish two chapters of A History of Glitter and Blood. It was paDNF
I've been waiting to jump on the Moskowitz fanwagon for years, but I couldn't even finish two chapters of A History of Glitter and Blood. It was painful to try to force myself to read through paragraph after paragraph of a boring, completely not engaging, and really weird story.
Sometimes weird is good, but here it felt off. Dismembered fairies being eaten by gnomes, an odd third person present tense prose that dragged the story down even more. Life's too short to waste time on books that are this difficult to enjoy....more
I was one of that annoying minority who didn't really like The Winner's Curse. I mean, it was okay, but proved onceMarie Rutkoski has upped her game.
I was one of that annoying minority who didn't really like The Winner's Curse. I mean, it was okay, but proved once again that most writers of YA fantasy focus on the flirtations and romancing and forget about pretty much everything else. However, the way that book ended had me curious about the potential new directions of book two...
I was right to be curious. I was right to take my chances on the sequel.
This book just has everything. I would liken it to what Maas did when she took us from the romantic, fantasy-lite Throne of Glass to the clever, action-packed Crown of Midnight. Rutkoski gets vicious in this book. Kestrel must make the hardest of decisions, sacrifice people for the "greater good", and outwit the emperor and his armies. There are no such things as friends and allies in Kestrel's world anymore; the only person she can rely on is herself.
It's amazing how much more I liked the relationship between Kestrel and Arin when it was slipped into the background behind all the treason, revenge and backstabbing going on. The moments when they did meet had more love/hate tension and I found myself angsting over what would happen between them. Because this second book is very clearly not a romance and I felt the complete lack of guarantee in a happy ending on every single page.
The Winner's Crime is much more tightly-plotted and full of genuine surprises than the first book. I could hardly look away as it zipped along at a wonderful pace, twisting one way and then another. I like how Kestrel is a complex heroine and not wholly good; she's allowed to be selfish and make choices we don't necessarily agree with.
I also feel like we got a better sense of Kestrel's intelligence and ability in this book. Now she has bigger concerns than her romance with Arin and high society life, we get to see her plotting, being damn sneaky, and outwitting the emperor. It gave me a new kind of respect for her and I can't wait to see where her story goes.
One thing I like a lot about these books is the way each ending has promised a very different kind of story. I only picked up this book because the ending of the last seemed to suggest an entirely new setting and array of problems... and the end of this one does the same. I can already see that the third book will bring something very different.
“Make sure they never forget. You are the Calipha of Khorasan, and you have the ear of a king.” She bent forward and lowered her voice. “And, most im“Make sure they never forget. You are the Calipha of Khorasan, and you have the ear of a king.” She bent forward and lowered her voice. “And, most important, you are a fearsome thing to behold in your own right.”
My original plan was to finish this book tonight and then write up a review tomorrow, but after that ending, I just can't stop thinking about it and I need to get my thoughts down right now. In short: I enjoyed this book very much. Way more than I expected to, to tell the truth. And I guess you should know that, though there are many elements of fantasy and action, it is primarily a romance. And yet...
It completely melted my cold, unromantic heart.
Where should I start? The Wrath and the Dawn was a deliciously angsty, sexy romance inspired by A Thousand and One Nights. If you know me, you know how often I complain about romances - either the guy's a jerk, the girl's annoying or they fall into some crazy instalove that just leaves me bored. Well, I finally found a romance where I just loved the characters, totally obsessed over what would happen, and finished the final page with a pounding heart.
My god, what has this book done to me?
This story is about Khalid, the Caliph of Khorasan, who takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. When Shahrzad's friend becomes the Caliph's victim, Shazi volunteers herself with a plan to outwit the evil ruler and exact revenge. In a similar way to Keturah and Lord Death, Shazi extends her date with death by telling Khalid a story and promising only to reveal what happens next if he should let her live another day.
As it turns out, of course, nothing is as it first seems and Khalid is hiding many secrets. The relationship between the two develops from seething hatred (on Shazi's part) to reluctant companions to something much more. I've been craving a romance that feels genuine in its development and actually has me wondering how things will turn out (and, god help me, the jury's still out on that last point). The dialogue between them is addictive and feels natural... and don't you just love stories within stories?
Though I said this book is primarily a romance, there are many other things that need mentioning. There are some beautiful descriptions of the palace, for one thing, and a wonderful cast of secondary characters that all feel important to the story and not just throwaway. Jalal is charming and hilarious, Despina is a source of much-needed female friendship for Shazi, Yasmine is intriguing and bitchy (but kinda in a good way) and Tariq inspired a mixture of love/hate feelings in me.
Sure, it's not a perfect book. I definitely think Shazi didn't try so hard to get her revenge and missed a bunch of opportunities, and I was a little frustrated with how long it took Khalid to trust her with his secret. But, oh well.
If you're partial to a bit of romance, then hear me out. A book which contains lines like the following and manages to make me swoon instead of rolling my eyes must be something kind of special:
“My soul sees its equal in you.”
“What are you doing to me, you plague of a girl?” he whispered. “If I’m a plague, then you should keep your distance, unless you plan on being destroyed.” The weapons still in her grasp, she shoved against his chest. “No.” His hands dropped to her waist. “Destroy me.”
I'm dark matter. The universe inside of me is full of something, and science can't even shine a light on it. I feel like I'm mostly made of mysteriesI'm dark matter. The universe inside of me is full of something, and science can't even shine a light on it. I feel like I'm mostly made of mysteries.
Oh my... Magonia is one hell of a rare novel.
Not only does it offer an intriguing blend of reality-infused science fiction and highly-imaginative fantasy, but it is also unlike anything I have ever read before.
I've always said that - for me - originality is one of the best and rarest compliments a writer can get. Not "this is the next Hunger Games or Harry Potter" but "this is completely different to everything else I've read". How unusual it is to read a novel and be taken to places so new, fresh and wonderfully magical.
One of my favourite things has always been when authors manage to weave fact and fiction together in order to create a fantasy story with added realism. Especially when they introduce me to parts of history I'd never heard about before. Did you know that in France in 815, sailors claimed to have come from a secret realm in the clouds they called Magonia? This was one of the first recorded instances of UFO-related occurrences and it was completely new to me.
Many times I have wondered why YA authors insist on using the same old recycled mythology when there's a whole universe of weird and wonderful shit out there just begging to be turned into a story. Here we have a fine example. This book opens up an entire new world full of detailed and exciting mythology. I was like a kid in a toy store, staring wide-eyed at all the colourful weirdness and longing for more as the pages flew by.
The author uses language that deserves the comparisons to Neil Gaiman - a rich, atmospheric style of fairytale storytelling. And with this, she creates a cast of wonderful characters who I can only hope will reappear in sequels.
The main character in Magonia is Aza Ray and she is dying. The doctors are unable to discover what is wrong with her and have failed at all attempts to cure her of the mysterious disease that is causing her to essentially drown in the Earth's atmosphere. Then one day, circumstances see Aza awakening in a whole new world where she is no longer weak and sickly, but a powerful creature at the centre of a longstanding feud that will take her to places she never could have dreamed existed.
Suddenly, she discovers the truth about her life, her past and who she is; maybe this new world can offer her a place to live the kind of life she's always wanted? Or maybe nothing is as it seems. Stir in plenty of action, romance, and well-developed family dynamics and you have something pretty damn amazing. I should also point out that the love triangle I had feared might occur never went in that direction.
Looking for a genre-defying blend of magic, love, flying and family?
The Witch Hunter is a historical fantasy set around the time of witch trials and burnings in England. The main character - Elizabeth Grey - is one ofThe Witch Hunter is a historical fantasy set around the time of witch trials and burnings in England. The main character - Elizabeth Grey - is one of the titular witch hunters, going about murdering and capturing those who practice magic, until she is accused of being a witch herself and needs to be rescued by the kingdom's most-wanted wizard - Nicholas Perevil.
Well... kind of. Except here's what really happens.
As with all mediocre fantasy novels, there's an unexplained ban on magic that leads to hatred of all witches/wizards and their subsequent death sentence. Unlike the historical reality, this ban does not seem to be motivated by religion. None of these witches/wizards appear to be doing anything sinister or evil with the magic, but let's kill them anyway.
Elizabeth's stomach flips on page 4 when the first hot guy in this book kisses her hand. From that moment on, she barely stops talking about Caleb - even when he promises to return and help her but doesn't. We are constantly treated to her little anecdotes about the two of them and how wonderful he is.
Elizabeth Grey is, frankly, really annoying. She is a witch hunter, hates witches/wizards, and believes all magic to be wrong; she also delivers the witches/wizards to Blackwell so they can be burned alive. BUT she is rightly accused of witchcraft - she is found to be using contraceptive magic herbs. What a bloody hypocrite.
Then, when she is rescued by Nicholas Perevil and his group of witches/wizards, instead of being grateful that they rescued her from being burned alive, she bides her time until she can turn them over to the guy who sentenced her to death. Because a) she somehow still believes all wizards and witches must be evil, and b) she's selfish, disloyal and OHMYGOD... Caleb.
But, of course, things are not that simple because - wait for it - there's a hot guy #2 amongst Nicholas' group. Yes... John. Even when Elizabeth is passed out from a fever this becomes an opportunity for John to examine her wounds body. Everything that happens in this book feels orchestrated around either Elizabeth's crush on Caleb or her crush on John.
Also: Do you guys all remember the evil sentence? The "I let out a breath I didn't know I was holding" that appeared in almost every single YA novel? Well, I've found another one. It seems like it's in every YA and NA book with a romance (so 99% of them). It goes like this:
“I feel a mixture of _____, _______ and something else that I can’t put my finger on.”
“I feel a mixture of _____, _______ and another feeling I'm not familiar with.”
Jeez, I'll tell you what it is: you have the hots for that guy! It's lust, it's a crush, it's unbelievable that you've made it to this stage in your life without recognizing what that feeling is! In other words, this is the author's way of trying to subtly allude to romantic feelings, whilst actually making the reader feel like they're being smacked around the head with romantic subtext.
Loose fantasy world-building, irritating heroine and two love interests. This only got two stars because there was some funny and entertaining dialogue.