I, quite simply, wanted to love Fallen. I'm often an easy sucker for a well-told post-apocalyptic novel...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
I, quite simply, wanted to love Fallen. I'm often an easy sucker for a well-told post-apocalyptic novel full of second chances and "special abilities": the exact premise and subsequent hope I had for this one when I stumbled upon it browsing NetGalley one night. I wanted to be swept away into a story of love and hope in the ashes of a epic, world-changing disaster, and on some levels that is exactly what Fallen is. Though Ms. Slatton's novel is quite intense and emotionally gripping from the outset, I found something ineffable lacking from my reading experience with this story of survival in a world gone mad. Unfortunately glossed over in that romantic-sounding blurb for the novel are the extreme character personalities, the not-fully explained science ultimately behind everything, and the often harsh machinations of the plot or characters. Fallen certainly still has a lot to offer (Newt! Robert!), and I can say up front that no matter how dismayed I was by sections of this introductory novel, I most definitely will be reading the two planned sequels as soon as possible.
Emma is a tough but determined woman, alive when millions have perished in the mists that have destroyed her world. I found Emma to be quite remarkable, if sadly not a character that I would personally identify closely with for reasons I'll state later, in that she has not only lived but helped seven others do the same. I may not identify with her, but I certainly respect her: she's that kind of woman. Strong and willful, Emma is at her best with her "kids" as she calls them, though only one is her natural child. Emotionally drained from the destruction and separation from her other family, Emma is very cut off from any kind of emotion outside of the children: even when speaking of those she loves (Haywood, Beth, Arthur) it doesn't quite read that way on the page. She's just too removed, too clinical in all her decisions, especially regarding her situation with Arthur. When Emma prostitutes herself for food, safety and numbers within his militaristic camp after a chance encounter, it is understandable, especially within her world and means, but it happens far too quickly. Perhaps Emma's severely divorced emotions played into her lightning-quick decision to bargain her body, but even though it was based in altruism for her band of ragtag misfit kids, it left me with a dislike for Arthur. I wish that Emma was more fleshed out, beyond just her role: that there was more than just a Mama Bear-type personality at work.
Arthur is a tricky character, albeit intentionally. He's vague and brusque: he's not motivated by kindness or altruism.This is a man that emerged from the killing mists a bit mad, yes, but stronger and determined. Usually I like a strong, determined man, but when combined with "ridiculously controlling" the said main begins to lose his luster - and fast. For example, Arthur threatens Emma with: "You can't escape me. I know you too well. I know all your secrets, the secrets of your body, the secrets of your heart, the ones you think no one knows. I know them." How downright creepy is that to say within days of knowing someone? Given that I wasn't much a fan from the beginning, Arthur does very little to redeem himself over the course of the novel, so at least he is a consistent bastard. He almost shoots a friend for merely talking to Emma, he orders her in her clothing choices, tells her where she can and cannot go. . . I didn't like the power dynamic between the two at all. It was vastly unequal and obviously full of lies and secrets. So many painfully obvious hints and outright allusions are made about Arthur's past before Emma asks anything, and information is still a long time coming even after she finally (FINALLY) manages to dredge up some curiosity about this former brilliant scientist that doesn't see the merit in basic hygiene after an apocalypse. Yes, you read that right: Arthur is a "brilliant" man, who while rebuilding human society (that is his explicitly stated goal) believes hygiene is not important. That incongruity just drove me nuts: the eradication of germs, bugs, etc. leads to longer, healthier lives, aka exactly what Arthur is trying to reestablish. It just made no sense, even if it was a small facet of his otherwise large personality.
I disliked Arthur and Emma together immediately; it seemed an both an unreasonably hasty and a disagreeable arrangement. Emma was far too familiar and trusting with this unknown man right after providing information about how some people survived the mists only to become brutal, inhumane and capable of great violence towards anyone. For someone usually so protective, just taking Arthur at his word right upon meeting him seems very unlikely. Arthur is much too much the Dominant Alpha Male in Charge. Another part of their relationship that bothered me was Emma seeming and repeated insistence not to ask any pertinent questions about Arthur's clearly shady past. Her willing ignorance for most of the book concerning key, important issues about the disaster that killed millions denigrates a lot of the compassion she displays towards her gifted and strange children. Where this novel does get you on an emotional level, are those children. From the strange but kind Newt to the worrying Mandy, the children brought the best out in Emma, Arthur, Robert, etc. I cared the most for the band of teen and pre-teen survivors and was most invested in seeing them endure to the end.
This is most definitely not a young-adult post-apocalyptic novel. From the random, copious amounts of cursing, to the gore present in almost every encampment to Emma and Arthur's frequent, rough and frenzied couplings, all representations of sex, language and violence are quite mature throughout Fallen. Even if Fallen sadly can't escape the ubiquitous YA cliche of a love-triangle (you had to know it was coming from the beginning), this novel at least has the maturity to cast that unfavorable aspect to the background and the end. Though I fear the triangle will feature much more prominently in the sequels to follow this book, hopefully it won't be dragged out ad nauseam. The time spent in the Russian camp is also quite distasteful, especially when considering how women are treated within the extreme camp of the Russian antagonist Alexei. It's firmly and quickly established within Fallen that women survivors are somewhat less than the men: they are more likely to be cannibalized, used as live shields, discarded as useless. The rogue camp is even worse than Alexei's: I'd go so far as to label that "disturbing" and extreme example of the brutality brought onto some by the mists.
I was extremely frustrated by Fallen's ending. Emma spent the entire novel pining and wishing for one certain thing to happen, and as soon as it does, she is dissatisfied. She wants the previous situation back. It's just irritating that once Emma attains what she wants and has worked for the entire novel, she wants something different. There was no real disclosure on the mists and why they can affect some survivors the way the do - as in Newt or even Emma's own case can attest - and I felt the lack of closure was a big disappointment. Only tantalizing, science fiction-esque hints of a "biomind" and "collective consciousness" behind the almost sentience of the mists were bounced around as answers nut never solidified or thoroughly detailed. I wanted more from Fallen: more characterization, more information to make the science behind the mists at least seem viable, more emotion. While I wasn't the happiest reader I've been at the conclusion of this post-apocalyptic tail with slight supernatural elements, I will be continuing the series to see what Emma finally decides and does with her life.
Ari Berk's slowly plotted but excellently told tale of teenage Undertaker Silas Umber is a magical, enc...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Ari Berk's slowly plotted but excellently told tale of teenage Undertaker Silas Umber is a magical, enchanting, if occasionally macabre, tale - one I found hard to put down. The smooth, mellifluous flow of the writer's style eased me into an alternate world of revenants, lichs and ghosts in the necropolis of the book's setting, in the town of Lichport. I can't stress enough how much I enjoyed this quirky, individual young-adult novel with a supernatural bent. Death Watch may take a while to sink its clever claws into a reader, but once I began there was no turning back for me: I had to get as much time as I could with this strange but completely, morbidly fascinating tale and Silas himself. This is a heavy, almost haunting novel - mournful without being too much, but very readable. I went into this expecting perhaps a modern, male Sabriel (shepherd of the dead with unusual tools, dead/missing father, etc.), but Death Watch is a creature of its own making and name.
Silas is one the best parts of the entire endeavor, and a character quite dear to my heart. While his name is both a clever hint and a subtle foreshadowing of his death-centric life (Silas is veeeerry similar to "solace" and "umber" is a brown pigment, hinting at the dirt of the deceased), Silas isn't a creepy character at all: he's kind, quiet, disappointed, sad, lonely (sly mentions of invisible friends allude to the persistent loneliness of the young Umber's life) - all normal, understandable teen emotions. He's a well-developed character that's very aware of words and the power they can have, and as an empathetic young man in a house of brutes or drunks he stands out as the only likable main character in the whole novel. I found Silas' reaction to his father's mysterious disappearance and his mother's complete indifference in response to be wholly compelling and added a nice familial conflict to add in to the more supernatural elements in Silas' life. I also very much enjoyed the arc of Silas development while in Lichport: from a passive but angry young man, he evolves into one of my favorite male protagonists of the recent past.
Silas's job as the Undertaker of Lichport remains vague for the most part of the first half of the novel. I was very curious about this and the role the dead were to have in Berk's tale - fearful he'd veer into caricature or horror - but my fears were unfounded. The role of the Hadean Clock, or Silas's tool to see the ghosts the Death Watch itself, played a minor if very vital role. After so mant paranormal/supernatural reads I loved that the focus of the novel was on Silas himself rather than his "magic" or his Watch. While I found the repeated and varied ominous warning anf fear of the "mist ship" to be less than effective for creating suspense, other characters more than made up for the lack (coughCharlescough) that the supernatural failed to bring. What did more than add to the general atmosphere and the feel of history of the story/family were the notes/addendums/quotes taken from previous Undertaker's collection of knowledge. These little bits and pieces of scattered information did a lot to sate my ever-growing curiosity about the Undertakers, but did not give away too much detail to spoil the story. The supernatural elements the author does choose to include within his mythology all work together marvelously with the mundane, humane aspects to create a very fun novel for readers of any age.
I did wish for a more developed cast of background character in the case of Silas's mother, the very off-putting Dolores Umber. Silas has a strained relationship with his gin-happy mother, but Dolores is painted only one color for the whole novel: black of heart. She is never shown to have a heart or even care for her son and I felt that "disappointed in her life" was a lame and quick sop to explain her extreme apathy for her husband and their child. The slightly Hamlet vibe between Dolores and Silas's Uncle (aka Dolores' brother-in-law) is just plain creepy and did more to establish "Uncle's" character than anything else said about him. The third-person perspective used by Ari Berk is done quite well: equal light, both favorable and disfavorable, is shone upon all the characters of the novel. I just wished for a more believable motivation behind Dolores' actions and vitriol. Her bitter, typical woman-done-wrong routine seemed out-of-tune with the otherwise (mostly) superbly plotted novel. The other periphery characters of the novel - the friendly but dense Mrs. Bowe, the question of Bea - add more flavor and mystery to the novel, but none were what I would call fully-rounded and developed characters. In a novel with so much prose dedicated just about the importance of the past, of ancestors and history, I found Silas's extended family to come up a tad wanting.
While I loved the style, the voice and the characters I did have issues with the plot-lines central to the story. From the initial and almost McGuffin-esque disappearance of Amos Umber to the mysterious ghost ship to the creepy Bea, nothing felt wholly explained or even thought-out by the end of the book. Bea in particular seemed quite unnecessary and like filler for the alternate plots within the story - I would have rather more time with search, in Uncle's house, etc. These essential plot-lines also tended to get lost in the story and the details in Silas's explorations of the town and probably didn't help later on when the novelty itself flagged and I got slightly bored. The mist ship, source of so much worry and fear for 500 pages was a complete let-down and a bust. Its end was sadly all-too-predictable and lessened my overall opinion of Death Watch for it felt out of tune with the rest of such an atmospheric and affecting read. It also doesn't help that it takes quite a while (nearly 250 pages in the 540 page tome) to get any kind of real explanation of basic principles of the world/the magic/the Undertaker job itself.
Another love of mine throughout the pages of Death Watch was the town of Lichport itself. With such an obvious harbinger for a name, I loved the random but delightful flares of supernaturality in the town. From "the Restless" (basically a reanimated corpse/lich) to angry and unsettled ghosts, Lichport is a field of deadly imagination.While I thought Silas explorations of the misthomes/shadowlands fell way short of its potential for awesome. Instead of showcasing the individuality and flair of the nearly-dead town, it was an extended yawn for me after about page 350 until just about 100 pages later. I will admit to chuckling at the sailor's club line about their wives, but one quip does not save 100 pages of meandering novel. It is very impressive that the rest of Ari Berk's novel is strong enough to carry a 4 star rating, even with that 100 pages of yawns. Also: Mrs. Bowe's ridiculous reticence to tell Silas ANYTHING! made me very frustrated and cranky with her character. That also was a situation drawn out too-long and made both Mrs. Bowe and Silas act in ways contradictory to their personalities.
I love love LOVED the author's unique way with words. Ari Berk can write, make no mistake. While I might have minor issues with select parts of the novel, I cannot deny I was repeatedly struck by a passage of a quote in the middle of a page, a paragraph. I know quoting from ARCs is supposed to be a big no-no, but this is a perfect illustration of why I adored the reading experience itself:
"The day his dad didn't come home, it was like a huge window over their heads had shattered, and every day they were walking through the broken pieces. Nothing fit together. Nothing made sense or seemed connected to anything else, and every step hurt."
This is an author that doesn't delve into purple prose or overdone phrases laced with unnecessary adjectives and adverbs: his is a style of simple lyricism and ease, with a vivid picture easily attached. I loved the frequent descriptionary verbosity as it built a vivid and compelling frame for his characters, but I can see why some readers may be put off by his intensely wordy writing, in addition to the slower pace of the novel. This is certainly not for everyone and I will understand most complaints a reader could have for this story, but for me, this was a wonderful read that left me more than eager for its sequel. Death Watch is best summed up as: a compelling, morbid, weirdly fascinating tale of Wailing Women, Peller-Men, families of mutes, ghosts, lichs, revenants and a great hero, all told in unique and fresh stylings of Mr. Ari Berk.(less)
Well. That was weird, wasn't it? This young-adult paranormal/mystery novel started off very Twilightesque - down to reluctant and non-speaking lab par...moreWell. That was weird, wasn't it? This young-adult paranormal/mystery novel started off very Twilightesque - down to reluctant and non-speaking lab partners! - and then became slightly creepy, but without any involving characters. And then, the main character, Camelia, is quite dense and often Too Stupid To Live, though of course she does. The series and Camelia's life continue on with three published sequels (Deadly Little Lies, Deadly Little Games, Deadly Little Voices) and another in the works (Deadly Little Lessons) but I doubt this is a series I'll continue reading.
I gave this poor little attempt at the paranormal teen genre two stars out of five because while I find it to be a shallow (and transparent) ripoff of several novels cobbled into one, it wasn't a completely horrible one on the level with, say, Tris & Izzie. I did like Kimmie, the Goth cliche best friend, and was mostly amused by her dialogue. I was certainly more drawn to that colorfulish character than Camelia, who just made me insane. I hated the "relationship" between Ben and Camelia. Several words spring to mind to describe it in all its youthful glory: Manufactured. Dumb. Baseless. Ridiculous. And I'm just going off the top of my head here, kids. Basically, this novel is just not good. I called the twists, I called the overall antagonist (and couldn't believe when Camelia didn't and walked off willingly with her stalker after mistrusting everyone right and left...) I just fail to see the point of this novel: why exactly was there a need for this to be written, published, continued in several sequels?
Like I've said over and over there's very little noteworthy about this novel. Even the element that adds "paranormal" this book's description has been done before (L.J. Smith's Dark Visions trilogy) and better. Deadly Little Secret is so generic and really completely unnecessary I have trouble remembering the title and I've only (just) read one out of the whole series of five. This is nothing exceptional in itself and I'd steer readers to more unique, original novels than to start this series.(less)
I.... do not know how I feel about this. It's okay, I guess, and I definitely enjoyed it more than any other Anne Rice novel I've read before. It gets...moreI.... do not know how I feel about this. It's okay, I guess, and I definitely enjoyed it more than any other Anne Rice novel I've read before. It gets a bit preachy about God and justice, etc. and the man wolf/woman sexy-times just squicked me out for real.
Robin Bridges brings a whole new life to 1880's Russia with her novel about a young, aristocratic, female necromancer. This is a novel that was anothe...moreRobin Bridges brings a whole new life to 1880's Russia with her novel about a young, aristocratic, female necromancer. This is a novel that was another slow-starter for me. I was mildly interested and intrigued by Bridges' magically fantastical and dangerous world set in St. Petersburg, but I wasn't well and truly hooked until late in the game - when I was about 300 pages into the novel and less than a hundred from the end. With a disquieting introduction featuring and honing in on the young Katerina Alexandra Maria von Holstein-Gottorp, Duchess of Oldenburg, The Gathering Storm sets its dark, magical tone right from the very first paragraph. With revenants, ghosts, vampires and creatures of the night stalking through the cold nights of Mother Russia, only Katerina has the dark curse able to control them, and try to figure out where all the zombiefied soldiers are coming from - and why they are being created.
Actually beginning eight years after the introduction with Katiya learning her dark powers of reanimating the dead, The Gathering Storm is set during the reign of Tsar Alexander III, known to his people as "The Bear." In this version of historical Russia, both the Light and Dark Courts of Faerie are at play within the Imperial Court of Alexander Romanov. The Imperial Tsar's own wife Dagmar of Denmark (though renamed as Marie Feodorovna) is actually a Light Faerie and controls that aspect of power in Russia. Alexander's own brother Vladimir married, shockingly, into the Dark Court fae: his wife, the Grand Duchess Miechen, has a obvious rivalry with the Empress. Not at all surprisingly, caught between these two women, these two factions, the Russian Court seethes with intrigue, betrayal and. . . magic. I loved the new integration of the faerie within the folds of the historical Russian aristocracy; I just wished it had been more detailed and fleshed out what the roles of the faerie were for, besides fomenting drama. Added to the tensions of the distant/enemy fae courts constantly around her and her family, Katerina has to contend with a witchy classmate at her boarding school named Elena, a princess of the country of Montenegro. And as the reader learns and Elena demonstrates, the fae aren't the only supernatural creatures populating 19th century Russia or its nobility. The author created numerous species/sub-species of vampire to contend with the human population as well. From the moth-like veshtizas, to the upyri, wampyr and even the supreme form of them all: the Vladiki - blood-drinkers descended from Vlad Dracul of Wallachia himself - Bridges has her own, fresh interpretation of vampirism. It's a very dense and complicated mythology that the author has created for her world, but it works.
Dark Inside was a number of firsts for me. It was the first zombieish/esque apocalyptic novel I've read...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Dark Inside was a number of firsts for me. It was the first zombieish/esque apocalyptic novel I've read. It was the first horror novel I've ever willingly completed (I gave Stephen King a try when younger. I think my delusional line of thought was: "go big or go home." I guess you could say I "went home". . . but I digress.) This is also the first time in a long time that I have enjoyed being scared (and disturbed) so much. Unfortunately, all is not perfect in Ms. Roberts' tale of world gone awry, but I more than loved it enough to make it one of my favorite reads of the year so far. It may not be the most traditional zombie/horror fare (though I have just admitted I have no idea and no right to judge but try and stop me!) but it is GREAT read, and is one of the few young-adult novels that can successfully bridge the gap into more adult fiction.
With a bleak tone right from the start, Dark Inside was a great change of pace for me. Not only are the "zombies" not technically zombies as usually defined, but darker, subverted and almost mindlessly enraged humans with no control and no compassion. That isn't to mean that the author stints from dark or disturbing elements - a scene with a pregnant womanbeing dragged by her hair into a murderous mob, or even just the casual mentions of people hunting CHILDREN at elementary schools still stand out in my memory days later - but they are simply not "supernatural" as in the undead. I liked that the monsters of the novel were actually humans, apparently those not immune to a force that has ravaged the earth before. And let me tell you, these monsters or "baggers" as in "Let's go bag a deer" with the deer now being people, freaked me the hell out. There are several scenes that legitimately had my ears up underneath my shoulders. The introductory scene with Clementine and her family in the town hall was particularly well done: I was intrigued, freaked out and eager to read much, much more of what this author had in store. I loved that the zombies weren't brainless either, but actually capable of matching wits and besting their prey. It added ANOTHER level of suspense to a novel that already had me constantly on my toes. In a book where the monster can hide in plain site, or even set clever traps, and converse pleasantly, suspicion can and does fall on every character and it is best to do as Mason is advised and, "trust no one."
The rotating POV's of four main characters alternatively works for and hinders the novel. So many perspectives (the four main kids and also sporadically thing called "Nothing" has a few, short POVs) allowed for a wider, more varied view of the monsters and the destruction of the earthquakes, but it can also get quite repetitive with the minutiae. How crazy/insane/inhumane the "baggers" are is repeated a little too often between Mason, Michael, Aries and Clementine. It is a little hard to differentiate between all four characters as none is what I would call a fully three-dimensional, realized personality. It's just too hard, for me as a reader, to identify, connect and empathize with four different people that closely with a limit of less than 400 pages. It just shifts too frequently, with too little time between the narrative change. I liked all the teenagers well enough, but if I had to pick two specifically I wish had more screen time I'd definitely have to go with the two resourceful and smart girls: Aries and Clementine. While neither was so distinctive or vibrant I didn't have trouble blurring their individual storylines up until they meet, they both impressed me more than their male counterparts. I just wished for more from each - more personality, more individuality to distinguish Michael from Mason and Aries from Clementine.
All four kids end up independent and in charge of themselves - the exact situation most would have wished for before the earthquakes and now obviously the last place they want to find themselves. Mason, whose mother and entire school died the day of the quakes, is the most extreme example of the isolation of this new world, but none are exempt. I liked the spin on what most teens would dream of: complete independence.. but at what cost? Clem at least still searches for a brother named Heath, representing her hope for survival in this cruel world, Aries has her quest for a mysterious boy named Daniel who knows too much, and Michael has a dad lost somewhere out in the wild world of America. Watching the world shatter through the eyes of these four disparate teens was entirely compelling. Though they are not perfect characters, I found myself slowly hoping for a better outcome: for Heath to be alive, for Mason to lose his anger, for Clem to live until the end.. (She was occasionally so naive it pained me! But she was my favorite! Conflicted!) Especially because this is clearly a series, I have high hopes that these characters will grow into some all-time favorites. The potential is there: either more length or a trimmed POV list is hopefully coming in the next volume.
The author also does a subtle job of slowly doling out the information about what happened the day everything changed: from the unpredictable acts of nature (6 9.5 Richter scale quakes) to the eerily similar acts of terrorism (123 schools bombed all over the world) - all while fueling even more questions.
How did some people know beforehand? (i.e. man on the bus, the bombings) Why are only some people turned into the "baggers"? What determines the intelligence of each bagger? If this is the earth clearing out the bad - why does it seem the innocent are the victims? Who/what is "Nothing"?
As the kids learn that no one safe, either alone or in groups, each moves towards Vancouver and I began to have a few issues. First of all, none of the above questions are really answered. The first third sets up all these questions and none are fully solved to satisfaction - I'm already going to read book two so I just felt unsatisfied by the lack of resolution for any of the characters. The predicted and inevitable meet-up of all four teenagers felt rushed and unnatural for the novel - in a book of distrust, they just literally run into each other right in Vancouver and. . . . everyone's all hunky dory? - and threw me off from the flow. Which.. speaking of, seems to be in need of a little polish as well. Some of the transitions for characters, both between and within POV transitions, were awkward and repetitive.
This is a violent, gory, disturbing, emotional and funny book. I loved this way more than I had thought I would. I had initially passed this over in my monthly Simon and Schuster Galley Grab email but decided to give it a go on a random whim: what a great decision in retrospect. This is not a perfect novel but I had such fun reading it I can't imagine any rating lower than a 4 out of 5. It is consistently taut with tension and occasionally fraught with emotion (Chee! Clem's parents!) and definitely not one to miss for anyone looking for a zombieish novel. A pulse-racing novel from start to finish, I can't wait to get my hands on book two - especially after such an open-ended conclusion. (less)
Legacy is sadly one of those books I wanted to like more than I actually liked in the end. Legacy can be, and very often is, dry, slightly...more2.5 out of 5
Legacy is sadly one of those books I wanted to like more than I actually liked in the end. Legacy can be, and very often is, dry, slightly boring and stilted in its execution. With so much of the novel reminiscent of other novels like the boarding school a la Harry Potter, Strange Angels, Vampire Academy, Hex Hall, etc., or the two love interests that have to be kept apart for someone's safety a la Twilight, The Clann or really almost every vampire young-adult novel ever, it is quite hard for Legacy to make a unique impression that is entirely its own. It's a sad echo of more action-filled and invigorating reads that populate this kind of novel. Though it merits only a 2.5 out of 5 stars for me, I did manage find some worthwhile aspects to this long young-adult novel about witches and evil in New England. I wish that there was more to recommend this supernatural tale from a veteran author, but I was disappointed and bored by this read. It was one of those books you finish out of endurance, rather than a genuine desire to conclude the story.
Serenity Katherine "Katy" Jessup Ainsworth is, like many teen protagonist in the paranormal YA genre, isolated, lonely, abandoned in a strange place and possessing strange powers that shouldn't exist. There's sadly not much to distinguish Katy from her peers of the genre. She's sadly cliched in many of her personality/abilities, and fails to truly connect with the reader. There's also so many pointed remarks about her "creepy" or "snake" eyes but no real reason is provided for entirely too long, so every ensuing remark drove me batty. Added to her already full closet of cliches and tropes is her Mysterious Dead Mom - another easy plot structure that Legacy falls prey to. I was supposed to feel for Katy, as she was just abandoned by her unfeeling, remote father 1500 miles from her Floridian home, but I just.. didn't. Her isolation and loneliness are extreme and I didn't buy into the student body's treatment of her, both pre- and post-Peter. I wasn't a fan of how her relationship with love interest Peter matured either: there were far too many rapid-fire shifts in emotion and status between the two of them to be believable.
Legacy is quite slow-moving for the bulk of the narrative. Not much happens in the small town of Whitfield, nor in Ainsworth School besides teenage hazing and Katy's pining for a boy she hardly knows. I wish that Legacy had been less predictable: the easy-to guess plot twists combined with the slower pace for the non-events did not do the story any favors. I found the romance of Peter and Katy to be pedantic and predictable as well: from this initial hatred to her unfounded fascination with him, I called it all. I absolutely hated the presentation of the student body within the boarding school: even the non-magical (the "cowen" in this novel's particular vernacular) are ridiculously and stupidly bigoted against Katy from the day of her arrival. Yes, the outcast role in a novel is popular because so many of today's teens can relate and identify closely with just such a character, but it was just ridiculously overdone here. These kids really were like cows: they hate Katy when Peter does and love her when he abruptly switches to the other side and loves her.
This was actually a mistake of mine: I downloaded Ms. Haddix's novel clearly aimed at young-adult/middl...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
This was actually a mistake of mine: I downloaded Ms. Haddix's novel clearly aimed at young-adult/middle-grade novel while attempting to receive another galley. Once it was downloaded and I read the short blurb about a never-ending war with no known cause, I was interested enough to give it a try and it made for two hours of enjoyable reading. Though by no great shakes a complicated or dense novel, The Always War is action-packed, fast-paced adventure that (much) younger readers will have a great time reading. It is quite simple and thus incredibly easy to read but no less adventuresome or intriguing for its youth and simplicity. Accordingly, some of the solutions/twists Haddix offers up for her novel can be predictable and almost deux-ex-machinas, but it's easily glossed over in favor of the age group this particular novel is geared towards.
Tessa is not the most developed of characters, but since this a novel aimed at kids half my age at the most, it's easy to forgive. She's a kind, selfless girl; the kind who sees hope in a down-beaten, war-weary and repressed Eastam. This is a girl that finds beauty in a n ethereal spiderweb; a girl who won't give up. In a country that has been at war with the enemy nation of Westam for over seventy-five years, Tessa aspires to more: to be more, to do more. In a world where entering the military makes your family elite, Tessa has to struggle with the knowledge that her life will never, ever improve. Stuck in an endless cycle of school and then work, Tessa and her eagerness are easy to understand. Even her adoration of her former neighbor Gideon is understandable: in a world where war is the answer, those who kill the most are the "heroes."
Gideon, the aforementioned hero, provides a nice change from Tessa's wide-eyed dreams. While I did find the ages of all the characters to be unsettlingly and unbelievably young (Gideon is only a teenager), I doubt younger readers will have the same issues. Gideon himself is a self-tormented young man who cannot forgive himself for dropping a bomb on over 1,000 people. The only one in Eastam bothered by what he did, Gideon considers himself a murderer, a coward, a killer. While he seems to have just the right set of skills to do what he needs to, I liked Gideon's decisiveness. I didn't like his interactions with Tessa very much (I like harmonic characters rather than bickering ones) it was an accurate representation of what I think a young man would do in his situation(s). The other main character, that of Dekaterina Pratel aka "Dek", both worked for an undermined the story of The Always War. While I did find her alternatively amusing and annoying, it is completely unrealistic that this 8/9 year old would know how to disable and fly a plane ON HER OWN. It's just too much: I understand Haddix wanted this to be a novel of just youngins saving the world, but Dek is so far out there it throws off the novel. I appreciated that she grounded Tessa's optimism/dreaming with blunt honesty and that she was mature enough to not let Gideon wallow in self-pity: surely she could've been aged at 13-14 for a better representation of the character?
I did like what little the author did to establish the setting. I'm BIG on setting: place-as-character goes a long way for a novel when it's done well. Unfortunately, Haddix barely sketches out a locale for her players to operate within. Just the essential enemies "Eastam" (formerly Eastern America) and "Westam" (Western America) are supplied, along with random mentions of former landmarks. I certainly wished for much more atmosphere, but I will admit I got a chuckle of the "Santl Arch" the three adolescents use to acclimate themselves. Those less-than-subtle allusions to the modern-day United States make the war in novel even more personal and extremely relatable to a modern audience itself going through a seemingly endless War on Terrorism. I definitely recommend this to a younger audience than myself: I think ages 10-14 will love Tessa, and Dek's attitude and Gideon's plight will affect them much more than it did me. I did enjoy the final twist Ms. Haddix pulled for the war/countries: a satisfying conclusion to an enjoyable novel. (less)
No rating because I could tell by page 150 this was just not a book for me. I was mislead by the blurb and all the focus on religion, finding God, etc...moreNo rating because I could tell by page 150 this was just not a book for me. I was mislead by the blurb and all the focus on religion, finding God, etc. is just not something I care to read about for hundreds of pages.
So, sorry Everything You Need to Survive the Apocalypse: it's not me, it's you. I have far too many books to read, so you are now part of my "unfinished" or "couldn't finish" history. Better luck elsewhere.(less)
Erzsébet (or the Anglicized "Elizabeth") Báthory is as widely vilified and infamous as far as she is known today. The scandal of a noblewo...more3.5 out of 5
Erzsébet (or the Anglicized "Elizabeth") Báthory is as widely vilified and infamous as far as she is known today. The scandal of a noblewoman killing servants in order to live forever as one myth goes, or to punish them as an assertion of power as this novel posits, is guaranteed to garner attention, as much now as it was back then. While prevalent modern-day historical opinion believes her to be largely innocent of the horrendous charges leveled against her (both in her time and after her downfall/death), Ms. John's first-person novel is not afraid to show the Countess in all her glory, vanity, cruelty and ignorance. A spoiled, entitled, cruel noblewoman, Erzsébet may be quite hard to stomach for some readers, but I feel Johns did a remarkable job of "humanizing" the polarizing lady, as well as providing sufficient details to doubt and question just exactly who and what was behind her walled-in imprisonment within her own home. Yes, Erzsébet is still an awful, awful human being, but she is not a caricature of herself, nor is she an overblown monster - Johns hit a nice balance between the macabre and the ridiculous. Told in the loose form of Erzsébet writing a letter to her beloved son Pal as she is being walled in, The Countess offers a hard-to-put-down look at the life of one of history's most famous personages in her own style and voice.
Ambitious is the word best used to describe this melange of various genres, alternate realities, and m...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Ambitious is the word best used to describe this melange of various genres, alternate realities, and mishmash of famous, reviled persons from across history. Rod Rees has indeed created something very unique and quite wonderfully different with The Demi-Monde: Winter. As the first published part in a four-book saga about an alternate reality populated with "Dupes" or a cyber duplicate, of such nasties and reprobates as Henry VIII, Robespierre, Lucrezia Borgia, Shaka Zulu, Aleister Crowley and the main villain Reinhard Heydrich, engineer of the Nazi's "Final Solution", I have to admit this series is off to one hell of a start. This is a novel that will suck you in completely, as if you were a visitor to the Demi-Monde itself; it will envelop you wholly in its individual amount of awesome and flair.
The Demi-Monde, put most simply, is an immersive alternate reality created by the United States Army to better train its soldiers without actual harm (an 'Asymmetric Warfare Environment' or AWE), but still with plenty of threat. As a heuristic (aka self-teaching) program, The Demi-Monde is constantly evolving, changing system and at least TWO of the five will always, always be at war with one another. With five sectors (The Rookeries, The Coven, Rodina, Quartier Chaud, and NoirVille), each radically, racially and religiously opposed to the others, it is a place of constant war and pain. It's a delightfully steampunkian locale, with technology equivalent to the 1870's in our (real) world. With 30 million Dupes NowLive, created from actual human DNA, this is a populous, dangerous and utterly alien world. And with Dupes considered basically the same as real humans, with no real difference between them, these horrible people are doppelgangers/reincarnations of the most vile people to walk the earth. Another twist added onto the constant fractious nature of the sectors is the reliance on blood throughout the Demi-Monde. Without it, a Demi-Mondian won't last two weeks, so supply and deman dictate life. Yes, this is a cyber-reality full of Dupes that are vampires, though not in the paranomal-type way: the Dupes simply can't survive without the Red Gold. With such a scarce supply of real blood within the AWE, this is another element is used to keep the sectors constantly at the point of war/invasion. The blood supply for this world could even be seen as an allegory for the real world's attitude regarding oil.
You can't fault Rees for being inconsistent or not planning out in minute detail every aspect of this historical fiction/fantasy/steampunk/science fiction-ish-esque story. There's varying cultures, conflicting political parties, isolationist religions. . . any stressor involved in real life, real world strife has been thought of an represented in Rees' hell of a world. From the steampunk flair of "mutoscopes", "steam-limos", the ubiquitous gas-lights, the required mention of "aether", this was a genre that worked well for a recreated subreality/world, coupled with the additional touches from sci-fi and fantasy. I do wish I had a better visual representation of the sectors, The Hub, Terror Incognita, etc. for the maps provided in the digital arc left a lot to be desired with their tiny type and indistinct markings. I never really got a picture in my head of the world itself, and better maps would remedy such an easy fix. While the constant influx of information and data just on the Demi-Monde itself, it can get a bit old but it's also so interesting. I fully admit to googling random side characters mentioned by others just to see who they were (are?), and just what they did to merit a doppelganger in a cyber-reality populated with humanity's worst vermin.
I loved the Demi-Monde and all the possibilites it brought for Rod Rees' story but I didn't love all about this tome of a novel. New, invented terms and acronyms are constantly tossed at the reader, from the first page. While it's usually quite easy to figure out the modern-equivalent of what the Demi-Mondians are saying/doing, it's disruptive in the initial part of the novel. Another aspect of the style itself I grew VERY wear of: the random capitializations. Rees will also often subvert a word or saying from the Real World for his Demi-Monde and the results are like this: LessBienism (lesbianism), RaTionalist, nuJus (new Jews), woeMen, etc. Between that and the overdone acronyms (TRUE, ABBA, PINC, AWE) it hampered the story. What started out as a clever but subversive homage to the messed up real world became a schtick to mask a non-advancing plot. It was a bit, "Here, look at all these clever observations I've made and incorporated! Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain stagnating characters and plotlines." The story itself is told is a very direct and almost simple style, switching from the lives of Ella, rebel Trixie, Trixie's father Dashwood and (my personal favorite character) a Russian colonel named Vanka Maykov.
Ella herself is a bit of an issue for me. As part of "Operation Offbeat" to rescue Norma, the President's daughter somehow caught within the AWE, I wanted to like her. I wanted to enjoy her dark humor, sarcasm and muse into her obviously troubled personal history. It's just hard to feel a genuine rapport with this woman, for me personally. I also thought her intelligence fluctuated strangely: she says she is the top of her class, best SATs, but doesn't know basic world knowledge? She meets Colonel Ivan Ivanovich and doesn't realize he's a Russian? It was random, and weird. I didn't really "get" any of the females of this novel: Norma and Trixie also fall short of my favorites list As for Ella, I definitely liked that she wasn't a general, cliched white female - she's a tough, smart African American young-woman, who is supposed to be the top of her class. Too much of Ella's plot and actions revolved around every Dupe man in the Demi-Monde finding her abnormally, irresistibly attractive, so much so that they are distracted from, say, torturing her. I'm sorry, but especially with white supremacists doing the torturing, the villains are not going to be conveniently distracted by a nice ankle, or a muscled thigh. I also got SO SICK of hearing her own incredulity at using expletives. I stopped counting the instances after the fourth one, but that needs to go, QUICK. The only time I really enjoyed Ella was in her scenes with the amusing Colonel Maykov... and that's more to do with the fake psychic than the Shade PsyChick.
As for Trixie Dashwood, former Lady of the royal regime, now enmeshed within the Demi-Mondians white supremacist version of the Third Reich (the ForthRight as it's called) she's constantly in danger. Trixie is a hard-headed and hard-hearted young-woman. Between her, Ella and Norma three different types of woman are portrayed (seductress/rescuer, wimp/whiner/rescuee, cold/closed off) and I didn't love a single one. Trixie is just too much: too much anger, too much selfishness, too much action and no thought. Ella, by far comes the closest, but in this world of EXTREME character arcs, she remains far from a favorite. (view spoiler)[ Ella's development from "jad" singer to rescuer to Messiah? Really? I can't say I predicted that at all, but that's a risky and inventive move to take for a (female) character. (hide spoiler)]. I can buy Trixie's revolutionary bent, but her abrupt and entirely unreal switch from proto-RaTionalist Lady to Commander of a militia? In days? With Trixie "[knowing] exactly what had to be done" for an entire military camp? I. Do. Not. Think. So. I call shenanigans, Mr. Rees. That is too far-fetched for a steampunk alternate reality inside a computer with murderous villains from across the ages. But even there, Trixie's evolution does not stop. Slight spoiler ahead: her eventual (and honestly, quite disheartening), bloodthirsty command turns her into something murderous and terrible, something not very far from the SS themselves. Rees does a subtle but effective job of pointing out that fighting fire with fire will sometimes turn you into what you fight. I had to admit that besides a certain charming, scheming Russkie named Maykov, it was the side, bit-players that I enjoyed the most: Louffie, Roza (LOVED HER), Dabrowski. I also quite liked Trixie's sneaky but smart father, the former Baron Dashwood and wished he'd had a bit more time to operate on the page/within the Demi-Monde itself. He sadly was the most underutilized of all the players.
The Demi-Monde: Winter is a lot of book. With plotlines that seem to tie together seamlessly and lead to a satisfying and thoroughly original read, I can't not recommend this novel. One of those rare books where antagonists both outnumber and outclass their counterparts, this was one I both didn't want to finish while simultaneously wishing I had the sequel, The Demi-Monde: Spring, in my hands as soon as I closed the cover, metaphorically speaking. Yes, there are a lot of uncomfortable themes about race, religion, politics, women - but they're all handled with aplomb and finesse and I wasn't off-put by them. The ending doled out some much-needed information, while offering unforeseen complications, a few answers and a burning desire to read the second as soon as humanly possible. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Though I've read novels entirely in verse before - David Levithan's The Realm of Possibility is a particular favorite of mine - Triangles just did no...moreThough I've read novels entirely in verse before - David Levithan's The Realm of Possibility is a particular favorite of mine - Triangles just did not work for me. I couldn't connect or care about these characters from their verse, nor could I even gain a satisfactory grip on the overarching plot. No rating from me because I failed to even reach page 200 out of this 544 page novel. (less)
First-person perspective young-adult novels and I have a tricky but pretty reliable relationship etched...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
First-person perspective young-adult novels and I have a tricky but pretty reliable relationship etched out: if they are handled well and maturely I can legitimately love them, but if the author doesn't have the panache to pass their voice as a believable teen it's a lost cause with no hope. Happily for me, Jessica Martinez shines in her debut novel in the voice, mind and world of Carmen Bianchi, world-class violinist. Believable without trying too hard, without sounding too-mature for her years, Carmen is a great character in a more-than-good-but-not-great novel. Carmen shines in this vehicle, elevating a somewhat overused general plot, infusing it with personality and vitality. This is definitely a case of a character making the book better than it should be, on its own.
Carmen is a great character because she's real and grounded. She's anal, insecure, sarcastic, funny, kind and a complete pushover. I liked the multi-faceted and even conflicting aspects of her personality: by no means is this "Medusa-haired" heroine a Mary Sue. Like many teen girls, she constantly searches for approval, to be thought "normal" - usual teen emotions that keep her relatable amid the Grammys, and $1.2 million dollar instruments. She's unabashedly great at said violin as well: winner of a Grammy and world acclaim, she should be arrogant, cocky. . . but she remains herself throughout. I did find a couple of her actions to be pretty annoying and downright silly (her assumptions about Jeremy's email are immediate and judgmental) but I don't have to love everything the character does to love the character herself. She's just so human in an outrageous, extremely pressured position. Under ridiculous strain of her stage-mom's expectations and transferred dreams, Carmen has little to no control over her life. Day-to-day or even what her dreams are is dictated by her mother with "an iron fist with a french manicure." Carmen, sadly, though world-class and immensely talented, never plays for herself or her own pleasure. She plays for her mother to vicariously live a failed career, for a teacher to extend his own impact on the musical world and that is sadly representative for Carmen's entire life. As music is so personal with an almost tangible impact upon Carmen, it's incredibly easy to commiserate and mourn with her as her joy in violin is turned into something else.
Other characters sadly lack the vivacity and life of Carmen. Her taciturn Ukrainian teacher Yuri is particularly easy to visualize but lacks any dimensions or personality outside of "gruff old man." I found Carmen's mother, always referred by Carmen with her given name of Diana (which I also very telling of their relationship) to be a depressingly one-dimensional antagonist. She seems to have no love or empathy in her for her daughter or her largely unseen husband Clark - focusely solely on her daughter's career as a surrogate for her curtailed one earlier. Diana's motivations for pushing Carmen would be much more understandable, even palatable, if they were for Carmen (wanting her to be happy, great at what she loves, follow her dreams) instead of trying to mold her into Diana II. Jeremy King, he of the not-so-subtle-last-name also failed to impress me the first half of the novel. Though I didn't jump on Carmen's hate bandwagon he makes a pretty bad, then pretty bland impression. I never saw his supposedly irresistible charisma - hell, I barely saw any personality from him! He was more of a drain on Carmen than a support, in my opinion, and I would've liked a nicer, kinder character infinitely better. He's supposedly Carmen's love interest I didn't really feel the chemistry between the two until they were pretty much de facto paired up. They truly work together and the novel is most evoactive when either Jeremy or Carmen play the violin. The descriptions and personal reactions to music are beyond compare in this novel: they stand as my favorite parts of the entire book.
The finale of the novel took me by surprise, while being absolutely fulfilling. Not the big reveal/betrayal, but the action stemming from the event. Carmen took me by complete surprise, but did what ultimately feels right for her. Regardless of how you feel about her decision, at least this time, for once, it was HER decision. Not her mother's, not Yuri's, not the doctor's and not even Jeremy's. . . purely and wholly Carmen. The ending is rather open-ended for a conclusion to a standalone novel, but I loved how the author left it. The world seems limitless, with anything possible for Carmen.(less)
Sadly, much like Cayla Kluver's Legacy or Tris & Izzie by Mette Ivie Harrison, this mermaid tale is another case of Beautiful Cover, Big Ol' Mes...moreSadly, much like Cayla Kluver's Legacy or Tris & Izzie by Mette Ivie Harrison, this mermaid tale is another case of Beautiful Cover, Big Ol' Mess inside the alluring facade. Though this young-adult novel is technically not a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's famous Little Mermaid, the story is obviously influenced by and similar to that long-loved tale. Both the pain of land, the belt/chastity allegory are all in tune with the familiar story - and very little is done by the author to differentiate her version. Between the Sea and Sky is the tale of a bookish teenage mermaid - though she is soon to be elevated into the exclusive and respected sirens - named Esmerine. Esmerine's tale is about her search for her sister Dosinia, a fellow siren disappeared from the sea abruptly. It's a simple story in a very simple style that somehow manages to still take quite a bit of effort to finish. I have been on the look out for a good mermaid story, but sadly for me, Between the Sea and Sky failed to deliver a well-rounded, interesting, or even wholly appropriate mermaid tale.
Esmerine is not a very well-rounded or even developed young-woman. Her personality seems too-perfect at best and mismatching or altered to appeal at worst. I never felt invested in the young mermaid; from her dialogue and her actions, she constantly came across as too young and too immature. As "the brain of the family" Esmerine sticks out from all other merfolk: she can read and write, and has even been friends with one of the detested and avoided "sky people". I can't say I really rooted for Esmerine during her search for Dosia- it's a fairly boring trek that seems to consist of Esmerine sitting and waiting while another actually searches for her sister. The role of the sirens as well, that of luring men to their deaths using song/beauty/etc., also seem strangely out-of-tune with the almost MG tone and feel of this novel. Between the Sea and the Sky occasionally borders on uncomfortable side with the random mentions of (and fixation upon) breasts, in addition to the more mature themes randomly mixed into the story.
The "winged people" that Esmerine knows and talks to are the Fandarsee - winged humans that are essentially Mercurys - they transport messages. One reason (among many) that this novel irritated me: the merfolk and Fandarsee resent/avoid/hate the other but no real reason is provided for the animosity between the races. So naturally, when Esmerine has feelings for a 'darsee, they cannot be together because. . . of an obvious plot device by the author. It's obvious, unreasonable and needed better plotting. Alander or "Alan Dare" is the male love-interest for Esmerine; a friend from her childhood she has since (6 years) not seen. Speaking of which, Alandare reminds me of my second quibble: humans/their normal world are mentioned often throughout the story, but no information is given as to if the mermaids/Fandarsee are known outside of those encountered personally by humans. It just felt like a glaring error: I never knew what the status of the characters were and the worldbuilding suffered. And when I say worldbuilding, I'm being a tad sarcastic. There's barely any time devoted during the narrative to describe or enliven the underwater realm, which seemed by far the most interesting and with the most unique possibilities of all the places in the novel.
On A Dark Wing is obviously eye-catching and interesting novel, just judging by looks alone: from the vaguely foreboding tone of the title...more2.5 out of 5
On A Dark Wing is obviously eye-catching and interesting novel, just judging by looks alone: from the vaguely foreboding tone of the title itself to the scattered murder of ravens across the letters of the title, and the ominious, "Death never forgets. . . " ominously taglined in front of the Grim Reaper, this is a hard to miss title. It's a readable book that veers from normal to supernatural to creepy thriller almost: one thing that can be honestly said about On A Dark Wing is that it is never predictable. This is the story of a girl named Abbey, yes like Abbey Road of Beatles fame, her obsessive crush, her mom, a paralyzed but lovable hacker and Death. Yes, Death with a capital "D" - the Man himself appears and is the crux around which the rest of the book - and characters - must revolve.
Abbey is from Palmer, Alaska. It's immediately clear that miss Chandler is fairly damaged goods: her guilt and issues over her mom's death is immediate and obvious from the get-go. I had to shave off rating points for such a heavy-handed introduction: I like when the author eases the problems in so it's not overwhelming every page. She's also constantly around death: her dad runs a crematorium so death and dying are more personal and familiar to Abbey than most people. By page thirty, Abbey has begun obsessively regaling the reader with her obsession with a boy named Nate. From the way Abbey talks and acts, it's obvious her feelings veer into stalker territory: she plans openly, without any kind of embarrassment, to radio-eavesspydrop on a trip of Nate's that he doesn't even know she knows he is going on, not to mention the tiny fact that Nate has no idea who Abbey is. It's fairly uncomfortable to read Abbey waxing lyrical over a guy who literally couldn't pick her out of a line-up. I mean saving, "Nate, give me strength" when in a bad situation? Just.. what? Who does that? I certainly wanted to like Abbey - I definitely came closer the closer to the end that I got in the book and she grows up quite a bit- but her stalker tendencies, coupled with her piss-poor treatment of her father made it nearly impossible for much of the novel.
Other than Abbey, there is of course, Nate himself. I felt no real connection with Nate as an individual character, nor is it apparent for a while why we are supposed to care about a random boy going on a trip for the first few chapters. Nate is far too generic, too perfect for me to really buy into: I want a flawed man over a too-good-to-be-true archetype any day. His plot-line, though I liked how it intersected with Abbey's eventually, just failed to garner my interest from the start. Even his scenes on Denali failed to catch my eye - they were too bland and encompassing to create much emotion. I was much more interested in the paralyzed, funny and smart Tanner Lange than Nate. He is a much more flawed, real character than Nate, and carried the pages he appeared upon. Even when I found his cooperation with Abbey's stalker plans to be bemusing, I liked him immensely. He doesn't rag on Abbey for substituting food for love, he doesn't constantly rehash her guilt over her mother, he's just a best friend: supportive, loving, kind, there when he is needed the most.
Really a 3.5 out of 5. Occasionally moving, but with a hard-to-like protagonist.
A compelling story of love, death, and family sadly hampered by its m...moreReally a 3.5 out of 5. Occasionally moving, but with a hard-to-like protagonist.
A compelling story of love, death, and family sadly hampered by its main character, I found Saving June to be a mostly enjoyable, fairly easy read for a day. Hannah Harrington's first novel is an alternately riveting, amusing and frustrating foray into the mind and life of teenage angst-machine Harper Scott. It is not that the novel doesn't have plenty of potential to play with: the characters are fully dimensional and flawed, and the plot is emotionally moving and compelling to read. Where the book mostly lost me was with the main character herself and her broody/rude love interest Jake. Instead of focusing on Harper's sister June's suicide and the reasons for/repercussions of her death I was constantly distracted and irritated by the two characters and their constant bickering/will they-won't they/hatefest/lovein.
The fourth and final volume in the multi-author series called the Royal House of Shadows, Lord of the Abyss is tale of the youngest Elden princeling....moreThe fourth and final volume in the multi-author series called the Royal House of Shadows, Lord of the Abyss is tale of the youngest Elden princeling. Micah was only five when his parents were murdered and his mother's last act of magic cast him far far away - farther than all three of his siblings. Micah ends up as the Guardian of the Abyss - far from the Blood Sorcerer, his memory, his family or even basic civilty. In this loved-up and mature version of Beauty and the Beast, Nalini Singh unveils more than one surprise and entertained me thoroughly.
As for Ms. Singh herself this was my first foray into her writing, after hearing it hyped for a while. I can happily say that her style and language more than met my expectations: I was carried away into her story easily and quite quickly. She metes out more details and information about the history, the world(s) of the universe of her story quite well and naturally. Given new ground to break in with the before-unseen Abyss, Singh's tale felt fresh and new in a series that is pretty limited in most aspects. She also more than excelled at creating a complex chemistry between her characters, allowing for a romance that felt natural - through all the inevitable ups-and-downs it endures in this short tale.
The third in the Royal House of Shadows series has thus far been my favorite by a wide margin. Steady to form, this book centers on a third scion of t...moreThe third in the Royal House of Shadows series has thus far been my favorite by a wide margin. Steady to form, this book centers on a third scion of the House of Elden: time time the tale is that of the Forestal/vampire/wolfyn Dayn by a new, fresh author. I hadn't read anything by this author or the previous one (Jill Monroe) and I can say I'd be interested in another book from this one, just judging by Lord of the Wolfyn. Andersen does a more-than-admirable job of selling her individual retelling of Red Riding Hood using a formulaic romance novel outline and hampered by an obviously limited length. The rebellious, headstrong son is the only male protagonist thus far in this series to really catch my interest - Dayn's brother Nicolai and brother-in-law (? I'm assuming/paraphrasing) Osborn from the first two didn't do it for me with their passive-aggressive and will-I-won't-I-kill-you attitudes, respectively - and I have Ms. Andersen to thank. Some basic elements still need fleshing out - are there three or four realms? Human, wolfyn, Elden. . . but what about the Abyss? The Always? - but hopefully the fourth will include more world-building details.
On the whole, I was way more than impressed with the style, voice and story in this third volume. I did find the time-limit to find the Blood Sorcerer a bit off, in the general scheme of the four book series - surely it could've been introduced earlier, as a more natural progression of the storyline rather than a random accelerant? - but I appreciated the added tension to the atmosphere of the story. I liked the differing views of the realms (human, wolfyn, Elden) - knowledge of this "world" is uncovered more with each successive tale, with each author leaving an individual style and flair.
Second in the series but first about a female sibling of the House of Elden, Lord of Rage is Jill Monroe's story of Breena, only daughter of King Aelf...moreSecond in the series but first about a female sibling of the House of Elden, Lord of Rage is Jill Monroe's story of Breena, only daughter of King Aelfric and Queen Alvina using the loose framework of the popular tale Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The only girl with three brothers, and thus protected and treasured and isolated, Breena is forced from her family, life and home and without protection. Though she feels initially only pampered and prepped for marriage, Breena emerges as much more capable and independent character. The three bears mentioned are surprisingly (or not so, if you've read the first two novels) not her brothers, but other interesting, dynamic men - with one in particular being especially important.
Mazarkis Williams tries for a lot with his fantasy debut, the tale of several key people within an anci...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Mazarkis Williams tries for a lot with his fantasy debut, the tale of several key people within an ancient but decaying Empire here in The Emperor's Knife. With wildly differing, interesting characters and a shifting point of view between them, Williams certainly begins his story on solid ground - The Emperor's Knife feels new and created rather than rehash or a re-imagining of another, already established place. There might not be the most original of plot-lines at the heart of the novel, especially for the fantasy genre, but Williams has a way with his words and this is a novel that is quickly engaging, quickly read and quickly finished. I found several aspects of the book to be quite well done and thought-out, but had issues with pacing down the line as well as the too-frequent, often confusing, afmorementioned POV switches.
In the land of the Cerani Empire, life is hard and life is often cruel. That way of life is shown in the culture and personalities of nearly the entire royal family, from the scheming Tuvaini to the emotionally dead withdrawn Nessaket. Sarmin, easily the most sympathetic and likeable guy of the whole book, is the sole survivor of the purge of his 5 brothers, excepting the Emperor Beyon. Broken mentally by seeing his male siblings cut down on Beyon's ascension to power Sarmin has remained in one room his whole life. Sarmin is a surprising character: for a room-ridden Prince that no one knows of you wouldn't expect much but he was by far the nicest and most well-rounded of all the cast. Imprisoned within silk and stone, Sarmin grows from a scared boy into a mature, thinking man. It's not hard to see that I was rooting for him (and even his love interest I didn't care too much for) for a happy ending.
That love interest is the female protagonist of the novel, Mesema. Sent from the tribes outside the Empire to get an heir with the hidden Prince, she is the typical fantasy trope of an tribal fish-out-of-water in a cultured pond. Unkind, judgemental and even kind of racist, Mesema is a tough nut to crack. She knows the dangers of Nooria, and of the Empire (her mother warns her to get pregnant only once and then use a tar(?)/some substance to prevent more pregnancies. My question is: why didn't the previous Emperor's harem do the same if they knew their kids would be murdered when Beyon ascended? Blehhh.) Like the rest of the female characters Amalya, Eldra, Nessaket, I never felt a true affinity for the Windreader of the Felt tribe. She becomes fairly annoying and demanding as her journey progresses, and then almost abandoned after the halfway mark. She seems vastly underutilized in the second part, only popping up at the most random and opportune moments. I liked her best with Beyon, honestly and the romance love triangles are all OVER the place in The Emperor's Knife (Mesema, Beyon, Sarmin; Mesema, Sarmin, Banreh; etc.), though I appreciated her for Sarmin as well. She works best as protagonist when with other characters, with them in charge.
It's also hard to get close to any of these characters, including ones I've not mentioned. Eyul, the royal assassin is a key part to both the past and the present of the Empire and of Sarmin's health, is a decent anti-hero. I wished for more time and more detail from the reticent character but the way too frequent POV shifts, one after another, from Eyul to Sarmin to Beyon to Mesema was disjointing. Nessaket also had potential to be the kind of villain that a reader could really enjoy, but she seemed to be tossed aside in favor of a less compelling, less interesting character the further the novel progressed. There was very little continuous time with just one or two characters at length, instead jumping perspective in what seemed like five page increments. With a lack of any real tension until nearly the very end and character deaths that had little to no impact upon me, The Emperor's Knife is not a novel that cuts to the heart of the reader: it's a bit superficial and the occasional gorey death does a lot to keep interest from flagging. I was also probably more upset by the deaths than excited for the romances because none (welll maybe just one) of them felt entirely believable or honest for the characters within the relationship: I didn't like Mesema and Banreh's interactions, I didn't like Sarmin and his carrier's complications to the plot, etc. The romances just seemed joined with the easiest candidates and I wanted some chemistry.
Much like a favorite of mine, Brandon Sanderson, a prolific author that both manages to write huge intimidating tomes of novels (Way of Kings, anyone? It clocks in at a tidy 1007 pages) and create unique magic systems for them, Mazarkis Williams has at least two different known magical systems in play for his novel. Both of them, in my opinion, are quite inventive and... well, I believe "awesome" is the most applicable word. The pattern marks that appear on the inflicted are much more than they appear to be, and while I won't spoil the ending, I though it was a marvelous spin on the predicted outcome. It's vague and unexplained until it seems almost obvious, and I have to credit William's authorial sleight-of-hand on that magical count. The other magic, which I will go into a bit more, is that of the mages of the Tower. They are few in number and each mage corresponds to a certain element: fire, earth, water, air, spirit. While that aspect of elements for power might not be the most original, Williams' spin on the trope is: the element the mage most relates to is actually an elemental spirit that will be encased within/made part of the mage, fighting to get free as the mage continually siphons off the power of the spirit. I loved this: the mages aren't immortal or all-powerful in this world. They have to trade, to barter away their very lives for a tenuous grip on power for, at most, a few decades of magic. It's an interesting idea for an Empire that relies so on its magic - it's an unsteady and unreliable but essential part of the Cerani Empire.
It's a mixed bag for The Emperor's Knife for this fantasy fan. I liked the worldbuilding that was present: quiet but with an Arabic or Asian touch, especially the shifting sand dunes and relentless heat made for a newish locale with imported homages from the real world. I loved the magical aspects and limited appearance they had on the plot and characters, I just wished for more oomph, for better female characters and less POV jumping. There's a lot to enjoy in this world and these characters, I just want there to be more to it. Less hiding, more showing to Eyul, Govnan, the Pattern Master, etc. It's thoroughly engaging if not the most action-packed fantasy fare, with an ending that left me mildly anxious for the second in the series. I'd tell any hardcore fantasy fan to give The Emperor's Knife at least a try - it has potential to grow into a truly epic story with flawed, real characters. Here's hoping for book 2. (less)
Unlike book #2 which launched a completely new, different story from the first book, Fang Me continues...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Unlike book #2 which launched a completely new, different story from the first book, Fang Me continues with the same events of Try Me. Now established in roles and relationships, the characters of the Demon Underground novels have a continuing mystery to solve, in addition to a new unknown, unaffiliated demon in San Antonio. Pretty much on par stylistically with the first two, Fang Me continues Parker Blue's three-book-long streak of fun, easy and amusing vampire novels with a likeable, kickass heroine. Not content with the plethora of demons, magic and abilities shown before, Ms. Blue has more creativity to throw at her readers in this action-packed, fast-paced snarky adventure. Armed with a sword, a motorcycle, some vampire stakes and her trusty hellhound/terrier Fang, Val Shapiro is a character that I like more and more with each novel she stars within.
Val herself remains one of my favorite characters of the series - a situation I don't usually have with teenage young-adult (typically female) protagonists. She doesn't fall prey to the "poor poor pitiful me" routine so many "heroines" epouse, but (finally) nor does she believe only she can do everything. Val's relationship with Shade (more on him later) is another boon for the Slayer: both part-demons need the other to keep them "human" (Val in control of Lola and Shade grounded in this reality) without veering into codependency. They're good to each other, good for each other without being cloying or changing Val's harder edges. I did find the whole "lust demon loses virginity thus loses powers" to be a rather arbitrary "law" and also just kind of dumb: wouldn't a lust demon be fueled by sex, rather than depleted/lose powers and abilities by the act? It seems like - and comes across - as an obvious plot point thrown in just to cause a wrench between Shade and Val - and also to keep Val unsure of what she really wants. It's a very unfair situation for the teenager: the normal life she said she wanted, or the interesting, action-packed life she has lead so far.
Shade. Ahhh, Shade. One of the most likeable characters from all three of the novels, Shade is rapidly becoming one of my favorites for the series. Besides his innate kindness and goodness he displays towards Val, he comes across as the only genuinely nice guy Val knows, outside of Micah. Juxtaposing Shade's accepting attitude with Dan's complete and total rejection of Val and her demon, Shade urges Val to recognize that "Lola" is just another facet of herself, and not a reason to be ashamed. A healthy teen relationship, with the guy clearly intent on doing what's right? Wowza - another reason I enjoy these novels like I do. I do think that Shade and Val's relationship got a little too intense way too fast: saying "I love you" before dating even a full month tends to make me disbelieve/judge a little bit. For Val, someone who felt rejected and ashamed all her life, to go from "I'm not good enough for a guy" to "I love you" in a matter of weeks does not feel in line with her character.
The other elements of the novel (the mystery of who Trevor Jackson is, what happened to the Encyclopedia Magicka, Dan/Nic, etc.) were mostly decently done. I wished for more feel of tension/atmosphere for this third one: it was surprisingly lacking in departments its predecessors each have had in abundance. Val is still caught between two powerful groups (the vampires and the demons) but the tone is much more relaxed than when she was in the same situation during Try Me. I will also say I continually find the mystery elements of these novels to be way underdone, and underplayed. There is never a build-up of tension before a big reveal and I feel somewhat let down by this ending in particular. Trevor seemed a bit obvious and not very subtle when he arrived (and how he acted around Shade had my sketch-o-meter going off the charts all the time) but I liked the additional knowledge he provided. I only have one other nitpick: I really, really hate it when authors add a 'k' to the end of the word "magic" in an attempt to make individualistic/unique/whatever. It doesn't work - all it does is annoy me!
However, Parker Blue is definitely not an author content to sit back, lazy, and using what she has created so far; each new novel has something unique and creative inside, new revelations about Val or her world of San Antonio. More details about the still-largely-mysterious Demon Underground emerge as well, and lend hope for a further novel in this series. Fun, not perfect but definitely worth a read if you're in the mood for Texan teenager with attitude, stakes, a hot shadow demon boyfriend and a lot of snark.(less)
Back again with 1/8 succubus and badass vampire hunter Val Shapiro, Parker Blue's Try Me do...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
3.5 out of 5
Back again with 1/8 succubus and badass vampire hunter Val Shapiro, Parker Blue's Try Me doesn't ignore the events of the just-ended Bite Me, but nor does it continue along on the same plotline. Instead of focusing on Val/Dan/Fang vampire hunting for the supernatural police force of the Supernatural Crimes Unit, Val is much more involved with the titular Demon Underground in the second outing of the series. I liked the shift of focus from the policelike SCU to the looser organization of the Demon Underground - after all the demon underground is what the series is about, supposedly, and hadn't really been a focus in the first novel. Set at a funeral just three days after the whirlwind ending events of Bite Me, the tone for Try Me is set in the first three pages: an action-packed, sarcastic vampire novel read just before the Halloween holiday.
In addition to the prominence of the underground, Parker Blue shakes up the formula - or rather doesn't establish one. Rather than focus on vampire hunting and supernatural crime-solving, Try Me adds a new plot/problem for Val's life in San Antonio: the vampires want to "come out" nationally, and the demons do not want either the vampires nor themselves to become public knowledge. As the only real intermediary between the two hostile camps, Val is thrust into a position of power, danger and a lot of stress. Not content with just that diversion of opinions on public relations, the vampires and demons also both blame each other for the loss of the super-important but dumbly-named Encyclopedia Magicka - which Val had for her life but lost upon returning to Micah, the leader of the Underground. Once again, I liked the changeup from the first novel: Parker Blue is a completely fun storyteller with an apparently diverse range of plotlines percolating in her brain. It never felt like a retread of the first, and the characters changed, grew, matured (or didn't).
Speaking of: the characters. Val remained her mostly amusing sarcastic self (When Micah tells her, "You should come [to the DU party]. Eat, drink, get to know other-part demons like yourself." Val snarks back at him: "Why don't you guys start a chat room of friend each other on Facebook?") Echoing the demon-focus of the main storyline, Val's relationship with Dan has ended, because of his stupid inability to deal with Lola. All this does is serve to reinforce Val's insecurities and self-hated; she continues her inner power struggle with Lola long after she realizes "Lola" is nothing but a label used to distance herself from her succubus heritage. She continues to fear the "love slaves" that Lola will create out of boyfriends she has, and her extreme desire is to be loved and valued for who she is, not what she can do or force another to do. She's a very compartmentalized girl, hurt girl.
- The Slayer: the vengeful, strong and murderous side she uses to deal with life - "Lola"" the sensual, unpredictable, controlling and powerful side she doesn't know how to control - "Human-Val": the idealized dream of who she thinks she wants to be - acommon girl with mundane issues
Val does grow quite a bit in this novel, however, realizing that if a demon such as herself can choose to be good and not abuse her power, so might too the vampires. This is one of the things I like best about Val and this series: an actual teen YA protagonist that can be honest with herself and admit the obvious without actually liking the subject [the vampires in this case].
Dan, understandably, disappointed me. Any previous merits awarded this character and his he-man hero complex were lost: his extreme about face is kind of random and off-putting. A very background character from the first, a shadow-demon named Shade, quickly became a favorite of mine. Not only is the lore of his kind of demon particularly creative (he can heal, transfer energies, appears as an outline of whorls and whisps of smoke unless touched to "ground him in this reality") but he's the most well-rounded male character so far. He's strange, kind but most importantly: entirely accepting/understanding of Lola - which Dan never could - or wanted - to be. Fang continued his laugh-track antics and kept the inner amusement rolling, even when the fights were breaking out - and they were, often. This is certainly not a dry book with nothing happening for chapters: fights, fires, drama all flesh out the narrative often and well.
I found the mystery elements of the novel to be a bit flat compared to action, love, humor present in the rest of the book. Like the mystery of the mysterious traitor in Alejandro's New Blood Movement from the first Bite Me, I was never as curious to solve the question as I was to continue reading about Val's day-to-day life and interactions with people, vampires and part-demons. I just don't geet excited or feel anticipation really grow before it's the Big Reveal and the end. There's definitely less face-time/angst over Val's 100% human family and their rejection - see earlier: Val grows up a bit. These novels are at their snarky, violent best when it is Val and Fang dealing with demons and vampires. I finished this one with the familiar feeling of wanting another outing and some more time with Valentine Shapiro and Fang - next up is the third in the series Fang Me.(less)
Straight off the top, I have to disagree with my little blurb copy and pasted above. I don't agree that...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Straight off the top, I have to disagree with my little blurb copy and pasted above. I don't agree that this is a novel that "spans the gap between young-adult and adult fiction" - I think this is a solid but not spectacular series opener for a definitely young-adult series. Bite Me more than delivers on the rest of the promise hinted at above: it is edgy, it is fun, and Val and Fang are a comedic duo with flair and timing. I can understand the appeal for older readers - at almost 24 I'm probably at the outset of the target demographic - but this is definitely a young-adult vampire/supernatural novel. Not the most original or ground-breaking, but full of enough verve and unique mythology/lore to keep me more than interested.
Set in San Antonio, Texas (hey, is there anywhere near Morganville, TX? Texas definitely has a bad infestation of vampires...) Bite Me is vampire-slayer Val(entine) Shapiro's starring show. Eighteen years old, part succubus lust demon and a vampire slayer, Val is far from normal but completely real and grounded. Echoing her split nature, Val is a half-Jewish and half-Catholic tumult of drama, danger and humor ("The name's Val, not Buffy. Do I look like a blonde cheerleader with questionable taste in men?") She might come across as trying too hard on occasion, but Val amused me by and large and I definitely bought her persona of tough, funny capable vampirehunter.The lust-demon/part succubus thing is a huge problem in Val's life (even though she's technically only 1/8 succubus): she doesn't feel human, that she belongs or is even loved by her family - common teen issues that make Val intensely relatable for younger audiences. While "Lola" (what Val calls her demon) doubtless gives Val boons (extra speed and strength, accelerated healing) she doesn't come without a hefty price. Val's personal issues with herself and her nature are another strong point for the novel: she consistently struggles to distinguish "demon-Val" and "human-Val" while almost resenting a key part of who she is. The truth about Val she refuses to acknowledge is that she is much more powerful of she works with the Lola part of herself instead of denying her nature and being ashamed by it. She can be either immature or mature (her handling of her mother's rejection was surprisingly mature for YA), but she always presents herself as a real person.
The supporting cast is not as rounded out as it would need to be for a higher rating - and one of the main ones this is only a three star review, instead of a four. Val's younger sister Jen is an important part of the events of Bite Me, so it's too bad she lacks any real characterization. Like her daughter Jen, Val's mom Sharon is also drawn in broad, undetailed strokes. Her substantial (and somewhat overwrought) issues with Val are left clouded and unexplained - making Sharon appear as a cookie-cutter villain rather than a conflicted woman with a uneasy relationship with her daughter. The only really fleshed out supporting characters were that of Val's snarky hellhound/terrier Fang and love-interest/partner Dan. Fang is practically human in personality and actions, but the hellhound with humor and heart nearly stole the show several times. The only one that unequivocally loves Val, Fang is one of the most likeable demons in the book. Dan, Val's partner in SCU, plays a good straight man to Val's loose cannon antics. He's stoic and reserved - almost the archetype for a detective but emerges as a sweet and kind companion to balance Val's more dangerous nature. Lieutenant Ramirez of the SCU also has potential for a character - I can see him easily as a father-figure for the vampire hunter - but he as mostly relegated to the background for much of the novel.
I liked the variety the reader experiences during Val's excursions. Not just vampire hunting, or demon powers, Val has to contend with more mundane issues as well. The style of the novel is definitely geared more towards action than dialog, but I thoroughly enjoyed the well-described fight/sparring scenes. Val believable holds her own, but definitely isn't impervious to a few punches herself. Parker Blue also went and created her own lore/mythology for demons and vampires - and I definitely like the individual flair she placed on the creatures, i.e. "vein of vampires", the shadow demons, etc. The New Blood Movement for vampires (people donate blood, these vamps don't attack and take blood) isn't the most revolutionary idea for supernatural fiction (hello Twilight, and Eat, Slay, Love) but it allows for some interesting power struggles amongst the nightwalkers. Slowly, deliberately parsing out information about Val's world and creatures as the novel progresses provided an excellent way for me to slowly submerse myself in Parker Blue's Bite Me, and leave me clamoring for the next in the series Try Me. (less)
The Pledge was a struggle for me to read through, in several ways over several days. For all that I enj...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
The Pledge was a struggle for me to read through, in several ways over several days. For all that I enjoyed the story while I was caught up in it and reading, once I'd set it down for the day, there would be a definite lull before I felt the urge to pick up the novel once again. I just expected more from this author and this novel, if I am being honest, for in several aspects Ms. Derting's world is a shallow reflection of the possibilities for the story. With the world rigidly segregated by class and by speech and led by a maniacal body-jumping Queen, The Pledge definitely has a fresh and unique spin on the current and oh-so-popular dystopian trend for young-adult novels going for it. And I personally found The Pledge not to be wholly a dystopic young-adult novel: the fantasy/magical elements are strong and a central part of both the novel and the characters themselves.
The first area I was slightly disappointed in were the characters. For me, nearly 100% of these characters fell entirely flat. I felt like the third person omniscient point of view used for the Queen/Max/etc. did me no favors either: I had a difficult time investing in the story from such a removed perspective on the characters. The only first person narrative was for the main character and I disliked the shifts between - very disconcerting to read. Charlaina, the almost milquetoast heroine, never inspired true sympathy with me and her irritating insta!love situation with OBVIOUS love-interest Max did her no favors either. She never stood out to me: I didn't get (that) irritated with her, I didn't love her, I didn't want to hang out with her - my typical associations and categories for female leads. She's kind and unselfish, yes, but where's the personality? The vim, the pop, the individuality? Charlie was largely no different from a thousand other young-adult novel protagonists, and it felt like a chance wasted. The only stand-out about her is her hidden talent with languages, and her relationship with her mute little sister. Charlie's two best friends - Aron and Brooklynn - also fall victim to this same lack of dimension, Aron in particular. Brooklynn, the carefree and careless boy-crazy sexpot, gets the benefit of a nicely-done plot twist to flesh her out more, but Aron remains the same cardboard cut-out for the duration.
Now, for another of my letdowns for The Pledge, the love-interest Maxmillian. I either wanted to kill him half the time, and spent the other 50% of his screen-time just trying to figure out the motivation of the character could possibly be. He's a trope-ish and cliched dark-haired mystery man with a hidden agenda who is inexplicable drawn to Charlie. I'm really, really weary of the whole overdone and lazy excuse of the"inexplicably drawn" line for young-adult romances: is it too much to ask for two characters to meet as friends and then gradually segue into a mature, believable relationship? Apparently, yes yes it is as I could never discern the reason why Max became so quickly and vociferously attached to young Ms. Hart. I felt very little chemistry between Charlie and Max as well. No pop, no sizzle and no line of dialogue really convinced me that these two were supposed to be with one another. I guess I liked them both well enough, but together they did not shoot sparks together. I honestly like them both on their own, independent - but that's probably my knee-jerk reaction to their oh-so-special instalove.
As stated earlier, I felt Ms. Derting's worldbuilding left a lot. to be desired, for me personally. Her world is set in a time described only as, "After the Revolution of the Sovereigns" but hardly any details about what that event/war was about are ever provided. Even in the present day of the novel, with the Queen facing even more rebellions, etc., no more details are provided for why the country is the way it is. It just bothered me from the outset - Icrave a well-rounded novel with a vibrant setting always. Barely sketched outlines seem to set the foundation of the country of Ludania, and I craved more setting, more substance for the locale/Kingdom/city themselves. The little details of life in Ludania are sometimes supplied: there are normal-ish pasttimes that readers can identify with: dancing, illegal drinking/drugging) to tie along with the more outlandish (read: magical) elements. I just missed the bigger picture details that Ms. Derting failed to include. Her country of Ludania never comes to life, never seems or feels like a real place to the reader and that is a shame. "The Pledge" from which the novel takes its name/series takes its name, is the required daily obeisance each person of the country must person as well as a reminder of their respective places in society - only the Queen is worth saving, protecting and pledging.
I did love the language/communicative aspect for the novel. Sadly, Derting didn't go so far as to truly create and vocabularize the three languages of Ludania (Termani - the language of the elite/nobility, Parshon - the Vendor/serving class language and lastly Englaise - universal) - that we know so far - but relied on italics to stress the different languages. Derting does an adequate job of using words to isolate her classes/characters: this is a country of no trust and little love, where fathers turn in daughters and sons turn in mothers to the secret police. I liked some stuff from the novel well enough (words are power/distinction, matrilineal descent, but there was never enough detail or information for me to really feel completely satisfied with the story. It just felt half-done, or half-plotted out at points (Sydney? What as the point of her addition to the story? Xander - why did he turn? Why did "she" let him? No reasons provided!) and incomplete.
I also felt vaguely disappointed by the ending. It felt sadly lackluster and almost dull after the 300 page build-up of raids, bombs, shelters, secret police, secret deadly abilities. . . but, if anything, this is the most forgivable of my problems with this novel - for there are to be two more sequels. If Ms. Derting doesn't fill in some holes, answer some questions, provide some information on her world's past/current situation, I'm going to be a very disgruntled reader. After all that, why is this still a 3.5 out of 5 stars? I did fully enjoy the style of the novel itself - Ms. Derting is a more than able wordsmith and I hope her next effort doesn't founder in the other aspects of her writing. It's also a fast-paced action novel, and I found the varied advenures kept me reading when the characters failed to do so. I will continue reading this series to find out what happens - and to see if Max, Charlie, Brooklynn and Angelina grow on me a bit more. (less)
Picking up in the same narrative and stylistic vein of its predecessor Frost Moon, Blood Rock is an act...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Picking up in the same narrative and stylistic vein of its predecessor Frost Moon, Blood Rock is an action-packed if somewhat overwrought adventure following the one and only Dakota Frost of Atlanta, Georgia. Once again running around her turf of Little Five Points, Dakota is exposed to brand-new, and admittedly, cool magic: animated, violent graffiti tags have been popping up all over the city. . . and killing humans, weres, and vampires alike. Once again Francis was not content with run-of-the-mill magical abilities and talents steadily used in UF/PNR genres, instead creating his own unique and potent systems of "mana". Similar the Dakota's tattoos lifting off her body to attack or defend their creator familiarized in the first novel, the deadly graffiti are multi-dimensional and actively prey on passersby. Creating innovative magical ideas and systems is definitely a talent of the author's and the unpredictable paths such talents will take is one if the highlights this book has to offer.
Contrasting with such an epic supernatural problem (one of the many such problems that Dakota faces over the short 210 page length) is the epic domestic problem of Dakota's adopted daughter, the weretiger Cinnamon. While Cinnamon's slang ("I knows.. We knows... We says...") can truly drive me up a wall in the first chapters, it's been around from book one so I think I have adjusted and hardly noticed after a time. I like Cinnamon perhaps the best out of everyone in the novels: she has edges and a chip off her shoulder, but valid reasons are given, and the motivation and actions of the character often ring true when other characters do not. She also continues to change and become more of a character and less of a caricature each appearance. The relationship between the two adopted family members also brings out the best in each: Dakota is a softer, less wannabe bad-ass version of herself and Cinnamon is more human than tiger when with her mother. Cinnamon grounds Dakota in a way she was not in Frost Moon: she's less objectifying and in-your-face, and doesn't think she's invincible as a human in a world of supernaturals. Dakota continues to change and grow each novel: I liked her personally much more the second time around. I found her less "preachy" about the environment, and she is even shown to have opened her eyes to others views in politics - a far cry from her derision at Republicans in the first.
In addition to Cinnamon, much of the rather large background cast is shown once again. Familiar and beloved characters are seen again, often in new roles or with a new flair not seen in the first book. Even old villains are given a second chance, and are not as black-and-white as previously painted. I am getting quite weary of the back and forth between Dakota and her exgirlfriend, the Christian lesbian vampire queen Saffron: either be friends or don't. The constant drama between the two distracts from the main story without being interesting enough to validate that much time and attention. While the author kills off more than a few (and several of which I did not anticipate at all) to add gravitas and emotion to the danger, I found myself a little bored throughout the narrative. I cared about these characters certainly, but their deaths lacked any pull to make me desperate to solve the mystery of the graffiti. The frenetic pace that worked so well for the first seems to suffer a bit, and may also partly be to blame for my partial apathy: one event would happen and then the book was rushing on to the next page with hardly a fullstop. While the novel feels and reads just like the first in tone, the lack of pacing for certain important plot points detract from the overall takeaway from the story.
Though several of the side plot lines felt superfluous and rather unnecessary (legal woes over Cinnamon, the Gentry of the vampires, Trans in Blood Rock all felt very "filler" and not in the main vein of the original plot) I enjoyed this novel. I don't think Anthony Francis will end up becoming one of my favorite authors, but his books are enjoyable diversions for a couple hours when craving unique magic in a UF/PNR.(less)
Dakota Frost, "the best magical tattooist in the Southeast" is a woman of many words - most of them "fuck" or full of bravado. In this supernaturally...moreDakota Frost, "the best magical tattooist in the Southeast" is a woman of many words - most of them "fuck" or full of bravado. In this supernaturally populated alternate version of Atlanta, magic is real and out. People who know and run in the magical sectors (vampires, weres, other creatures) are known as "Edgeworlders" and Miss Frost is definitely one of them. One of the many forms of magic or "mana" as it is referred to throughout the book, is the aspect of skindancing for which the series is named and Dakota, clearly, is a practitioner. Dakota has the admittedly cool ability to infuse her tattoos with "mana" and use them: as weapons to attack, as shields to defend, even as art. Holy crap - a protagonist with strong magic that will actually protect herself? I liked the direction Dakota was headed from the first chapter I read. The magical aspects of this novel are one of the high points: there's a ton of imagination and creativity present in Francis' version of supernatural abilities. While some parts had me shaking my head in confusion (or dismay) the author deserves full kudos for conceiving principles of magic that are not run-of-the-mill and staid interpretations.
Though I've often heard Maria V. Snyder's name bandied about as an author to watch out for in both fant...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Though I've often heard Maria V. Snyder's name bandied about as an author to watch out for in both fantasy and young-adult genres, Touch of Power was my first novel from the author. I did not immediately fall in love with this novel - it took about seventy-five pages before I entrenched in Avry's story, with no urge to extricate myself. I have to admit I was so taken with this young-adult fantasy novel that the day I finished it, I went out and bought Ms. Snyder's entire first published series, and by far the most popular of her four. Touch of Power does have a few minor and not-so-minor problems that keep it from my "best-of-2011" lists and from being "great" instead of just "really good", but this was a thoroughly delightful fantasy read. Touch of Power is definitely a young-adult fantasy novel: the themes and "magics" used are basic, if interesting, though I can see easily that this would be a novel that held appeal for other, older fantasy-genre lovers out there.
Avry of Kazan is the main character, and while she may not top my lists of all-time favorites for characters (or even favorites for this novel itself coughBelenFleacough), she is genuine and occasionally very likeable. Her reticence to ever explain her motivations/beliefs got wearying, especially when it was revealed Avry was justified in said action/nonaction/thought- it just took too long to explain why and ended up costing the character some affection from me. In particular, I think that her reasons, besides health-wise for her aversion to Ryne, in particular, felt like they should've been divulged much earlier in the narrative. Avry's hounded life for the three years since the devastating plague that ruined the Fifteen Realms is left largely to the imagination, but what details are supplied only add more valid reinforcement to Avry's world-weary attitude. She might veer into misery and self-importance a bit too often for me to love her, but as the last Healer in her world, it's not un-understandable. She's a fairly grounded character, for all the guilt, worry and fear stacked upon her shoulders. If I didn't exactly love her, I certainly felt more than a semblance of a rapport with the dry, wry twenty-year old.
The supporting cast is what got to me first, before Avry or Snyder's deceptively readable prose. From the bear-like Belen to the, well, flea-like Flea, this varied group were lovable, amusing and perfect comedic timing for Avry's downcast perspective (the monkeys!) I defy you not to find either Belen or Flea or Quain or Vinn at least mildly amusing. This is a group with definitely chemistry and the book works best when all the gang, with leader Kerrick of Alga, is together. While Kerrick took longer than the others for me to invest in as a character, especially with his overdone and sadlyy obvious Mystery Man Who Is Clearly More Than He Seems act, but I liked the no-bullshit attitude he had, as well as his harder-to-find gooey center. I also liked the dynamic between Kerrick and Avry: two supremely stubborn, smart people refusing to give into the other - it allowed for some amusing and revealing dialogue, especially on the long treks the company partook. Belen is definitely my over-all favorite; Poppa Bear may not be the most developed character, but what is shown is more than enough to cement me in his fanbase. I did wish there was more than one female character traveling in the marauders, in order to contrast with Avry, but this a very male dominated novel.
I wish that the world-building of the Fifteen Realms had been as strong, even if flawed, as Avry is presented. For a fantasy novel, I found the almost complete lack of world-building to be a major flaw in Ms. Snyder's design. Besides basic information, like the Fifteen Realms title for the continent, barely any details about the cities, history, etc. are meted out for the reader to digest. I was thoroughly disappointed in the lack of atmosphere, setting, information Ms. Snyder failed to provide - there is a lot of potential in this vibrant world with its mix of monarchies, presidencies, republics - and the grey areas are detrimental to the colorful world otherwise in existence. Thankfully for the Fifteen Realms themselves, and happily for me as an insatiable reader, there are to be sequels in this series and world, and I have confidence that the next one (Scent of Magic is due out 2012), will pick up certain areas of laxity that were present in the first. I also hope that included along in the more detailed information about the realms, Scent of Magic will explain some of the seeming anachronisms present in the novel. In a novel that comes across as mostly/vaguely medieval, word-drops like "president", "syringe" ,"toxins", and "sociopath" don't seem to fit within the vernacular of the world. It disoriented me when Avry would so casually reference a scientific advancement and no explanations left me frustrated with the where and the when of the novel.
Touch of Power is fast-paced, action adventure. It - and Mrs. Snyder - don't hesitate to throw the characters into many and varied adventures as they race the clock: events such as jailbreaks, rebellions, plagues, and a myriad of magical problems dog the heroes all the way across the Nine Mountains. Even characters beloved and clsoe to my ehart sadly weren't safe, though their losses were effecting and overall necessary to the plot. I can also say I was impressed with the seemingly-random plotlines, events, ideas that Ms. Snyder managed to pull together almost effortlessly. Everything works for this novel, plot-wise: event plants I had assumed irrelevant came back later int he novel with genuine twists and turns I never saw coming. I had no issues with Ms. Snyder's easy, readable style in Touch of Power, in particular her deft and descriptive hand for fight scenes and combat keep the stakes high without overdoing the bloodshed and deaths.
I wished for more depth from the villain of the novel, as well. First off-screen and whispered about, then on-screen and somewhat chilling, Tohon of Sogra is a capable big bad, but I find his motivation for everything to be rather. . . simplistic. He's explained and introduced as such a smart, devious, creepy man that I expected much much more for the raison d'etre of his madness and his plans. Like with other, previously mentioned details, it just seemed less than the potential the character had. Don't get me wrong: he's very effective and entirely believable in his role how he is presented, I just felt there was an opportunity for more. I just couldn't buy his too-easy reasons.
Touch of Power wraps up its action-packed pages with a decent, nice ending - definitely not the most riveting, but ensured my full attention and worry. Various prevalent and mysterious elements from the story were combined believably, without coming off as a deux-ex-machina. I ended this novel practically itching to get my hands on the next - and I think that is the most telling thing about this novel. As frustrated and irritated as I was over some bits and parts, I NEVER considered not continuing this series the minute the next book is available. I can't wait to join Avry, Kerrick, Belen and the monkeys as they continue their adventures all over the Fifteen Realms. (less)
With one of the few prologues that has excited me rather than dismayed me, Crave was an. ....moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
2.5 out of 5
With one of the few prologues that has excited me rather than dismayed me, Crave was an. . . experience from start to finish. This supernatural young adult novel is a very hard beast for me to categorize within my usual systems. One one hand, there were so many cliches and unnecessary elements that felt like filler, but on the other hand I had fun reading the novel and was intrigued by the lore/mythology of this supernatural world. Melissa Darnell's Crave has had several ratings from me in the day of reading and two days of analyzing I've had with it. From a 3, rationalized to a 2, again rationalized to a 2.5 out of 5 as the fairest I can do for this novel with my extreme mixed emotions. Savannah and Tristan's stories from the first in the Clann series made me intensely want to smack them both, separate them, laugh at them. . . and ultimately want to read its sequel, Covet, as soon as I can get my grabby, contradictory hands on it in 2012. The only thing I can say is that it's like a bad movie: so bad it's good and you can't help but enjoy the often ridiculous, but hard-to-stop ride.
As said earlier Crave is all about two teens: Savannah Colbert, the "social outcast" of her high school and "golden boy" Tristan Coleman. The reader gets in both characters heads quite intimately with the switching, dual POV chapters from each. While I liked the switches between the views of Sav and Tristan, they came much too frequently in the flow of the novel and often without seeming to really need to change to the other's mind. With such a slow plot, with little to nothing happening (seriously the most exciting "event" in the first two hundred and fifty pages is some creepy guys and one guy grabbing Savannah's wrist) the shifts just exacerbated the problems already present. What kept me most interested was the lore and mythology of the Clann, it's secretive ways and just why the two kids were separated at such a young age.
Savannah was an okay protagonist, I suppose. I enjoyed her after a while, but she definitely didn't jump off the page in a burst of life and vivacity or anything, for me as a reader. She was a nicely rounded-out character, one who actually (amazingly, astoundingly) had a group of female friends with brains. I especially loved her friend Anne: protective, sarcastic and smart she was instantly relate-able to me in a way Savannah just wasn't. But, as more and more is revealed about Sav as the novel progressed, I warmed to her. Slight spoiler: especially when Sav was revealed as a half-witch, half vampire/succubus with powers! Tristan was more of a hit with me, though he too was far from ideal. I liked his struggles with his family and their expectations for him and his life -I feel that is something a lot of kids go through and Tristan's issues came across as genuine. He was a charming and even kind kid, apparently a rarity in this town/school. His overtures with Anne showed a lot about his personality and he helped me to warm to his girlfriend. I did laugh that his dream was to play in the NFL, but hey, he's a teenage boy. I did think idolized Savannah a bit much, as well. He constantly narrated, commented on, was angered by how saintlike and giving and perfect she was. We get it - we got it two chapters ago - move on, dude..
One thing I hated about both Tris and Sav: their relationship is practically Twilight but with witches and a part-succubus. Their teenage relationship is chock full of insta!love (no, being best friends in 4th grade does not negate years of independent growth/change/apparent hatred for each other with no communication - Sav and Tris do NOT know each other after reuniting, at least, not enough to be so "deeply" in love), "protectiveness" on part of Tristan that is borderline controlling and stalking, and of course, Tristan's blood is Sav's perfect cocktail (what, does he smell of lavender and freesia, maybe?) - so much so she is always aware whenever he is near. While happily Savannah does have dating experience other than her soulmate, I just had to knock a star off for this ridiculous relationship. It's laughable and like I said, been done before, many, many times. There's also no explanation just why it is Tristan, out of all the Clann, appeals just so much to Miss Savannah. If it's power, Tristan stated both his sister and father were stronger and more dedicated than he was with the magic, so it seems like unnecessary addition. I also wished for more from the vampire side of the novel: from Sav's dad to ominous Council, they seemed to swoop in randomly and then be ignored as part of the novel for quite a while.
I also soon realized just why the prologue was alluring, danger-filled and exciting: it's because the rest of the novel isn't. At all. This is a 400+ page novel with a plot consisting for the first 300 entirely of an old Friends trick: will they or won't they, can they, should they date? Seriously. It's all build-up and "oh no, I'm not allowed to date her!" "I can't be with him, it's against the rules!" when all along everyone - the characters, the reader, the author - all know it's a long-gone, foregone conclusion that they will. Ms. Darnell just dragged this unnecessary dating-or-not-dating drama out for far too long and other concerns that should have been pressing and important (the bloodlust, the council) are relegated to the back until the last 100 pages. For the first half, clueless me sat there wondering, "where's the action? When are the vampires, The Clann, anyone at all! going to do something/anything besides threaten and lurk offscreen?" This is a slow read, and if I hadn't been particuarly zealous the day I read it, I would probably still be struggling through the four hundred page length of the tome. There's no impetus to read besides finishing the novel, because there's no climactic build-up or suspense. Even the end of the novel lacks suspense or real excitement. Maybe Miss Darnell can fix these issues with the second, but I know I will be reading it regardless(less)
Once again ensconced within the compact world of Caine's Morganville series, the eighth novel does something I have been desiring for many a novel: a...moreOnce again ensconced within the compact world of Caine's Morganville series, the eighth novel does something I have been desiring for many a novel: a change of scenery. Finally, and not without her usual ulterior motives, Amelie grants Claire and the Misfits leave to actually, you know, leave her controlled little vampire town in Texas. Not only is the change of view different later in the game here, but the portals, a steadfast feature of the town/books for many of the volumes - and the jealous homicidal steampunk vampire computer that powered the shifting portals - are long gone. New tensions arise between previous harmonic couples and overall, Kiss of Death is a refreshing change in the midst of such a long - but always entertaining - series.
The book relocates to Dallas, with Claire, Shane, Eve, Michael and watchdog Oliver in tow. I liked both the mixup of locale, as I've said, and also the addition of Oliver to a more prominent role. Oliver is one of "sleeper" characters of this series: over the last few novels I've developed some kind of affection for the dangerous and wily Englishman. He certainly interests me more than the new chief antagonist of Amelie's, the vampire called Morley. The premier antagonist of both the last two novels, I find him bland and a not very interesting vampire character, especially contrasted to the more rounded characters of Amelie, Oliver, and Myrnin. Morley lacks Amelie's cold intelligence and small kindness; he's the lesser of Oliver's wit and knowledge; he has none of Myrnin's wild, dangerous charm. He's a shadow hidden amongst stronger personalities and a much weaker opponent.
Like I said, couples that have been rock solid are on shaky ground. I definitely < a href="http://bibliophileanonymous.blogspot.... my issues with Caine's sophomoric treatment of Claire and Shane's romantic relationship in the previous book and this time around, it's Michael and Eve with turbulence in the flight path of their love. Ha, corny. Anyway: I'm sick to death of the endless drama. Michael has been a vampire for nigh on six books already; either Eve can handle that or she can't. The endless back and forth does little but detrimentally affect how I view Eve as a character. I like Eve, or maybe at this point I want to like Eve. After her silly and stupid actions during Fade Out with Kim/Claire, I had hoped for some maturity from the diminutive Goth in the direct successor. I'm getting less and less enthused with Eve, but will not cut her off completely. There's still what, eight more books left in this series? So happily, Eve's got plenty of time and page to redeem herself and become again the intelligent spitfire from before, just please quit with the overwrought relationship melodrama.
Say what I will about Claire Danvers, her ragtag group of misfits and Morganville itself - this is an addicting series. So what if plots often seem va...moreSay what I will about Claire Danvers, her ragtag group of misfits and Morganville itself - this is an addicting series. So what if plots often seem vaguely reminiscent of a previous novel from earlier down the line, so what if the setting gets old because the characters never go anywhere, I cannot deny that reading The Morganville Vampire series is just plain fun and a nice opportunity for some vampire escapism. Fade Out is another fine addition to this high-action and oftentimes silly series: slower in pace than recent novels yet still with plenty of action, but just as easy and quick a read.
If I liked the easy feel to the novel, I hated Claire and Eve's interactions (or lack thereof....) for most of this novel. Usually in the first six books, the two are nearly inseparable besties, even when bickering, showing a normal, authentic teenage best-friendship (yeah, that's the word we're going with.) I was really bothered by Eve's attitude in Fade Out: her attraction to hang around Kim seems false and unnatural for such a stubborn character, one so devoted to her core group of Michael, Shane and Claire. I also just plain hated Kim: she's false and obvious from her first mention and what she does to the Misfits is just... disturbing, though not on the usual level (read: vampiric) for these novels. It's a pointed reminder that the human race often idealized by these four teens is often just as nasty and unpleasant as the suckers they so openly and often despise. I also liked the roving bands of violent humans targeting vampires or any of their "Renfields": at least it's just not the vampires as the bad guys anymore.
Claire managed to impress me with her maturity for once in Fade Out. Instead of just stubbornly arguing with her parents, compromises are reached, actual communication takes place and the world doesn't end. It's a miracle: I've only wanted Claire and her parents to do this for about three books now. Overdue, but I'll take what I can get. I just wish Claire's new-found maturity had extended to her problems with Eve in this novel. Kim's added attraction to Shane just reintroduced all the doubt Claire has had before and colored one of my favorite couples in this series. All their ensuing relationship drama because of Kim was just ridiculous (mostly because of Claire's immaturity to accept he had a life before he knew her...) and just annoyed me. It's seven books into a series (partly) revolving around Claire and her boyfriend: either their relationship is solid and beyond this silly high school stuff, or it isn't.