This started a bit sloe for me, and I was never as involved or engaged as I would have liked, but it was an interesting, fresh take on Lincoln's assas...moreThis started a bit sloe for me, and I was never as involved or engaged as I would have liked, but it was an interesting, fresh take on Lincoln's assassination. Review to come.(less)
3 stars? 3.5? 3.75? I CAN'T DECIDE. I was always entertained; I was invested in the characters and plot......but there were numerous issues. I'll figu...more3 stars? 3.5? 3.75? I CAN'T DECIDE. I was always entertained; I was invested in the characters and plot......but there were numerous issues. I'll figure it out later, but I am glad I read this. Fun, creative and light reading at its best.
Released in the centennial year for the publication of Tarzan of the Apes...moreWant to win a copy of Jane?! Head over to my blog to enter (US/Canada only)!
Released in the centennial year for the publication of Tarzan of the Apes original publication and endorsed by Edgar Rice Burroughs' estate, Jane is an involving, detailed, engrossing, and yet, original retelling of a well-loved and widely known story. Robin Maxwell is my first exposure to actually reading the mythos of the Tarzan world (watching the 1999 Disney animated movie clearly does not count), and her updated version, while clearly paying homage to the source material, is indelibly her own. Jane is a novel rife with adventure, credible characters, excitement, betrayals, and revelations. An engaging read from the get-go, the spotlight on protagonist and narrator Jane makes for a fast but highly enjoyable read for those all too-short 320 pages. I had planned to read Burroughs' original version, but now I wonder if that one will hold up as well in my opinion as what Maxwell has recreated here.
As the title character and first-person narrator for the eponymous novel, Jane will either make or break this novel for readers. I, for one, unabashedly loved her. Her voice is strong and clear; I identified with and rooted for this intelligent and unique woman as she grapples with society's unforgiving attitudes, as she grows and learns about herself, Africa, and what she wants from her life. I loved Jane's strident attitudes, her analytical approach to any and all situations, her unflinching convictions and stalwart self-esteem. She's an unconventional woman for her time but not so much as to be entirely anachronistic for the era and setting the novel takes place during. She may eventually want a man, but unlike her society peers, she definitely doesn't need one. While her views and opinions can approach the unrealistic, the sincere motivations at the heart of Jane's actions ring true and keep her character from sticking out as improbable. An aspiring paleoanthropologist, the beginning flashbacks illustrate clearly how committed and devoted Jane is to her field and establish a more than credible reason for her journey to Africa and the events that transpire there.
The growing dynamic between Tarzan and his more "civilized" mate evolves maturely and with aplomb under less than ideal circumstances. Tarzan himself is a bit romanticized (both by Burroughs and by Maxwell here) - and the romance between him and Jane does provide a lot of internal debate for the title character - but he is realistic and engaging in his distant role. His relationship with Jane is complicated and hard-won, but it is a real partnership of equals, unlike what she could have expected back in her "civilized" home country. Theirs is a true give and take - each teaches the other essential skills for living in their respective worlds. Their interactions are a bit simpler and overcome more easily than I had expected (the language barrier most noticeably) but it doesn't jar too much. Under Maxwell's able hand as storyteller, the bits and pieces of Tarzan's tragic history and life are teased out into the more action packed events evenly and keep the sentimentality on par with the action and excitement of life as The Wild Ape Man.
The vibrant setting of Africa is one of the very best aspects of the novel. The place-as-character is superb here. It's really topnotch - from the port town of Libreville to the boat trip down the Mbele Ogowe River to the Great Bower, every scene and setting pops from the page with a burst of color. As one character so aptly said to Jane early on: "You do not live in Africa, my dear. Africa lives in you." Under Robin Maxwell's pen and talent, I certainly felt like I was seeing the jungles, forests, villages myself. This is a creative author with an obvious ability to set and describe a scene; her talent for place as character is one of the more prominent things I will take away from reading Jane. I haven't read many other historical novels set on this particular continent, but upon, reluctantly, concluding this one, I can't imagine I will wait long to search out another. Maxwell touches upon so many issues of that plagued continent - colonization by European powers, the deforestation of jungles for trade routes, King Leopold of Belgium's genocide of 10 million natives - that some areas do feel slightly shortchanged, but all serve to create an even bigger, more authentic view of Africa and its problems.
This is a book that started out good, one that easily progressed past my initial lukewarm feelings due a bit of an infodump and into "great" territory, and one that ends with a bang (and a hint at a possibility for more down the line?!). A clear departure both from its source material and the sanitized Disney version, Jane is no wilting violet but a strong protagonist with great depth and characterization, more than able to carry the weight of the novel on her own. A great read and reinvention of one of the most beloved stories, Jane is a credit to both Edgar Rice Burroughs' original tale and to Robin Maxwell's immense individual talent. With characters crafted so well, with vibrant settings and a plot that moves at a brisk and involving pace, this is a novel retelling that will stand out and stand the test of time equally well. Highly recommended and highly enjoyable -- those on the lookout for a new era/setting in historical fiction need look no further than Jane.(less)
That was a creepy, awesome, often quite funny, read. I would say I am surprised but I've talked to Karina before (and in all honesty, she sent me a co...moreThat was a creepy, awesome, often quite funny, read. I would say I am surprised but I've talked to Karina before (and in all honesty, she sent me a copy to read) and I know she is made of awesome and win. It's heartening to see that her talent backs up my impression of her. The Devil's Metal is an original, diverting, winner. Well done and I can't wait to see where the author takes this new series? duology? from here.
This is a review for the third and final novel in the series about Twelve Dancing Princesses, but what...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
This is a review for the third and final novel in the series about Twelve Dancing Princesses, but what I say here about Princess of the Silver Woods holds true for all of the books. I so wanted to love these - I had heard great things and excitedly requested this as an ARC, even without reading the first two. Sadly, I was confused, bored, uninvolved from the very start, so I DNF'd 50 pages in. A week or so later, the first two went on sale for ebooks for less than $2 each. I thought I would give it another try - this time with the benefit of reading the series in order. I read the first two... and it wasn't pretty. They aren't the worst books I've ever read, but I am hard-pressed to remember a series as lackluster and unengaging as this was for me.
Each novel tackles a different fairytale, and occasionally Day George would create a new twist or idea that worked well for her books. I liked the spin on Red Riding Hood meets Robin Hood, but it's hard to recall a lot about these novels. What didn't work well, ever, were her characters. Galen, Rose, Poppy, Christian, and here in book three, Petunia and Oliver all come across as wooden and flat for the duration. Their actions are contrived, their dialogue laughable or vague, their magic and abilities too convenient or too unexplained.I wanted to like them, but their trials, tribulations and eventual coupledom were all too expected and very predictable.
Also working against the books is the worldbuilding. Or rather, the lack of any substantial effort to create a real, vibrant setting for these characters to operate upon. The thinly veiled countries that represent a more magical Europe (Breton = Britain, Spania = Spain, Russaka = Russia, so on and so forth) left a lot to be desired in terms of backdrop. It's all too simple and easy across the board - the relationships, the magic, the world itself. I wanted more from Jessica Day George, and what is provided leaves a lot to be desired.At several points in each novel, I would think that these books and characters came across as much more MG than YA in tone and characterization.
This series is too simple and predictable to be memorable. I read all three in a four day span, and I doubt I will remember anything about any of them in a week's time. All in all: third verse, same as the first. Too simple, too easy, too predictable, too short to pack a punch. The magic is too vague, or too silly (the whole knitting aspect just makes me laugh, every time), and once again, none of the characters really stood out as remarkable, or even really three-dimensional. This series is just not for me, though I can see why others are drawn to it and enjoy it. (less)
Two stars? Two and a half? Maybe three? I don't even know. There were some quite inventive parts (The Affliction, the various creative uses of steampu...moreTwo stars? Two and a half? Maybe three? I don't even know. There were some quite inventive parts (The Affliction, the various creative uses of steampunk), and a few engaging characters (WiniFred, Ellie, Pimm), but so much of this was flat, dry, or just uninvolving. The aspects of The Constantine Affliction that I liked, I really liked, but the bad was so. damn. bad. I don't even know. I'm just glad to be done.
I admit it. I'm a Shannara fan, for all its blatant borrowing from The Lord of the Rings, for all its c...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
I admit it. I'm a Shannara fan, for all its blatant borrowing from The Lord of the Rings, for all its cliched and predictable plotlines, I can usually find a lot to enjoy in Terry Brook's fertile imagination. I've read more than my far share of the Shannara series in all its spin-offs and sideways travels, and though it's far from great literature, or even great fantasy, this short ebook reminds me of why I had such fondness for this author, and this widepsread world he has so lovingly created.
Though obviously this falls far short from my all-time Shannara favorites (those would be The Elfstones of Shannara [I was actually scared by one of the 'demon' antagonists in this - the Changeling - so much so I had to stop reading it at night haha], the Wishsong of Shannara [Garet Jax is and forever will be one of the most badass fantasy characters] and the Elf-Queen of Shannara [Garth!]), this forty-page journey with series staple Allanon is short, simple, and easy to digest. More of a bite-size snack rather than a full meal, but still Paladins of Shannara manages to bring back the full Shannara nostalgia. Fans of the series and books before will eat it up -- and appreciate the sneak peek into the next in this farspread, always expanding series, Wards of Faerie -- but, it's not the best place to start reading for any reader not familiar with the well-worn tales that Brooks has published. It's heavy on the history and mythology we all know so well from The Sword of Shannara on, with a lot of explanation and exposition to remind readers of what has come before, but is later in the chronology.
Though a bit thin on plot and filled with repetition, this is a diverting and engaging read for fans of Terry Brooks and his beloved, familiar characters. Anyone ever curious about how Gandalf Allanon was sent on the path to find Shea Ohmsford and stop the Warlock Lord for good will find just that in this quickly read and enjoyed novella. And now I want to go reread all my old favorites and prep myself for the release of the next book in this long-running series. While the novels can be a bit formulaic in their plots, it's the characters (Morgan Leah, Quentin Leah, Wren, Garet Jax, Garth, Eventine Elessedil) that I remember most and keep me coming back for more. (less)
I love this book wholeheartedly. Kate Morton rocketed to my absolute favorite author list last year on...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
I love this book wholeheartedly. Kate Morton rocketed to my absolute favorite author list last year on the strength of The Distant Hours and The Forgotten Garden, but this latest novel absolutely cements and guarantees her continued place there. The Secret Keeper blew my mind. Honestly, it might even rival The Distant Hours for my all-time favorite Kate Morton and mystery novel. It's just that good great; it's more of what Kate Morton does so very very well. All the time taken and careful preparations of the plot, scene, characters clearly show, and add up to make this novel a compulsive read filled with vibrant and flawed characters. I wanted to stretch out my reading experience - it's one of those few times when 480 pages seems like too little for a novel rather than a good size. For all my restraint and desire to keep this going as long as possible, I inhaled this novel in 14 hours - eight of which I was sleeping. An impressive fourth novel from a very talented author, fans and newcomers alike will eat The Secret Keeper up.
When I first started this, I was sure I was going to like it, but it didn't immediately grab me the way her first two novels had. I was curious, and intrigued where the multiple plotlines across various periods of time would eventually go, but it wasn't until about 100 pages in that I was truly gripped and aware that I was reading something truly special. The tension slowly builds as main character Laurel uncovers more and more about her mother's life before children and marriage, evoking both intensity and curiosity as her revelations show a very different woman than the mother she had known her whole life. The shifting perspectives of various characters (Laurel, her mother Dorothy, and a woman named Vivien) from 1941 to 1961 to 2011 allow for a wide view of the plot across the many eras that impact the story. The merging of the different plotlines and timeliness works so well under this author's capable hands. I did not want to put this down to eat, to sleep, or anything. It's hard to write this review because the reveal and payout are so rewarding, and I don't want go give anything - ANYTHING - away that might spoil the deft authorial sleight of hand that Morton has going.
I had high hopes going into reading The Secret Keeper, and if anything, this book exceeded any and all expectations I had for it. Morton's obvious and immense talent for prose, for setting, and for crafting such realistic, concrete characters to operate upon the page - alive in all their wishes, hopes, pasts, flaws, and mistakes - marks her as one of the best authors I have ever had the pleasure to read. With twists and turns and huge reveals that I never predicted and never once came off as hackneyed, this is an author that continually proves she knows how to write a story, as well as a truly mystifying mystery. An impressive storyteller with talent across the board including an-all-too-rare talent for subtlety and foreshadowing, her latest novel is heavy on detail, inner observations, and contemplation, but is never slow or boring. Themes of unexpected consequences, and desire are explored with caution and care, further adding to the complicated plot of the novel. With one of the top three best endings I've ever had the surprise of reading, The Secret Keeper is thoroughly satisfying and totally unpredictable.
Kate Morton is amazing. I am a huge fan, and I won't let too much time go before I dig into the only novel of hers I've yet to read - The House at Riverton. Her style is uniquely her own, and her ability to create such detailed, well-characterized novels truly sets her above most other authors. Nuanced, emotionally involving, original, and completely wonderful, The Secret Keeper further proves that my fangirling extreme love for Kate Morton's novels is more than founded - it's necessary. I haven't had such a strong reaction to a novel in far too long; I cared intensely about the characters, I was caught up in every timeline shown. This is an author who will be a favorite for a long, long time. I can only hope that a fifth novel is on the horizon for this immensely talented writer. (less)
Flat, with a cast of unengaging and thoroughly unlikeable characters (except Xander!), that offers little real resolution offered for any of the on...more2.5
Flat, with a cast of unengaging and thoroughly unlikeable characters (except Xander!), that offers little real resolution offered for any of the ongoing issues. All You Never Wanted tries to do too much with its short span of pages, and the result is a book that feel short-changed from character motivations and actions to the conflict and denouement. A disappointment that failed to deliver from start to finish, I don't think I will be rereading or recommending this particular novel in the future.(less)
These books have been an unexpected treat so far. The mix of medieval-lite fantasy and hardboiled noir...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
These books have been an unexpected treat so far. The mix of medieval-lite fantasy and hardboiled noir detective is a surprising and unique one, but one that Alex Bledsoe manages to meld together seamlessly. Strong in both the fantasy aspects - more prevalent here than in the first - and the twisty mystery, this is an author that can and does manage to surprise you as a reader. Much like the first one, I was kept guessing until the final pages and Eddie's big reveal. Compared to Jim Butcher's Dresden series in terms of tone, if not execution, the Eddie LaCrosse novels are inventive, fun, and a lot of that is down to how thoroughly awesome Eddie himself is. I find these novels to be more violent than Butcher's (though not really gorey - just full of typical fantasy world distasteful things.) He's a charming bastard, and one I find myself enjoying more and more as the books and pages go on and more is revealed about this smart, caustic mercenary turned sword jockey.
An immediate sequel that could easily work just as well as a standalone, Burn Me Deadly is just as immersive and hard to put down as its predecessor, The Sword-Edged Blonde. Entertaining and original, this homage to the classic Kiss Me Deadly reads both quickly and well. The detailed, complete world shown in the first book is further built upon and expanded. Eddie's voice is the exact same as in the first - hard but still likeable in all his faults, mistakes and errors with a twisty mystery to unravel. His hard-edged charm works through his tough-guy exterior more and more and the same tone, vice, and overall feel I had for Eddie before comes through in spades. Building on the hints and foundations of book one, everything from the world he lives in to Eddie's own personal history is detailed more. Alex Bledsoe's talent as an author is clearly growing steadily, and as it does, so does his characterization of this quasi-anti-hero protagonist.
This is not your typical fantasy novel. I wouldn't classify it as high or low fantasy, because it rally does mix both the fantasy aspects and the mystery elements to a highly original degree. Before this series, I'd never thought to combine them, nor would I have expected them to be so fun if I had. The plot of Burn Me Deadly has its infusion of fantasy (a dragon cult, patronized by royalty) and noir (one that is sponsored by a crime lord/smuggler), and boasts an elaborate setup. This sequel just feels more fantasy-esque than the first - it's still heavy on the whodunit, but peppered with more fantasy tropes. The mystery took a little longer to really heat up (hahaha) than it did for book one, but the ending payout is just as rewarding. This is a fast-paced read, one without the time-line jumps that could be a bit confusing in the first novel. It's a tad simpler, but no less involving or entertaining.
If you're looking for a fresh take on fantasy or mystery-genre, this noir sword-and-sorcery novel (and series) is exactly what you need to try. Burn Me Deadly is equal parts funny, dramatic, and filled with the same humor and danger that I came to expect from The Sword-Edged Blonde. With a clear writing style, an even hand at pacing and creating tension, and ability to craft a good mystery, Alex Bledsoe proves that his success with book one was anything but a fluke. I especially loved how the ending wrapped up and tied so neatly into book one (a great way to tie everything thus far together), and I finished eager to continue my adventures with Eddie. Burn Me Deadly may be my favorite of the series, but there are still two more (so far) adventures to go on and mysteries to unravel in this easily-envisioned world with this charismatic narrator. Sign me up.
Many thanks to the kind people at TLC Book Tours for sending me this novel in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.(less)
The Sword-Edged Blonde does something new and interesting - it merges two genres I love - fantasy and m...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
The Sword-Edged Blonde does something new and interesting - it merges two genres I love - fantasy and mystery - and spins them together in a highly fun and unique way. With a main character like investigator Eddie LaCrosse, who manages to inject a bit of wry, world-weary humor into a dark toned and murder-filled novel, there's a lot to enjoy in this first of a newish series. Both the fantasy aspects and the 'whodunit' more than hold up under the pressure of three hundred pages of revenge, fallen Goddess, and surprise revelations. Neatly and engrossingly told, this debut novel is hard to put down as the reader and Eddie race to figure out what happened to both Prince Pridiri and Epona Gray.
I'm a big fan of the way Alex Bledsoe writes about this alternate but familiar world, filled with 'sword jockeys', exiled nobility, and magic. Though I had never heard of him before Audra's wonderful review of this exact book, he steadily impressed me with his original storytelling ability and talent for crafting concrete, realistic, and flawed characters. Bledsoe also has an adept way of setting the scene - from the first sentence of the novel ("Spring came down hard that year. And I do mean hard, like the fist of some drunken pike poker with too much fury and not enough ale, whose wife just left him for some wandering minstrel and whose commanding officer absconded with his pay."), the voice of protagonist Eddie is uniquely his own and captivating, as is the imagined world he lives in. Consider me a fan of this author just after this first novel - I can only hope the rest of this semi-medieval fantasy series lives up to the standard of The Sword-Edged Blonde.
Main character Eddie is my favorite part of this slightly supernatural mix of mystery and fantasy. He's presented as a wholly flawed man with a dark and mysterious past all his own. Though the focus of the novel is more on unraveling the twisty web of political intrigue and revenge around Arentia's royal family, the tidbits that sneak out about Eddie's personal history added ever more depth to the hard-bitten and snarky man. I also loved his sense of humor from the outset. ("Okay. I'd found a clue. But it told me nothing. Actually, it took away some certainties, so it was more of an anti-clue. Eddie LaCrosse, reverse investigator." and "Always pay the insurance" - Eddie's version of the double tap.) If hardboiled, noir detective types are something you enjoy reading about, don't let the slight fantastical elements of The Sword-Edged Blonde scare you away. Lies, vendettas, secrets, twists, turns, and murder - all are part and parcel in this able and talented swordsman's daily excursions.
I vastly enjoyed the world Bledsoe has crafted. With obvious nods to the genres he melds so well, there is a bit of exposition to get through in the first hundred or so pages before the story really takes off. I'm not one to nitpick fantasy exposition as long as it's done as well as it is here. It/the flashbacks to Eddie's former life didn't choke up the storyline, but managed to actually add to the complete feel of the story/world created. I loved the infusion of Celtic and Welsh mythologies - fantasy as a genre tends to stick to mining the same ground for inspiration of gods and goddesses, and it's always refreshing to read a new take on the same old same old. The mystery element gets a bit muddled when the odd, remote character of Epona is introduced, but Bledsoe happily manages to clear it up with ease soon after.
I do have a few caveats, despite how thoroughly I got sucked into Eddie's story and world. I got a bit tired of how many women were blonde and attractive in this novel - there were so many mentioned that I lost count. There are many token women characters and none of them are characterized to the same degree as Eddie - which bothered me more and more as the trend continued throughout the novel. I also have slight issues with just who the woman appearing to Eddie at the end is, because it can come across a bit like women are replaceable versions of one another in this world. It's a minor complaint, but I wasn't happy with how that particular plotline was executed.
The Sword-Edged Blonde boasts a well-crafted mystery, a likeable if gruff and imperfect lead, a solid plot, and several truly unexpected twists and revelations. While the females of this world could do with some time and work, it is main character Eddie who commands attention and keeps the fun coming. There's tons more good than bad to be found in this first novel, and I thoroughly enjoyed my reading experience with The Sword-Edged Blonde. It's a "tongue in cheek" look at sword noir, and it works well across the board; inventive, fun, if superficial. I am a fan, and upon finishing, I was eager and excited to see what this author has cooked up for the second novel in the series, Burn Me Deadly.
Many thanks to TLC Book Tours for sending me this novel!(less)
Wake of the Bloody Angel is the best Eddie LaCrosse novel to date - hands down, no questions asked. I n...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Wake of the Bloody Angel is the best Eddie LaCrosse novel to date - hands down, no questions asked. I never guessed the outcome, never saw the twists coming, never wanted to put this down. The end came way too fast - this is another gem by Alex Bledsoe that reads so easily and so well, it's remarkably easy to get caught up in the world, story, and mystery at work here. After the minor stumble with Dark Jenny's execution and resolution, Eddie is back and better than ever here in the fourth installment in this fun and thoroughly entertaining series. Though less fantastical, for the most part, than the previous two in the sequence, Wake of the Bloody Angel is no less awesome, twisted, awful, creative or funny. Interweaving Eddie's life with a new mystery and with pirates and ex-pirates, this is a winner from the first chapter. From new revelations about old character staples to new spins on pirates and privateers, Alex Bledsoe once again proves that no one can mix such different genres as ably as he can - and does.
More action-packed than the last adventure, Eddie ventures once again out of his familiar territory and onto the high seas. Tackling a cold case from twenty years back, complete with a new dangerous, female companion to watch his back, Eddie finds himself in uncharted waters, chasing a ghost and a legend. Noticeably Eddie does less actual detecting here in than in the first three novels, so the slowly uncovered mystery takes an occasional backseat to some amusing tertiary and secondary characters. I really enjoyed the introduction to the characters of Jane Argo and Suhonen - they have more life and fire to them than some of the series' past background cast. Wake of the Bloody Angel is another light, fast read, but the action and sea battles shown are really top notch. The fights and swordplay are at their best here; they popped off the page and had me anxious for my favorites and eager to see how it worked out, all at the same time.
This is a prime example how of amusing, charming and rousing these novels can be and almost always are for the duration. Though this is rather tongue-in-cheek (and quite humorously cynical) rollicking pirate story, Bledsoe is not afraid, and often tend sto go to darker places with his story. Family abandonment, rape, animal abuse, obsession, the murder of children - all are part and parcel to the easily envisioned world crafted and shown. Three hundred and fifty pages have rarely ever seemed so short - I could've kept sailing with Jane, Eddie, Clift, and Dorsal for a hundred more. This novel, easily the best of the series so far, plays to the strengths of both Eddie, and the author. Eddie continues to grow, but happily, so do the other, familiar characters of Eddie's life. While the whole 'lookalike women' idea has been plundered (ha) quite often by the author (seriously, nearly novel so far has one set. The Sword-Edged Blonde: Cathy/Liz. Dark Jenny: Jennifer/Jenny. And here: Barbara/Angelina. But I digress), it's used in a new way for this fourth novel that doesn't feel too reminiscent of past territory.
Wake of the Bloody Angel is a damn good time - a fast, funny, imaginative, involving read populated with one of my favorite PIs. A fast-paced plot, intriguingly flawed characters, pirates and monsters, and a unique blend of genres and ideas all serve to further entrench me as a die-hard fan. Characters previously left undeveloped are fleshed out (and used as a nod to a popular song), Eddie experiences all manner of new antagonists (Cherish and Abigail being huge hits with me!), and even ghosts pop in to keep the supernatural element firmly in play. Unlike any of the previous three, Wake of the Bloody Angel is sure to keep the fans eager for more. I know I am not alone in eagerly anticipating a fifth Eddie LaCrosse novel - it honestly can't come fast enough.
Many, many thanks to TLC for providing me this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.(less)
This is just so so good, from start to finish. I'm still having a hard time putting coherent thoughts a...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
This is just so so good, from start to finish. I'm still having a hard time putting coherent thoughts about it together, but If I Lie made me cry, oh, once every 75 pages or so. It's gripping, and touching, and altogether beautiful in several ways. This is a book that made me feel things (All the feelings!), that made me care intensely about its wide cast of multi-dimensional characters people; all in all, this is a damn good book and I literally have zero complaints. It and the themes and issues explored in those 276 pages brought to mind The Scarlet Letter and another novel I recently read, Speechless by Hannah Harrington, on how inaction and silence can be as harmful as telling secrets. And, however much I was initially reminded of those novels, this is very much its own novel. Corrine Jackson is undoubtedly an author to watch and she more than proves her talent with this contemporary debut. Though I read an ARC of this, I fully plan to buy my own copy when it's available. Heart-breaking in a variety of ways, If I Lie is easily one of my best of 2012 reads.
This book is so much more than the blurb seems to let on. It's not the same tired old highschool angst and melodrama about a girl caught in a cliched love triangle. If I Lie is anything but that. It's heartfelt and emotional. In the end, it's about hope, love, trust, family, and ultimately, what it means to be your own person. It's about growing up, moving on, and learning how to live with curveballs life can and does throw at you. Though I called the secret even before starting, the heart of the novel isn't uncovering what happened those two days before Carey shipped out, but in watching how that secret affects and continues to impact the characters various lives after he's gone.
Main character and chief protagonist Sophie Topper Quinn is one of those few and far between heroines: she's strong, passionate, honorable, stubborn, flawed, and real. I absolutely loved Sophie and reading about her life, through her ups and downs, her stubbornness and her pride. This is the kind of character I can care about, root for and invest in heavily. Her voice is... real, organic -- it gets under the skin and makes you care about her and her life. She has hopes and dreams, is an active protagonist, even if some of what she does is more harmful than goo in the long run. This book is a great example of how first-person POV can be used effectively to make a reader identify closely with the narrator. I felt what Quinn felt, her full spectrum of emotions caught me early. Her inner monologue is just so realistic and further reinforces how authentic and grounded this character is. Corrine Jackson has this characterization, voice, plot all down pat here in If I Life, and I was impressed even as tears were streaming down my cheeks, multiple times.
Though my family isn't nearly as military-oriented as Quinn's is shown to be, I do have a brother who is a Sergeant in the Marines, and who has served two tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. And while, thankfully, he has never been MIA or wounded in action, the actions of the characters in this novel really hit home for me. The simple fact of not knowing where they are or how your loved one is is stressful and can lead people to do things they otherwise wouldn't. I'm not just talking about Quinn here (though her case is obviously not the same as others), but Carey's parents and friends as well. While their actions towards Quinn can be and often are abusive, I understand how it is to act out of fear for someone you love but cannot do anything to help. Corrine Jackson's skillful writing and my personal experiences makes it so that I understand them, even if I disagree with how they act. One of the best things, out of a multitude of options, about If I Lie are how human all these characters are, even the antagonists of Jamie and the Breens. They're practically alive with their flaws, mistakes, and errors.
I picked this up yesterday morning, intending to read a few chapters before I went to work out. I ended up pushing back my workout by several hours because I absolutely could not, and did not want to, put this down. If I Lie is compulsively readable, even as it repeatedly shatters your heart and wrangles all your emotions. Though the ending is more open-ended than anything, I choose to see it as a hopeful finale, for Quinn, for Blake, (view spoiler)[ for Quinn and Blake together as a couple after the summer ends (hide spoiler)]. It's perfect. This is a great book. Read it and love it. I can't recommend it highly enough. Well done, Corrine Jackson. You have made a fangirl out of me with just one novel alone and I eagerly anticipate whatever else you publish.
Eventually, I did get to my gym. But first, I went to see my brother and gave him a big hug and a 'thank you' for all he has done. Though the military is far from perfect, I am eternally grateful for what they all - every branch and every individual servicemember - have sacrificed for this country. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I have many, many feelings about this book. A lot of them are good, like: "Ooooh, this is u...moreRead This Review & More Like it On My Blog!
3.5 out of 5
I have many, many feelings about this book. A lot of them are good, like: "Ooooh, this is unexpectedly creeeepy!" or "This is an author who can write strong female protagonists!" but, sadly, some are along the lines of: "What the hell is going on?" and "Why aren't any of my questions -- most pertaining to key elements of the plot -- being answered?" There's obviously a lot of imagination and inventiveness going on throughout the nearly 400-page ARC I read, and some elements just aren't satisfactorily touched on enough to merit more than a 3.5/5 star rating. That all aside, I inhaled this book in under five and a half hours. I was glued to the pages from the first actiontastic chapter up until riiiight about 30 or so pages from the end, when Midnight City tried to do too much in too short of a span of pages. Missteps and unanswered questions aside, I really liked what Mitchell had to offer in this strong debut novel, and I would read it again.
The blending of post-apocalyptic and science fiction genres is not one I encounter a lot in my reading areas. I like both, but rarely seek them out, and the stark picture Mitchell paints with his almost-dystopic future is wholly unique for me as a reader. The scenario and mix of genres allows Mitchell to create a very engrossing, new type of setting, with a creative plotline to go along with it. I admit that I went into this with low expectations because I don't read a lot of science fiction about aliens, especially hostile ones -- they've scared me deeply since I watched Aliens when I was, oh, five or so. (Blame my sister --I surely do.) -- but Midnight City has an undeniably great mix of futuristic tech, alien life forms, and creative mixes of all the above, which was more than enough to make me see past my alien-bias. While not everything about the story is explained as well or cohesively as I'd have liked or enough to inflate my rating (like the artifacts and the Strange Lands), the bare bones laid down here are surely to be explained in the forthcoming sequels. Or so I can fervently hope -- what I can forgive in an introductory novel is far more than in subsequent novels.
Third person limited can be tough to pull off, especially in YA and especially with more than one character used to narrate the story. Not so is the case here; though Mira and Holt are always at a bit of a distance from the reader, it's quite easy to invest in and care about these two characters struggling to survive and do the right thing in a world gone mad. And it's impossible not to love Max. I appreciated how deftly Mitchell portrayed his protagonists: both are sharp, cunning, and resourceful, though in vastly different ways. The author obviously takes time and care to illustrate their respective strengths and weaknesses, very rarely falling into the trap of "telling" instead of showing. Their relationship is complex and doesn't rush headlong into tropes or cliches; refreshing for a YA novel indeed. From a captor/captive situation to uneasy allies to friends with sparkly feelings, the evolution of Holt and Mira's connection felt both organic and natural for both. This is definitely more of aplot-driven novel, but all of the main characters from Holt to Mira to "the Max" to Zoey can more than hold their own.
Midnight City was easily coasting along at about a 3.75 or even a 4/5 rating for me, until the very end. What had been an adventure at an even pace for 350 pages turned into a madcap rush to the finish line. The ending thirty or so pages were a chaotic mess of unexplained happenings and no clear sense of what was going on. I was super confused, and then, pretty damn frustrated with a novel I had been thoroughly immersed in, just chapters before. Chaotic and much faster in pace than anything that had come before, I was let down by the final climax and that cliffhanger of a denouement. There are so many unanswered questions once the final page is turned and they felt like a glaring omission. For instance: (view spoiler)[ why was Holt on the run from the Menagerie/have a bounty on his head? What was Ben's relationship with Mira? How/why can Zoey do the things she can do? [The 'few' memories felt like a cop-out and explained NOTHING!] Why are the different factions of the Assembly fighting one another for/over the eight-year-old? (hide spoiler)] It's just too much left vague, hanging open to interpretation, and also feels like an easy way to ensure readers continue with book two.
Simply put, the first Conquered Earth novel wasn't a perfect novel, but I really liked it. J. Barton Mitchell is an even-handed storyteller: able to ramp up the tension with several hair-raising action scenes while still majorly bringing it with the cast of diverse, individual characters. I'll be more than interested to see what he dreams up for the group of hardy survivors, and hope that his talent as a writer continues to grow. Midnight City is entertaining, unique, and wholly readable. Engrossing even - fans of Ender's Game and other YA alien scifi favorites would do well to pick this one up.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
No. Just no. Am I reading the same book as everyone else? This was awful across the board. A smattering...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
No. Just no. Am I reading the same book as everyone else? This was awful across the board. A smattering of a (very) few good ideas, scant worldbuilding (and what is there is very unoriginal), and very poor execution coupled with two unlikeable protagonists make for a very unsatisfied Jessie. This is not going to be pretty. I'm pretty damn disappointed with this novel, as well as being supremely frustrated with it. I had passed this over several times on my frequent go-throughs of NetGalley - PNR/UF is far from my favorite genre as they tend to be predictable and all vaguely alike - and I should've stuck with my initial, quite wary, thoughts. Misled by all the 4 and 5-star reviews I'd then subsequently seen for this, I thought Blade Song might be the exception to my UF/PNR rule... and no. Absolutely not. Not by a long shot. The few, creative things I liked about it in the beginning pages were soon abandoned to the mess that is the rest of this cliched and poorly-executed book.
What I Liked:
-new kind of supernatural being - the aneira - warrior women with magical abilities, aka amazons -new ideas on typical vampire mythology -lose more and more of their soul as they age, feed on humans for blood, but also emotions they have lost as a result - a POC for a love-interest (too bad his actual personality is as nails on a chalkboard. For 250 pages.)
What I Hated Did Not Like:
Okay, seriously, I'll go through a few of my many, many issues with this book. It made me too angry to go through them all, and I have many other books I'd like to read, so here's the short rundown.
For a novel that started so strongly, Blade Song devolves fairly quickly. A lot of my problems with this first in a series stem from the weak main character of Kitasa herself. She's just so incredibly brainless, thoughtless, heedless. For the ENTIRE NOVEL. Also, for a half-amazon assassin, this is a pretty worthless fighter. She's always fainting, passing out, or just plain needing to be rescued. Where is the strong warrior character I was promised? Cause she for sure never showed up past chapter two. Instead, I got a weak-willed pushover who confuses a controlling asshole for a worthy love interest. Kit is much more a weak-willed damsel in distress waiting for her man to come save her. No. Just.. no. Especially when I was promised an active, capable heroine. Not cool.
Damon is an asshole, and I hated him from start to end. Though spared from his POVs (thank you!), his actions and disalogues with/to Kit show him to be a Bad Idea. Alpha males are far from my favorite type of love interest, and here is no exception. For about 90% of the novel, he's abusive, or controlling,or just plain rude. His abrupt switch from unagreeable aggressor to lovaaah is just too quick, foundation-less, and unbelievable. You don't get to "wring [Kit's] neck" black and blue, and then oh-so-love her a week later, with all forgiven. No. I'm sorry. I don't buy that. You don't spy on her texts and control her actions and then get to be the hero over and over. Bad Damon, very bad.
This was a big miss and a huge disappointment for me; I was prepared to and really wanted to love it, based on the reviews I read from trusted friends. It just wasn't meant to be, for me. The few good ideas were easily and quickly glossed over in favor of typical and standard genre fare - power games, a human(ish) woman caught between a powerful vampire and a powerful weresomething in an human/supernaturally incorporated city - and Blade Song never delivered on its promise of a fun, smart, deadly Amazon assassin. Simplistic, cliched, with flat and unlikeable characters, I won't be continuing this series with Night Blade, the second book due out sometime in the near future.
If you're morbidly curious or wish to try out Kit's special blend of stupid and reckless for yourself, the good news is that Blade Song will only set you back about $5 to read. Just be warned: may induce feelings of incredible frustration and severe disappointment.(less)
I hate to damn The Emperor's Conspiracy with faint praise, but the best adjectives I can come up with t...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
I hate to damn The Emperor's Conspiracy with faint praise, but the best adjectives I can come up with to describe it are: Decent. Okay. Not bad. Adequate. I was entertained, but never invested or engrossed in the story. All in all, it was an alright novel with less than perfect characterization. It also wasn't the exciting mystery I had hoped to get, and at times this read much more like a historical romance than a historical fiction novel... but it wasn't horrible. It just wasn't a great read for me, personally, though I can easily see why others might feel differently when it comes out later this year. It can be entertaining and amusing, but the flat characters, the cliched love triangle, and the third person limited POV didn't do much to make me fully invested, either. I didn't hate it and I would probably read another novel from this author -- especially since she has two Tudor-era novels, which is much more my forte than Regency England -- but this one, plain and simply, just didn't live up the inner expectations I had for it. (Yep, damning with faint praise it is.)
Easily started and finished in the same day, this Regency-era look at Britain and the main characters of Charlotte Raven and Lord Edward Durnham came off as somewhat cliche in several areas. I will say this for it: it reads quite easily and quickly. There's the down on her luck lady with a checkered past, caught between the crime lord she owes her survival to and the Lord who wants her for independence, fiery will, and humor. Unfortunately, these are all pretty shallow characters and their interactions across the board come off as formulaic and predictable throughout the novel. Neither Charlotte, nor Edward, or Luke, really get the time and attention they deserve. And what we do know about them is told to the reader, instead of shown by their actions or dialogue. They might be interesting, but they are sadly one-dimensional.
There's much more time and pages spent setting up a contest over protagonist Charlotte's affections than there is time spent on constructing a good conspiracy, or y'know, actually moving the plot along. Complete with one of my least favorite plot devices, instalove (honestly, what draws Charlotte and Edward together so fast? I read the damn thing and I can't tell you), The Emperor's Conspiracy falls victim to many easily avoidable traps. The plot takes way too long to kick in due to the first hundred pages being big on setting the scene, establishing the smallish cast of characters and their respective relationships. In a book of only 320 pages for the final edition, that is too long without any momentum or action or revelations abut the conspiracy at the heart of everything. The overall antagonist lacks a presence and I found the red herrings to be obvious as well as the final reveal. A little more subtlety or more authorial sleigh of hand would have gone a long way to making the conspiracy of the title more riveting.
For all my issues, I did like this for a couple reasons: it actually introduced me to some new facts about Britain and Napoleon's long-lived enmity for the country. Luke's experiences in the prison hulks was something I had never ever heard of, and gave his plotline a little more life than the others had. Also, the fact that the conspiracy Diener writes of is based in actual fact. That is fascinating to me; much more so than the scant attention it warrants here -- until the final 50 pages, that is. If there had been more interaction and attention spent with that aspect of the novel, rather than the pissing contest over Charlotte's time and attention and all people watching people watching other people for other people, I would've found myself giving this at least a 3.5/3.75 stars instead of merely a three.
The ending was nicely handled, and for once with this book, it didn't go the way I had predicted. The open-ended nature of the last page leaves room for maneuvering and a possible sequel, which is totally alright with me. I may have been less than enthused with my first experience with Michelle Diener's writing, but it probably will not be my last. (less)
This is a creepy love-letter to Chicago, its history and to teens who love to hear things go bump in th...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
This is a creepy love-letter to Chicago, its history and to teens who love to hear things go bump in the night. Though I am slightly too old to be really creeped out by this collection of ten, often vastly different, stories of death and often weirdness (exception: Edgar's story was deceptively creepy and a nice ode to Edgar Allan Poe), I greatly enjoyed this unique frame for short stories. I'm not going to lie, the introduction/the first few pages and Mike's initial experience with a ghost reminded me greatly of Supernatural's pilot episode (woman in white appears mysteriously, "take me home"), but On The Day I Died quickly emerges as a fun, entertaining and weirdly awesome combination of horror and the supernatural; one of Candace Fleming's own unique invention.
From tales of "grow your own aliens" (David, 1941 - 1956) to a more modern form of horror (neglect and abuse - Tracy 1959-1974) the ghosts of each child in White Cemetery each set out to tell their individual tales of woe to Mike, an unwitting participant in this yearly tradition. Though On The Day I Died focuses more on humor, the supernatural, creative forms of evil, etc. than on individual characterization for each ghost, the wide variety of the stories and their respective nature of death is more than enough to involve readers of all ages. Though this book's setting and each child is centered around Chicago, the various nods to other cultures (East Indian fakirs and a Sumerian death chant!) add a nice variety to several of the stories.
The shifts from Mike's POV (third-person omniscient) to the ghosts (told in first person) are not my favorite, but it works here. This is a deftly-handled short story collection, and if some stories (Lily [1982-1999], Scott [1995-2012]) lack the punch of others (Edgar [1853-1870], Evelyn [1877-1893], Rich [1965-1981]), all are still fun, creative and very enjoyable to read. (less)
Written as a prequel to the well-loved Ender's Game, Johnston's Earth Unaware tries to fill in some of...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Written as a prequel to the well-loved Ender's Game, Johnston's Earth Unaware tries to fill in some of the holes and unexplored history of the "Enderverse" and the first Formic War that led to Battle School, and Ender's adventures in vanquishing the "hormigas"/Formics. When this book works the most, it succeeds predominately on misplaced nostalgia for the earlier-published-but-later-in-the-chronology novels like Ender's Game, Xenophobe, Children of the Mind, etc. I found Earth Unaware to be a weak, ghost-written book that lacks the easy charisma, dynamic characters, and unique storyline that the other books possessed in abundance and which made them so memorable.
There are obviously some good, interesting ideas at play here (the asteroid mining and the cultures that sprout up around them [free miners versus corporations, etc.]) but Aaron Johnston is primarily a graphic novelist, and it shows quite obviously here. Nothing about the novel is realized to its full potential -- from characters to plot to even the action, almost all about Earth Unaware felt contrived, weak, and overdone all at the same time. This is a superficial and shallow adaptation of Ender and the world's backstory, obviously written primarily to lure in fans of Ender's Game and its subsequent sequels. The plot is minimal, the characters are in dire need of more/or a rounded personality (or in Wit's case, a connection to the actual story. His Earth-bound plot will surely coincide with the events of the sequels, but for Earth Unaware, they are more filler than anything else, Mazer Rackham cameo or not.)
Wonky pacing, uneven and unconnected storylines, cliched or predictable characters, and more made this a miss for me. The few things I found interesting were often and quickly glossed over to focus on the less developed ideas and characters. There are people who will absolutely love this and gush over the finally explained and explored first contact with the Formics, but Earth Unaware is nowhere near the league of Ender's Game in any area. This review is much shorter than most, but my disappointment with this and OSC's raging homophobia make it almost impossible for an impartial thought.
And other thoughts:
When I first read Ender's Game, I was 10. It was my first scifi novel and Ender was a protagonist seemingly created just for me to love. I still love it to this day, but more for nostalgia and my first sense of how powerful children could be than for anything else. It was revelatory: kids can be heroes and save the world too! Now that I'm older, wiser, and more exposed to the kind of hate that OSC regularly spews towards homosexuals, I find myself less and less inclined to pick up anything he's written (or was written for him.) I debated whether or not to even review this (though it's far from a glowing review) because I don't want to promote OSC in any way, shape or form, negatively or not. In this recent climate, among all these debates about author behavior and how it affects readers, I find it hard to justify my read of this/these books. Sure, OSC has never attacked a negative review or reviewer (to my knowledge, but I certainly try to ignore anything that comes out of his mouth at this point), but how authors behave does impact their work and those who read it.
As I was reading Speechless by Hannah Harrington right after this novel, it made me think about silent compliance, ignoring the bad stuff, and just doing what everyone else does for the sake of not making waves. I'm done, I'm gonna make my own wave about this; I just can't support an author who thinks it's right to discriminate against and dehumanize other people. I was granted an ARC of this, but you can bet this author will never see another penny of my cash. I won't be finishing the First Formic War series, and though I thank TOR for the generosity of reading the ARC, even an ARC of the sequel won't tempt me. Goodbye, OSC. I will still reread Ender, but I won't recommend it anyone anymore.
So long, Enderverse, and thanks for all the fish.(less)