Wow. Impressive. Rich. Emotional. Heartbreaking. These are only some of the words that come to mind aftRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Wow. Impressive. Rich. Emotional. Heartbreaking. These are only some of the words that come to mind after finishing this short but powerful novel. Emily Murdoch writes with the authority, care, and subtlety of a much more experienced storyteller. If You Find Me is a strong, sad and quietly impressive debut from a very talented new author; one that promises more good things to come in the future from such a writer. Beautifully written, with an amazingly strong, compelling survivor for a narrator, this is one novel that I won't be forgetting anytime. Read in one day, in under three and a half novels, I can easily say that If You Find Me grabs the reader from page one and won't let go. It definitely will leave a lasting impression, from the well-drawn characters to the unique and wonderful writing.
If You Find Me is quiet and subtle, a novel that doesn't lay all the answers or reasons out for the reader. You have to work to understand what has happened to Carey and her sister Jenessa. And, even before the end, it's worth the effort. The kind of lives these two intelligent but abused children have had to lead, hidden from the world in the backwoods of Tennessee, is compelling and wholly heartbreaking . The bond between Carey and her selectively mute sister provides the emotional heart of the novel. Carey is the only real mom her sister has ever known; one who provides for her and protects her from the evil of the world their addicted mother has brought them into.
Emily Murdoch is an author that can get under your skin. An unflinching look at child abuse, and to a lesser degree, the impact of drug addiction on children, her debut novel is by turns heartbreaking, charming, and hopeful. With the kind of suspense that slowly builds as the book progresses, the final reveal of what happened on the worst night of Carey's young life is shocking, and yet, given the few flashbacks, not wholly surprising. Murdoch manages to take a revelation that could have felt predictable and still make it a moving, harrowing event. I won't say much more for fear of spoilers, but even if you called how it all plays out before the end, Murdoch will still manage to tug on your heartstrings with skill.
I'm impressed. I'm eager to see what else this author will produce, because this was one of the best debuts I've had the pleasure to come across in a long, long time. With hard subjects, great characters and an unrelenting look at both the good and bad sides of human nature, Murdoch isn't afraid to go dark places with her story. And what's more, is that while it may not always be fun to go there with her, her novel is rich and rewarding and worth all the feelings it will arouse in its readers. ...more
"Do you know what it's like to be a girl pieced together by appetite and impulse?" - All Our Pretty Songs, p.18
This review is probably going to end up quite short -- I don't have a lot to say about All Our Pretty Songs and almost none of what I do have to say is good.
All Our Pretty Songs has a great premise. It also can boast some truly amazing prose. When the mood strikes/the planets align/etc,. McCarry can create some truly visual and lovely writing. But that's only about 30% of the time. The other 70%? You get overwrought melodramatic teenage angst all over the place. You can't win them all, right? But it doesn't even seem like McCarry is trying half the time.
The characters are flat. Underdeveloped. One-dimensional. And? They're pretty obnoxious, or boring, or obnoxiously boring. Unfortunately for us, the readers, and for the book itself, the awesome premise isn't enough to make up for the less-than-inspiring way it is carried out. The lack of a plot for a quarter of the novel makes for a lot of aimless stream of consciousness narration from our unnamed narrator - none of it particularly riveting or engaging.
McCarry wants this novel to be the punk retelling of Orpehus. And she is not too subtle with presenting her theme throughout the short story contained in All Our Pretty Songs. As the characters struggle to decide what they value most, what they will sacrifice, the suspense does build into a somewhat interesting final conflict. But it's not enough to save the rest of the novel from being utterly underwhelming. It's too little too late and the end is too confusing (and open-ended!) to provide any real sense of satisfaction.
Ashleigh Paige's comparions of All Our Pretty Songs with the lyrical and creepy Imaginary Girls could not be more accurate. McCarry wants that magical realism Nova Ren Suma crafts so easily and so well to work here, badly, and it just never solidifies into anything remotely like it. It's a failed Another Little Piece. It's a brave attempt to create something original and suspenseful, but with the weak supports of cardboard characters and a flimsy plot, All Our Pretty Songs just doesn't cut it. The prose can be outstanding, or laughable, and McCarry never finds a happy medium. It's great or it's just bad.
So it boils down to one star for premise, one star for the prose that I was impressed with for All Our Pretty Songs. I really don't see how this could be expanded another two books - the plot is thin already - and I doubt I will be reading to see what happens next. Maybe McCarry will try to tackle a new myth, but high expectations won't be a part of it.
I guess I had more to say than I thought. This was a severe disappointed. An intriguing premise meets underwhelming ...more
Venturing into the fertile field of medieval Italy, Tinney Sue Heath's novel is a careful aRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
3.5 out of 5
Venturing into the fertile field of medieval Italy, Tinney Sue Heath's novel is a careful and detailed look at one of the most famous feuds and vendettas, hailing from the city of Florence. For my taste, I thought A Thing Done could be a little too focused on minor details, like clothes or the set up of a nobleman's room, and occasionally came off a bit flat in the narration. However, overall, this was a solid historical fiction effort that kept my attention. It certainly doesn't hurt that the plot of the novel is fascinating, and based on historical fact, as are the majority of the characters. Focused on the beginnings of the infamous and long-lasting Guelph/Ghibelline struggle in Italy, A Thing Done is a novel about love, vendettas, and history.
I could tell from the great first line of the novel ("It was a fool that began it, but it took a woman to turn it murderous") that the narrator of the novel was going to be one I liked. Corrado is a fool, both for his profession and also in some of the things he does over the course of the novel. He was smart, likeable and forthright, all the while making being manipulated into tense situations and bad decisions. It's easy to root for the little guy, and in A Thing Done, it doesn't get smaller than Corrado. Heath does a good job of presenting a nicely flawed main character with the Fool; he may have to juggle the machinations of two great lords without the other knowing, but his personality was well-defined from the start. An unwilling participant in the feud between Great Families, this working-class peasant is in an untenable situation from the first page and his journey to be free of "the people with surnames" (as he calls the nobility) and their endless scheming is both tense and engaging.
The beginning was admittedly the toughest part for me to get involved in. There are a lot of families, names, factions and agendas flying around Corrado and his friends; sorting out who is who and who wants what can take some time. By about 75ish pages in, I had adjusted to Corrado's sometimes dry attention to detail and figured out the main plotlines and characters at play. For those reasons, it's a bit slow at the start, but the rest of the novel is more than worth the time it takes to get a grip on the various Donatis, Buondelmontis, Ubertis, Fifantis, and Amideis running rampant with plots and maneuvers. Corrado's role as unwilling accomplice to each (unknowing) party makes for an itneresting back and forth between the two major factions, and helps to illustrate how much this minor insult turned a city on its head and instigated a major feud.
Tinney Sue Heath has more than proven she knows her history very well with this novel. Replete with a large cast and detailed plot, A Thing Done goes to lengths to provide a fulfilling, if short, glimpse into Florentine life in 13th century Italy. It may not be the asiest novel to get into, but the journey and end payoff are more than worth the few hundred pages it takes to conclude. The denouement was a bit abrupt, but serves adequately to wrap up the lives and tales of the story's most prominent, surviving, characters....more
I've always wanted to go to Europe - Italy, and France in particular, which is a big part of why historRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
I've always wanted to go to Europe - Italy, and France in particular, which is a big part of why historical fiction is such a favorite of mine. I'm a a major, unrepentant history nerd, and getting to read and see these fascinating locales in new ways through new books, especially ones so vividly drawn like Florence here with The Sign of the Weeping Virgin, is always a highlight of reading for me. Alana White's novel of Renaissance Florence is a strong, well-written and full of life, from the characters to the streets they walk. From the first page, the reader is caught up in the life of Guid'Antonio Vespucci, his famous nephew Amerigo Vespucci, and that of Il Magnifico - Lorenzo de' Medici. With a detailed, informative style and a clear voice, White's story is enveloping and vivid; a dense read but one that is rewarding.
The disappearance and assumed death of a young, beautiful Florentine wife, the "miraculous" appearance of the tears from a painting of the Virgin Mary, and the ongoing struggle with Pope Sixtus IV are all important factors to the plot, and the the struggles of the protagonist, Guid'Antonio. A Medici man through and through, one literally haunted by his failure to protect Lorenzo's murdered brother, Guid'Antonio finds himself charged with finding out whether there is a conspiracy to incite Florentines to revolt against their unofficial but powerful Medici leader. Guid'Antonio is a strong protagonist - full of principle, but also internal conflicts and doubts. He didn't develop as much as I would have liked, but this was a solid, intelligent lead for a strong mystery novel.
The Sign of the Weeping Virgin is consistently very evocative of Renaissance Florence. That's a very good thing, and what kept me coming back when I would struggle with the mystery. The vivid imagery is the strongest aspect of the novel, and Florence really comes to life under White's pen. From the neighborhoods and churches, to the Medici palace, White clearly knows her way around the City of Flowers, and it shows in her sensory language. The characters are solid, even if the secondary personages need a little more definition, the plot is compelling and fresh, and the mystery not easily uncovered, but it is the setting that really makes this novel stand out.
I did think the novel stalled a little bit in the middle. Guid'Antonio understandably has a lot of leads to run down, questions to be answered and people to be found and the pace slowed down enough to make my reading progress a bit difficult. I didn't want to stop reading The Sign of the Weeping Virgin, but I did want some faster revelations or progression on the mystery. The mystery is itself well-constructed; the red herrings few but believable until Vespucci disproves them, but it did feel a bit stretched (or ignored, as when Maria's mother takes over the story) at times. However, White is a more than capable author and she found her storytelling footing soon enough and kept me engaged til the end.
If you're a fan of Italy, or of the Italian renaissance, or interested in papal politics, or in the fascinating life of Lorenzo de' Medici, you cannot pass on Alana White's impressive The Sign of the Weeping Virgin. Good, convoluted historical mysteries with interesting characters and creative plots can be hard to come across and it will be a while until I find one that measures up to the caliber of White's first novel. Impressive, well-written, and with an excellent use of place-as-character, The Sign of the Weeping Virgin was a hit with me....more
Eleanor and Park really is quite a cute story at times, though it isn't afraid to try and tRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
2.5 out of 5
Eleanor and Park really is quite a cute story at times, though it isn't afraid to try and tackle heavier topics during its exploration of first and real love. However, despite its and the authors best attempts, the romance is the focal point of this short-ish novel about two misfits in the 80s. A book seemingly made for easy reading on a lazy day, Rainbow Rowell's second novel is quiet, charming, if sometimes a bit too sweet, but still a novel that is worth reading. It's cute, occasionally both funny and saccharine. Eleanor and Park is filled to the brim with: 80's nostalgia, sad circumstances, fluff. All in all, I found this to be a fast, if not completely realistic read.
Eleanor and Park are two misfits who find each other in an unlikely, though pretty creative way. I have to admit Rowell's use of the meet-cute was new and fresh how she used it here. These two main characters bond over a love of comic books and good music from their time, and it feels normal and authentic. They grow closer and closer fairly quickly, and their attraction is solidly built on more than just pheromones and looks. I did hope that the plot would have more direction than just a love story, and while I didn't get that, I did get a believable love story between two distinct characters.
I did somewhat like this, I had fun reading it and spending time in each narrator's head, but Eleanor and Park wasn't all it could have been. Like I said earlier, there are some heavy topics and issues at play for such a romance-centric novel. Not all of it really works, sadly. And some subplots feel short-changed and heavy-handed when all is said and done. The problems between each character and their respective parents - Park with his Dad, Eleanor with her mom and her stepdad - really never feel fully realized or resolved by the end of the book. They add complications and complexity to the lives of the two teenagers, but are never really explored for a deeper impact. It's all too neatly fixed or ignored by the end of the book, and I was disappointed with the quick fix.
Though not a perfect novel, Eleanor and Park is a quick and mostly enjoyable read. It's not as deep or meaningful as it could have been, but what is good about it - Eleanor, Park, their relationship - is good enough to carry the dead weight. Frustrating at times though it may be, this is a good example of teenage romance done well and right - I would read more novels from Rowell, and hope that her execution continues to grow and allow her to explore her deeper plots without shortchanging the fun. If you liked her first, or if you're looking for a sweet love story, this is the one to pick up. Also: that cover is absolutely lovely and fitting. Well done, there....more
God, I love this series and this character. I'm not usually one to rate a 30-page novella more than thrRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
God, I love this series and this character. I'm not usually one to rate a 30-page novella more than three stars, but when it's India Black, with her trademark hilarious wit and sarcasm, how could I not? She's a smart, adventurous, crafty woman and her exploits are never dull. What the ebook lacks in overall page length, it more than makes up for in sheer entertainment. I always have fun with this character, and while there was no French to enjoy this go round, I can always reread the the longer novels while I anticipate the third, due out soon (February 5, 2013!).
Carol K. Carr made a huge fan out of me with her first two, full-length novels about this unique Madame of Lotus House. India Black and the Rajah's Ruby is a short ebook special that explains just how India graduated from bint to madame of her own establishment. It's not much of a novel, but it still manages to carry India's distinct voice and humor ("..I speak the truth. I usually do, unless there's a good reason not to."), as well as twist ending to amuse readers. Fans who ate up the longer books, and even those who have not had the experience of reading the late-chronologically but earlier-published works, will do well to pay the $2.99 for a sneak peak into what made India into the formidable madame she is.
New characters, old habits, smart women and a giant ruby make for a very fast read. India Black and the Rajah's Ruby is a well-designed teaser to whet appetites for Carr's third novel featuring London's most curious madame. Short, simple, and highly enjoyable, all I can do now is sit and wait impatiently for India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy....more
All admissions forward: I was sent this book by the author, whom I consider a friend. This did not and does not affect my review.
It's been a real pleasure to watch Libby's growth as an author over the last two years. Having read and greatly enjoyed her short story collection back in 2011, I was anxious to see what she would come up with for her first her full-length novel. I can honestly say that I was not disappointed with the end result; Tough Girl is a clever, heart-wrenching novel with adult themes and ideas, but one that will hold appeal for a wide audience. If you enjoy honest, and occasionally harsh, views on struggles like mental illness, neglect and poverty, this is is your book. If you enjoy novels with strong and determined female protagonists, this is your book. If you enjoy unique fantasy and alternate worlds and places, this is your book.
This may get a bit spoilery, though I am going to try my best not to do. It's just hard to review a book with such a tricky plot without letting on about a few minor details. So: be warned.
Tough Girl is the story of Reggie, an eleven year old girl whom fate has not dealt the kindest of hands. From being bullied at school to neglected at home, Reggie's story is a sad, but not had to envision struggle every day. Thankfully for our heroine, Reggie is also smart, resourceful, resilient, and her own best friend. Escaping into various fantasy worlds with a tough-talking, militaristic alter-ego named Tough Girl, Reggie copes with her problems in a unique and compelling way. Like I said before, Reggie's mom, Mona, neglects her young daughter, leading to Reggie's disconnect from her real life in almost-slumlike building they live in, The Apartments. Reggie's story is a sobering one, and a lot of what she sees and goes through can be tough to read. Libby Heily is an author unafraid to examine the rougher side of life, and it's all to the benefit of the novel. For all its desperation, Reggie's story comes to life with ease.
Obviously in the grip of an unnamed and untreated mental illness, Mona forgets about her daughter for days on end, including the important task of feeding a growing girl. A lot of Reggie's narration and thoughts center around food - either getting it or eating it. I find it remarkably telling that even in Reggie's longest-running fantasy with TG, as she is called, is set on a planet named Girth. Bullied, hungry and alone, even in Reggie's dreams food is the most important part of her day. Her other struggles with classmates like Tara or even bratchild extraordinaire Jacob are painful and sadly quite real to life and carry additional weight to the storyline. There's a lot going on in Tough Girl, be it real or imaginary, and in the end, Heily manages to tie it all together with ease.
I did feel that the end was a bit abrupt. I would've like a little more time with the denoument - just to see it all play out visually. I liked the ending for what it was -it was fitting and believable, but just a very fast turnaround from the pacing of the first 240 pages. This is a shorter novel, but it still packs a punch. Another bonus is the price - it's only $2.99 to join Reggie and her alter-ego in the respective struggles. I was and still am very impressed with Libby Heily's imagination and am excited to see how she will grow and where she will go with her talent after this. ...more
THIS BOOK. This book right here. It just... It wrecked me. It played with my emotions. It gleefully tossed me form the height of happiness to the depths of despair. You know that saying "heart wrenching"? That is Crown of Midnight in two words. I get it now. I am wrenched; my heart is so wrenched it may never recover.
I wasn't expecting to have such an emotional, visceral reaction to this book. I readily admit that I went into it with a lot of trepidation. Though there were things I enjoyed from Throne of Glass (Chaol, strong female characters, hints of magic, Chaol), there was a lot of room for improvement as well. Celaena herself was a bit of trope, she didn't assassinate nearly enough people to back up her incredible arrogance, the mystery tied into the plot was overt and way too obvious, and don't even get me started on the love triangle. But, here in the series' second outing, almost none of those issues reappear. Maas has grown into a much more deft and subtle author; I understand and can empathize with her characters better; Celaena's romantic life is an important facet of the story but not a main focus.
Crown of Midnight may not be technically perfect. I can see some of the technical issues others will have, but my rating is 4 stars for the writing, plot, characters and another star for how much I was engrossed and captivated by the entire novel. This book left me feeling so very many things. Vindication because I called it - a big reveal. Despair because Maas whiplashed me from joy to despair so many times in just 440 pages. Anxiety because I don't have a sequel in my hands waiting to be read. Excitement because Celaena kicks so much more ass in this installment. Hope because I refuse to give up. Envy because this book is so good and I know I will never write like this. Worry because I absolutely can't predict where the story will go from here.
The plot of the novel is more straightforward than the murder mystery/race to the finish at the heart of Throne of Glass. There are some minor questions that Celaena has to work out, but she does, and not dozens of pages after readers have already figured it out. The mysteries are less intrinsic to the plot, and the more subtlety Maas writes with, the less predictable her books and plots become. The solid hints about Celaena's past are also woven into the story with more care, and though I had that figured out before the start of the book, the big reveal at the end was set up very neatly and works well to hint at future plots in the next books.
Celaena was a big obstacle for me in Throne of Glass. I didn't exactly sympathize or identify with her before. Thankfully, I was directed to read the four prequel novellas before embarking on this heartbreak of a book (thank you, Gillian!), and it really adds to Celaena's depiction. I understood her better going into Crown of Midnight, and Maas took more time to flesh out her protagonist into a truly three-dimensional person. I like a flawed, human character better than any paragon of perfection, and oh boy is Celaeana flawed. She's stubborn, arrogant, tends to underestimate anyone without the last name Sardothien, and she makes a lot of mistakes. However, for all her imperfections, this is a great, strong female character. She might make mistakes, but she learns from them too.
Let's talk about love triangle, because it's still hanging on here in Crown of Midnight. Happily, Maas doesn't jerk her main character from love interest to love interest as she did before. Both Dorian and Chaol may have tender feelings for the deadly Celaena, but for all her flaws, the girl isn't indecisive. She makes a choice, and though there are complications between the two, it isn't about what man Celaena wants to be with. I can't say the love triangle is entirely dead (this is YA, after all) but Maas handles it with maturity and I didn't mind how it was used for tension amongst the three principles.
I may have been a tepid fan before, but no longer. I'm fully on board this ship (and the Chaol + Celaena ship), and will be buying copies of this series. I was so entertained by this actiontastic thrill ride; I was heartbroken at some of the twists and turns; I was emotionally whiplashed as Maas kept the reveals and betrayals coming. For better or worse, I am invested in this series, these characters, this world. It's going to be a long hard wait for book three, but I am counting down the days. This is an author that has grown into her story and really impressed me with her sophomore effort.
If you're on the fence like I was, if you liked but didn't love Throne of Glass -- don't give up. Read the prequels. And then read the second because you won't be disappointed. Crown of Midnight is the rare sequel that exceeds expectations and surpasses its predecessor. This is YA fantasy - with a female main character! - done so right....more
Released in the centennial year for the publication of Tarzan of the ApesWant 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....more
This is a review for the third and final novel in the series about Twelve Dancing Princesses, but whatRead 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. ...more
I admit it. I'm a Shannara fan, for all its blatant borrowing from The Lord of the Rings, for all its cRead 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. ...more
looks a lot like Dave Grohl has a lot of imagination a tendency to pull no punches the ability to craft a viable, complex, interesting world breaks my brain with every book he has written
Last year, Jay burst onto the scene with his steampunkian fantasy of an almost-Japan (here called the Shima Imperium) with his debut novel, Stormdancer. The hype began early, built over months of anticipation, and swelled to immense proportions before the book dropped. And when it did, Jay delivered -- Stormdancer was a tour de force of fantasy, steampunk, kickass characters, and rebellion. Immense in scope, in creativity, and filled with unforgettable writing, and complex, realistic characters, it exceeded my expectations in every way -- and they were HIGH.
I am here to tell you that Kinslayer, book two in this Lotus War series, is even better. You want more death, destruction, struggle? You got it, in spades. The scale is bigger, the stakes are higher, and this is an author that can, and does, improve on his already-impressive first book. If you liked what Kristoff had to offer in Stormdancer - chainsaw katanas, a fresh and inventive take on steampunk technology, an incredibly well-drawn world, betrayals, secrets, conspiracies, rebellion, action aplenty - then you'll love what he serves up for round two. The Lotus War is a story told on a grand scale and one that doesn't shy away from making readers flinch.
While in book one we were told, "the lotus must bloom", now the rebels have modified it to the more ominous, "the lotus must burn." This is a darker book. The lines have clearly been drawn and a civil war is on the brink. Yukiko wrestles with her role, with what she has done, and with what she will do. People die. People you like will die. People you like will surprise you -- and not always in a good way. The risks that Jay Kristoff takes with his plotting and characters more than pay off. He creates suspense with ease as well a genuine fear that no one -- and nothing -- is truly safe with Shima on the brink. He writes with a clear eye for the visual and a lot of the action scenes read cinematically. The detail is dense, the worldbuilding intricate and complete, and it all serves to create an Empire that feels dangerously real and frighteningly familiar.
Kinslayer is epic. It's an epic story with several major plotlines across an empire; there's Yukiko and Buruu going about doing what they do (no spoilers!), there's the Kagé stronghold in the mountains, and there are the subversives hiding in Kigen city, waiting for a chance to hit back at the authorities. Widening the focus of the story allows for more prominent characters than just Yukiko and the antagonist of the soon-to-be-Emperor/Yukiko's former lover, Tora Hiro. Both Yukiko and Hiro play important parts, but they are mostly removed from the main action - Hiro through the dense administration system surrounding a clan Daimyo, and Yukiko through her own struggles to rectify what has happened to her life in the previous novel. Buruu remains a key participant in Yukiko's storyline, and remains one of the best animal characters to ever grace a page. However, even he is full of surprises as the hundreds of pages race by.
We've met Michi before as a minor character, but here in Kinslayer, she gets the time and pages to shine. Her storyline is taut, full of deception and suspense. While Yukiko has spearheaded the fight against the Guild and the Emperor, Michi is in the trenches (credit for that line goes to the lovely Christina at Reader of Fictions!) fighting however and whoever it takes to win. She emerges as a major player and easily surpassed Yukiko in my affections, due to her pragmatic and bad ass approach. Hana, another newcomer with more to her than meets the eye, also more than proves her worth. Between her characterization and Michi's, it's obvious there is more than one strong, dangerous woman in Shima. Yukiko may be the Arashi-no-odoriko, but these two women are capable, smart, cunning, and each play pivotal parts in all that plays out in the pages. While most of my appreciation, character-wise, is for these two newish characters, older and more familiar faces continue to operate in various functions. Akihito, Kin, Kaori, etc. all are prominent and important, but do lack the liveliness of Michi and Hana's storylines.
Though there are clearly the good guys and the bad guys, Kristoff creates a cast that is not black and white. Yukiko is the heroine, but not everything she does is heroic, or even right. The Kagé are the good side, compared the power-hungry Guild and the omnivorous Empire, but not all of its members are truly good people. Similarly, the people that surround Hiro, the book's clear antagonist and foil for Yukiko, are not all evil power despots. The shades of grey that the author imbues into his characters make them all more realistic, more complex, and thus, interesting. Clearly the most sympathy will lie with the Kagé and their struggle to topple a corrupt government, but I appreciated how deftly Kristoff handled the creation the characters on all sides of the conflict. I always say I want a complex antagonist over a one-dimensional psychopath, and that a conflicted heroine is better than a perfect paragon, and I am proved right by the layers each of these two key characters possess. I may not like either of them too much, but I can understand where both are coming from and what they hope to gain.
The worldbuilding is truly some of the best I have ever read in the fantasy genre. It's on par with series that have taken twice as many volumes to create their version of Earth. In just two books, Jay Kristoff has created a viable, deadly, believable world. He has shown how a once-prosperous country can find itself on the verge of failure. From the mythology to the government, there is more than enough detail to flesh out the culture of the Shima Imperium to a reader's satisfaction. No stone has gone unturned, no idea unexplored. New cultures are shown, and new ideas are explored. Above all, Kinslayer never stagnates or dawdles. While the steampunk technology is less featured here (exception: Earthcrusher, clockwork arm!), it retains its originality, usefulness, and flair. Jay proves that less is more and doesn't oversaturate his plotline with nifty gadgets and chainsaw katanas. This isn't a version of steampunk featured on dirigibles and tea -- this is steampunk focused on war, domination, and destruction. And it. is. AWESOME.
Kinslayer is a book with everything you could hope for in steampunk fantasy with arashitora and sea dragons. It's packed to the brim with action, drama, and suspense. It takes characters we know and changes them, makes them evolve and hopefully grow. It proves that in war, no one is safe and anyone can betray you. It shows all sides of a conflict and doesn't flinch from murdering off favorite, beloved characters. It's a brash, loud, completely fun read. It's dense, and detailed, and still the pages fly by. If you want originality, or an inventive fantasy, or a book that combines dire straits with a dash of humor, or all of the above, this is the book you want to read. This is one of my favorite books of EVER, and I will be rereading it for years to come.
My only worry is how Jay Kristoff will manage to top this.
--And when I can get a copy of the third book. ...more
I love this book wholeheartedly. Kate Morton rocketed to my absolute favorite author list last year onRead 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. ...more
The Sword-Edged Blonde does something new and interesting - it merges two genres I love - fantasy and mRead 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!...more
Wake of the Bloody Angel is the best Eddie LaCrosse novel to date - hands down, no questions asked. I nRead 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....more
This is just so so good, from start to finish. I'm still having a hard time putting coherent thoughts aRead 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"]>...more
I have many, many feelings about this book. A lot of them are good, like: "Ooooh, this is uRead 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"]>...more
No. Just no. Am I reading the same book as everyone else? This was awful across the board. A smatteringRead 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....more
I hate to damn The Emperor's Conspiracy with faint praise, but the best adjectives I can come up with tRead 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. ...more
This is a creepy love-letter to Chicago, its history and to teens who love to hear things go bump in thRead 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. ...more
Written as a prequel to the well-loved Ender's Game, Johnston's Earth Unaware tries to fill in some ofRead 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....more
Full disclosure: I am GoodReads/Twitter friends with Victoria and she sent me this novel in exchange foRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Full disclosure: I am GoodReads/Twitter friends with Victoria and she sent me this novel in exchange for a review. However much I like her (and that is very much!), this did not affect my impression of the novel nor my review for it.
Witchstruck is the addicting and fast-paced tale of Meg Lytton, a burgeoning witch of substantial ability during one of the worst times and places to be such a one -- 1554 England, under the super Catholic reign of Queen Mary I. A lively jaunt into an alternate history of Old Blighty, complete with several famous historical characters and cameos (John Dee! Philip of Spain!), this first-in-a-series and detailed read is sure to sate the appetites of Tudorphiles of all ages. Fans looking for a new, fresh spin on a favorite era have no further to look than this "magick" infused offering from Victoria Lamb. Supernatural historical fiction is fast emerging as a favorite genre of mine, and this one particularly will be very memorable long after I've read more.
There's a lot to love in these nearly 370 pages of magick, witchfinders, *really* forbidden love, and betrayal. Protagonist and narrator Meg is one of those things. She is a great main character from the get-go; her presentation is nicely developed and well rounded throughout the duration of the novel. Meg grows, learns, and her characterization is deftly handled. This is a girl who manages to be smart, fallible, realistic, and proactive. Meg may stumble and make (big! calamitous!) mistakes, but one thing you cannot accuse this headstrong witch of being is passive. I love a heroine who can (and like here) does rescue herself, and Meg is frequently the hero of the novel.
I love when historical fiction authors aren't afraid to mix things up and bring new ideas to the fore. Count Victoria Lamb among those not afraid to veer off the beaten path. Not only is there a moderate magic aspect to Witchstruck, other areas are just as unique, and engaging, as well. I've read very few Tudor-set novels that have a non-English (Irish/Scottish don't count!) love interest, but this is one of them! While I do think that Alejandro (a Spanish priest-in-training no less!) and Meg's connection felt a bit premature and rushed the first quarter, each character grows quite naturally into their very forbidden and illicit attraction to one another. I appreciate how sparingly the romance aspect is used in the novel - it's clear plot point between Meg and Alejandro, but it doesn't choke or overwhelm up the real storyline of the novel in unwanted angst and melodrama.
Alejandro, Meg, and especially Elizabeth, the future Queen, in her not-often-enough appearances, all spring to life under Lamb's talented pen. These are well-rendered versions of historical and fictional characters, ones that made me care about them and invest in their story early on. A diverse and distinctive cast are one of the best things about Witchstruck, the fast pacing, the unforeseen twists and turns -- all add up to a very readable and very engrossing novel. I did feel that certain ideas and phrases were a bit repetitive, but Victoria Lamb moves her plot forward quickly, with a dab hand for evoking a realistic, easily-imagined setting for her characters to inhabit.
This was one novel that I wished was even longer! I could've happily kept reading Witchstruck for another 100, 150, 200 pages. It's just so readable - I was done with Meg and her story much faster than I was ready for. What is there is more than enough to satisfy readers - the ending shown felt entirely appropriate and concluded the main plotline of book one in the series, despite the open-ended nature of how things fell out. Cliffhanger or no, I would've NEED book two quite desperately now. The wait for the anticipated sequel is far too long - the touch of foreshadowing (the rat?! MD?!) just added more impetus to my need to see what happens next for Meg and Elizabeth at Court.
I read a lot of Tudor historical fiction - that era/family is one of my long-standing historical passions - and this is a neat and well-handled addition to my "best of" pile. While some books pick sides and favorites (Mary or Elizabeth), this one will continue to stand out among the others for its seamless incorporation of the supernatural, slight as though that may be, and for the strong, active, and well-rounded heroine. Witchstruck is undoubtedly a promising first addition to the series Victoria Lamb is cooking up and I'm eagerly awaiting the events of round two. ...more
A thoroughly satisfying mix of history, the paranormal, with a dash of romance to flavor, The Shadowy Horses does not disappoint. A bit more romance-orientated than my previous read by this author (Mariana), I can still easily endorse Susanna Kearsley as fast becoming one of my favorite authors; one that is adept at creating a wide array of individual characters, as well as intricately setting up an atmospheric read. She delivers every time, and this is no exception. If I was impressed after reading Mariana, I am entering full-on fan mode after finishing this offering from Kearsley in less than a day. Taking on the well-known mystery and search for the Roman Ninth Legion in Scotland, I was hooked early on. I simply could not put The Shadowy Horses down, but was conversely reluctant to finish once I was firmly engrossed in the novel.
Kearlsey's descriptive (and it is very descriptive - from the countryside to the "not-posh" sitting room, Kearlsey crafts an easily imagined setting) and detailed style is present and used with a dab hand from the first chapter, to the benefit of both the locale and for the wide array of characters on the page. Both suspenseful and engrossing, each aspect of the novel, from the mystery to the romance to the supernatural, were all summarily well-handled and solid, with none detracting from the streamlined plot. These were characters who came alive for me as a reader, all with varying degress of characterization, as well as ones who made me care about each of them. This is a dynamic cast, with each character fully distinct, and, by and large, even with psychometric/psychic Robbie, one that doesn't strain credulity or irritate the reader. I do wish there had just slightly more of an antagonistic presence for most of the novel, but the minor conflicts and issues that were there, were enough to create increasing tension throughout the story.
The first person POV of protagonist Verity Grey makes it easy to root for her through her struggles to accept what is going on in Eyemouth; her inner monologue reinforces the first impression of an impulsive, smart, and very independent woman who can more than handle herself. The strength of the novel, much like with Mariana, lies with main character Verity. The other elements of the novel are well-done and unique, but it is Verity who takes the cake (with some help from an accent Scotsman with a love of history!), and who will stick out in my memory. I appreciated the restraint with which the author took to the romance - it's a large part of the novel, but it doesn't drown the plot in melodrama or too much of a love triangle.
The final conflict (and revelation of the antagonist) was a bit dry (ha!), but a nicely rounded denouement makes up for that slight misstep. Though Mariana will remain my favorite Kearsley (for now!), I loved The Shadowy Horses and think that this is an author that continues to impress and grow as a writer. This is an author who is very talented with crafting believable characters, with creating an atmospheric setting, and with making the past come to life. Well done and I can't wait for my next Kearsley read!...more
Don't let those 3.75 out of 5 stars fool you - I really, really liked this novel. It's noRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
3.75 out of 5
Don't let those 3.75 out of 5 stars fool you - I really, really liked this novel. It's not perfect, but it is a perfectly enjoyable read. Good storytelling coupled with two damaged and likeable, if slightly cliched teenage protagonists, makes for a fast, easy read. Some pacing issues and the predictability of the plot keep it from a higher rating, but really, in spite of its few flaws, this is a good book. Fully engaging, wholly involving without falling victim to instalove or even a real love-triangle Pushing the Limits is teenaged romance with punch.
In a character-driven novel such as this, it takes multiple strong protagonists to carry the novel. Even with the bit of mystery surrounding main character Echo, it is her interactions with co-pilot Noah that drive the plot and the novel. Their banter is amusing, sweet, occasionally a bit saccharine for my taste, but wholly believable. Katie McGarry takes the whole "opposites attract" to the extreme with these two wildly disparate characters, but she makes it work. Their progression from acquaintances to friends to boyfriend/girlfriend evolves in complexity and emotionally. Their attraction and subsequent trials feel natural and authentic to who they are. Two damaged teens with authority issues galore, both Echo and Noah are presented as three-dimensional people and it is easy to root for each - both as a couple and as individuals. While they can come across as being cliched in some aspects of their characterization, especially in the beginning, both these protagonists grow and change over the course of the book.
There were things that grew to irritate me during this 400-page read. Noah's repeated use of "nymph" and his frequent mentions of Echo's "scent" of sugar and cinnamon buns got old, fast. Still, those are two relatively minor quibbles. My main issues with Pushing the Limits came in the form of the pacing. This is a novel that starts out strong - I was invested and hooked on the story within 50 pages. However, during the middle third of the novel, when the tension should be steadily building towards some kind of main conflict.... it dragged. Majorly. Not a lot happens and some of what transpires between Echo and Noah comes off as needlessly melodramatic, which just made me irritated. Thankfully, the book picks up again before the final pages and I found myself emotionally attached to the story and characters.
Pushing the Limits is a creeper, a stealth novel - one of those novels that sneaks up on you (and up in your estimations) as you read it. I didn't realize how much I cared about both Noah and Echo until I realized I didn't want the book to end. I wanted to keep reading - see what these two (and their amusing cast of cohorts) got into next, how they dealt with the next part of their lives. Thankfully, there will be sequel (Dare You To - about Beth!) so I look forward to another strong, solid novel from this promising author. ...more
From What I Remember is exactly what that synopsis makes it sound like: fluff. Utter, complete, involviRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
From What I Remember is exactly what that synopsis makes it sound like: fluff. Utter, complete, involving, engaging, occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, and compelling fluff. It's light, it's charming and it's fun, despite the near 500-page length. Aside from a few (5) vocabulary choices that had me seeing red, this was an unexpected and amusing roadtrip coming-of-age story. The characters may veer a little too close to stereotypes at times in their presentation, especially the flamboyant, cross-dressing Will and the uber mean-girl Lily, but on the whole, From What I Remember does what it aims to - it entertains the reader while making them care about these flawed, human and vastly entertaining characters. It's a beach read for teens and adults that enjoy a fluffy, sweet romance.
I'm usually wary of a rotating POV scheme, especially when it's used by so many characters, like it is here. Kylie, Max, Will, Lily and Jake (Kylie's brother with Aspberger's) all get a shot to share their inner monologue. Fortunately for both myself and the novel, each of these unique perspectives actually managed to bring something different to the table, while adding to the overall picture and plot of the novel. I do wish Lily and Will had been less of cliches in their expected roles (seriously, Lily mean-girls the shit out of Kylie for 460 out of 475 pages and it got old fast), but Will, especially, grows into an actual, rounded person instead of a caricature. These are characters that actually evolve and grow over the course of the book - it's refreshing to read and makes it easy to invest in most of the cast.
This is a happily-ever-after type of novel, and that's not a spoiler. The romance is the most obvious part of the entire plot, and though one of my least-favorite plot devices (the miscommunication!) stalls the inevitable for a while, this remains engaging to read through the predictable ups and downs of teenage love. The payoff in reading From What I Remember... isn't in seeing if these two end up together, but in reading how everything comes together as they grow up significantly this 48-hour adrenaline-fueled adventure. Max and Kylie are two interesting people who work well together; one of the few YA pairings that aren't based off instalove or pure lust. Kylie is the perfect foil for Max's studied cool-act, and he complements her outrageousness nicely.
This was so close to being a perfect, lazy read for a relaxed and lazy day. But. There's always a "but." For From What I Remember, the problem honestly surprised me. It wasn't isntalove, or Mysteriously Missing Parent Syndrome, but something else I've been noticing in a fair few YA novels. Kylie has a brother with Asperger's syndrome and persists in using the word "retard" as an insult. Repeatedly. That bothered me immensely, enough that I was jerked out the book every time it was uttered. No. Just no. First: it's wrong. Second: Kylie has a brother that in all likelihood, would've heard that leveled at him in a mean way. That is life, but that doesn't make it okay, especially for his sister to use so glibly. For a novel that takes care to show so many awesome examples of gay youth, I was disappointed not to see the same civility and consideration for the handicapped.
From What I Remember... was a nice escape for a few hours. Despite its impressive length, this is a book that reads both easily and well. It's cute, and for the most part, inoffensive as it tackles growing up and moving on from high school. It's brain candy - a bubblegum book for when you just want to read something cute and predictable instead of a literary meal that needs digesting. It easily could be billed as The Hangover In Mexico - for teens. Buckle up for one hell of a road-trip, filled with border dodging, illegal gangsters, mass weddings, and even a police chase of sorts. From What I Remember is best termed a fun "romp" - one that will engage and please its readers from the get-go....more
#1. Do you like strong, flawed and inherent compelling female narrators?
#2. Do you enjoy reading new twists and interpretations of old fairytales?
#3. Does historical fiction with excellent place-as-character (for both Versailles and Venice) appeal to your reading tastes?
#4. Do you like a little magic subtly interwoven into your historical fiction?
#5. Have you read and enjoyed similar books like Kill Me Softly, Strands of Bronze and Gold, or The Brides of Rollrock Island?
#6. Are you attracted to novels with romance, but ones that don't focus solely on the love connections of the main characters?
#7. Are you constantly looking for a novel with length that will keep you engaged and curious from start to end?
#8. Has it been a while since you've had the chance to read a fresh and original story?
If you answered yes to the above questions - and really, I can't imagine why you would say no - then Bitter Greens is a book for you. An interesting and unique mashup of fairytale lore, court politics, and thwarted love, this captivating and darkly fascinating look at three intriguing and multi-faceted women is unlike any other book I've come across. I put it down when I reluctantly finished, and I immediately wanted to start it all over again; to spend more time in this world, and with these distinctive characters. This is an author with talent, and one that can clearly and easily spin an engrossing and compulsively readable story. This is my first Kate Forsyth novel, but you can bet it will not be my last.
Without hesitation, Kate Forsyth's newest novel is my favorite novel of 2013. It may be only March, but with 60 books under my belt, this was far and away the standout of the group. It's beautiful, sad, creative and compelling. Bitter Greens is so much more than just a simple, historical fiction retelling of Rapunzel's well-known and often-told fairytale. It's a story about love and power, about destiny and desire, and about what lengths a woman will go to to fight for her love, and to find her freedom. With her three capable main narrators, either in first person or third, Kate Forsyth brings this novel, these characters and the various locations to life. A vibrant read on all counts, Bitter Greens is sprawling, ambitious and impressive. It more than succeeds where it tries for something different and manages to breathe some fresh air into historical fiction.
All three women the novel focuses on in turn have passion, determination, and talent. Their lives are complex, and their characterization three-dimensional - not even neglecting the villain/anti-hero of the piece. Though their lives span different eras and troubles, there are parallels between the stories of all three. Each want something they cannot have; one thirsts for perfection and power, one for love and an independent life, and one for family and freedom. But despite their various wishes, each story meshes well with her compatriots. For each, life is full of unexpected twists and surprises - and those, usually out of their control. One is doomed by the choices of her parents; another by the capriciousness of a spoiled King; and another by the harsh retribution of a vicious nobleman. In each disparate arc, the loves and lives desired by Charlotte/Margherita/Selena are lost in favor of power, revenge, or dark magic. I couldn't pick a favorite from the three of them - all of them are compelling and interesting, and all of their stories demand attention.
The court of Versailles and the water-world of Venice are the most described locations (the homes of Charlotte and Margherita respectively), and they are exquisitely well-rendered. Set in the time of Louis XIV, the Sun King, for Charlotte's tale, Versailles, and occasionally Paris, create the perfect backdrops for her story of religious, romantic and independence struggles. Romantic, oppressive, and opulent, Charlotte's frustrated endeavors to control her own life in the time of a divine despot provide a nice dichotomy to the supreme will Louis exerted over his people, and his court in particular. Venice is another supremely romantic city, and one that lends itself well to the beautiful but deceptive stories of the other two characters. There is more than meets the eye to the tales of these characters, as the settings chosen more than illustrate.
Clocking in at a respectable five hundred pages, Bitter Greens has some heft to it. Thankfully, Forsyth has the capability to keep interest high and the pace moving along. I was never bored, and I never wanted to put the novel down once I had cracked the cover. This is a book I finished in one day, though I kept trying to extend the time I spent with it. I would put it down, only to mull over the plotlines in my head until I had to pick it back up again to see where Kate Forsyth was going to take her characters. There were a couple twists that came into play later in the story, and though I called one, the other was a genuine and believable surprise.
Sadly, this seems to be a rather hard novel to get a hold of. So far, I've only found available copies for sale on FishPond - no listings on Barnes and Noble or Amazon. However, if there was a book worth that steep $30 price, this is it. If more copies become available, I plan to do a giveaway. But you can rest assured my own copy is never leaving my house. I'll need it for the several rereads I plan to do in the near future....more
I think it's fair to say I hated this book. A lot. For a variety of reasons.
High hopes and huge disappointments - What are my two key emotions for this odd, disjointed and often off-putting supernatural endeavor called Drain You, Alex? It all sounds so good at first glance - a unique, quirky protagonist, evil vampires, a humorous and dry tone - but none, none of that lives up to expectations. The title is the most appropriate thing about the whole book: I felt the will to read drain out of me the more pages I turned. The "humor" here wasn't funny, the main character is one of the most unlikeable people I've ever had the misfortune to have to read about, there was no real presence of any tension in the novel, and the "plot" is MIA for the majority of the novel. It's a mess, and not a fun one.
If you don't like main character Quinlan, chances are high you are not going to like the rest of what Drain You has to offer. I hated Quinn. Hated, hated, hated, like I haven't disliked a fictional being in a loooong, long time. She's self-centered, selfish, rude, annoying, stupid, ungrateful, unthinking... I could go on and on with what's wrong with Quinn and her "characterization". Pages of my reading notes for this book are littered with things like: "WHAT did she just say?" "Why does she treat everyone around her like shit?" "Why am I supposed to care for a character that doesn't have the decency to warn other people when she is putting their lives and their entire families' lives!, in mortal danger?
And what else do I hate in YA novels besides dumb, superficial female protagonists? Instalove, and with a murderous, mysterious vampire! (How original! I've never read anotherYA paranormal book/series like that!) Be warned: Drain You has that hackneyed romantic element in spades. Quinn is astonishingly like the hated Bella in regards to her undead lover: they both consider their lives as "meaningless" when separated from their vampire boyfriends (in Quinn's case this is after knowing James less than three weeks' time. And her life is "meaningless" without him? GET A GRIP), they both fail to understand the danger of what they're involved in, they're both flat and dull girls who don't really know what they're getting into. Quinn is Bella - just with a "punk" twist and a much more liberal wardrobe. She even has the normal human boys that just can't help but fall in love with her! (and that she summarily rejects, uses, rejects, and then uses again. It's gross.)
Despite the (or maybe as a direct result of) complete lack of tension or suspense in the novel, I was majorly, majorly underwhelmed by both the final conflict and the denouement shown here. Maybe that's a direct result of the lack of plot, or antagonist presence but the end of the novel is flatter than the cardboard Quinn was made from. Either/or, it could go both ways because really neither the plot nor the villains play much into the storyline. The bulk of this disjointed, choppy narrative is devoted purely to all angst and emo and melodrama about how lonely and bored and cool poor little Quinn is, when really all she is is insufferable. Even when she is the direct cause of ALL THE PROBLEMS she faces with Morgan, Naomi. Whit and James, Quinn feels the most for...herself, takes no responsibility or ownership over the danger she puts everyone in. Not once. Fuck, I hated this character. GTFO.
Drain You was an entirely underwhelming disappointment, one I wish I had DNF'd halfway through. If I could tell past-Jessie "it doesn't get any better, any funnier, any cleverer" I would've set this down after Quinn decides two stalker-y nightwalks with a creepy, blood-covered boy constitute the beginning of a good relationship. No. Just no. Lots of potential, extremely poor execution is the final verdict on the mess that is Drain You.
To go along with the title of Jessica Brody's latest novel, here are a few words and phrases that workRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
To go along with the title of Jessica Brody's latest novel, here are a few words and phrases that work to describe my impressions of Unremembered: Unlikely. Unnecessary. Unmet-potential. Unsatisfying. Unemotional. Unsubtle. Underachieved. Uncanny. Unadorned. Unamused. Unbelievable (and not in a good way...). Unimpressive. To say the least, I expected so much more from this read, and I got flat, one-dimensional characters acting out a plot that has been done so many times before. By no means subtle or original, Brody's latest does have its moments of pure fun, but amidst all the other dross and predictability, it wasn't enough to make Unremembered anything other than a forgettable novel.
I guess I can start with the good about Unremembered - it falls prey to some YA tropes (instalove, especially, but Violet/Sera is one hell of a Mary Sue..), but it somehow manages to avoid others. There is no love triangle, there are no magically missing/absent parental units, there is no girl-on-girl hate, and the love interest isn't abusive or a total creeper. And while I was disappointed by a lot of how this book played out, it moves fast and it's an easily read and digested bit of teen fiction. Brody's prose is serviceable, if plain and unremarkable. At least she is consistent? This is no Laini Taylor, Gayle Forman or Melina Marchetta or any other wordsmith. Jessica Brody is an able author, but her subject and plot leave a lot to be desired and detract from her strong points.
One of the main problems with Unremembered is that it tries to ask Important Questions about Life, like: what makes a person human? and what makes up a reality - experiences or memories? Unfortunately (another un-word!), Unremembered doesn't fully explore the answers or nuances of the questions it raises. It's a rather shallow but occasionally fun romp with time travel, "true love", and some pseudo-science to pull it all together. Contemplative themes and ideas are quickly brought up, and then abandoned in favor of a romance that has no chemistry and time travel that raises more questions and complications than it solves.
Unremembered ends with an almost literal cliffhanger, and I couldn't care less. It's not a bad book - it's not objectionable or infuriating like White Horse or Twilight, but it could have been so much better. The unmet potential is one of the most frustrating aspects of the entire exercise. It's highly and amusingly appropriate to me that a novel with this name could end up being so entirely forgettable once one finishes the last page....more
Wow - what a beautiful and original cover; I defy anyone to see that and not want to at least peak atRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Wow - what a beautiful and original cover; I defy anyone to see that and not want to at least peak at the inside novel. I caught sight of this beautiful, evocative cover a few weeks ago on GoodReads and once it had popped up on NetGalley, I knew I had to read it. For once, this is not a case of a beautiful, alluring young adult cover hiding a big ol' mess of plot and characters inside (unlike numerousothersI couldname thatlied to my eyes); this is a novel worth that eye-catching picture. Boasting a wholly fun and quick-moving storyline about Pirate Confederations, blood-magic, assassins, battles and more, The Assassin's Curse tries for a lot for a debut novel and happily, it succeeds in most of those areas. Immediately entertaining, original and full of compelling characters, this is a welcome addition to the fast-growing young-adult fantasy genre. Fans of the soon-to-released Seraphina and other such fantasy offerings will find a new strong heroine to root for and identify with, in an alien but vaguely familiar world, populated with the weird and strange sprung from this author's fertile imagination.
Though The Assassin's Curse is truly just a bit too short to see all its potential awesome to its full fruition, this is a novel rich in imagination and atmosphere. With islands of mists that can drive men mad, magic, pirate allegiances and Orders of assassins, there's an obviously medievally-influenced fantasy feel to the world being built by this author and it works for both the story and the characters being created. And the characters are a tretat -- for all that I was enveloped in the feel of Clarke's world, the strength of this novel rests mainly on its strong teen protagonist Ananna and her foil, the withdrawn Naji. With a sluggish, almost juvenile beginning, it was my interest in the mythology and in Ananna's story that kept me engaged. As it turns out, the novel matures from its initial impression of simplicity as its leading heroine does: quickly and smoothly once the narrative gets going. The introductory infodumps are not the best method of storytelling (duh), and thankfully the author matures out of that foible soon enough.
Ananna is one of those memorable heroines: strong, difficult, smart, and deadly. She is a wonderfully complicated, flawed woman - this is a girl who will kill to stay alive but will feel regret for it after. She's a hard woman, but not a cruel one -- and that's perfect for the cutthroat pirate world she hails from. A wide-eyed innocent wouldn't escaped from her wedding on a stolen camel, but a fully proficient one wouldn't be caught in the situation she finds herself in with Naji. It's a delicate balance, but one that is well-struck here. The first person POV is used skillfully with this particular protagonist; though I did grow tired of certain phrases she used, I felt connected to the independently-minded Miss Taranau immediately. Her strong and defiant voice, coupled with the conversational tone of the novel make for a vibrantly fleshed-out young-woman. I was really impressed with the air cultivated for both Ananna and Naji - both are prickly and difficult people, but you root for them because of (or in spite of?) their often harsh outlooks. Naji, whom I love, does still need a lot of personal development. I'm a sucker for any brooding assassin but I hope more characterization is down the road for him. A tortured love interest is well and good -- but don't leave it at that alone. Naji has potential and though I love him, I will be pissed if he is wasted and becomes a stagnant character.
As much as I was wrapped up in Ananna's inner monologue and travails, I didn't fail to notice that some aspects of this novel can feel a bit shortchanged, and that the plot can feel a bit thin in places. There's a lot of rushing about from place to place, long treks from one location to the next, all to find Person X and then Gandalf Dumbledore, the old Hermit Mystic Wizard trope...which didn't exactly light me on fire with its originality or do anything to fix the lack of tension. Those are all fairly common fantasy tropes and its a shame to see a novel as original as The Assassin's Curse fall prey to such easy traps. Ananna and Naji are more than able to carry the novel and create momentum between them that makes me want to read, but I never really felt any tension or suspense when confronted with the Mists, or other enemies. There's not a lot of worldbuilding here, and as this is character-driven, I'll allow a pass. For now. The bittersweet ending is open-ended enough for a sequel or companion novel (in fact, I am counting on a series for this) and that is one area that sorely needs some detail and attention.
Cassandra Rose Clarke is an author to watch. This novel was quick, fun, unique and filled with two wonderfully imagined characters -- all the more impressive for The Assassin's Curse being her first. Though not free of a few pitfalls, I greatly enjoyed reading this and eagerly look forward to the next adventure on the horizon for these two characters....more
I enjoyed this novel, but those three-and-a-half out of five stars pained me to assign. ReaRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
3.5 out of 5
I enjoyed this novel, but those three-and-a-half out of five stars pained me to assign. Really pained me. I had started this betting myself that it could only improve on how much I loved Transcendence. For as much fun and as entertaining as this novel manages to be, it is a pale shadow of the sheer awesome that was the first book. A lot of what made the latter different among YA is happily still there: a focus on Egyptian mythology, reincarnation as a means to immortality, and a strong, smart female protagonist. Unfortunately, unlike its predecessor, Intuition falls prey to a lot of YA tropes that keep it from being a better novel. A distinct concentration on the romance to the detriment of an actual plot, a love triangle, and a somewhat rushed final conflict and resolution kept Intuition from the level previously seen in this series.
C.J. Omololu has a lot of talent for writing likeable characters, but it hurts the novel when the writing is concerned more with depicting a love triangle rather than in further developing and defining her cast of characters as individuals. I will always appreciate actual conflict more than romantic drama. Cole, the main character and first person narrator, comes off a lot less capable and interesting than she did in the first book. I can lay this solidly on the conflict she engages with most: which boy she wants to date. There are other conflicts at play in the novel, but her main struggle is between her past love from another life and the one she has found in her current one. If the author had chosen to showcase Cole's struggles to streamline her memories and past lives within her current one more, or even on her newfound abilities - well, let's say this would be a different review.
The antagonists of the book are also lacking in both dimension and presentation. The inclusion of the villain from the first book, Veronique, came off as a minor plot point. Subsequently, the later reveal of the actual antagonist was rather flat and rushed, compared with the time it took to get Cole to that point. It just didn't play well within the scope of the novel; after so much time, so many pages on Cole's wrestling with her love life, the sudden turnabout to real plot felt shallow and hollow. The books ties up the ends pretty nicely and satisfactorily while still leaving an open door for a further sequel.
For all that I had some misgivings, Intuition is a fast and involving read. The ideas and mythologies I loved so much from before are still in evidence and Omololu expands the worldbuilding more. The Ahket, The Sekhem, the Khered - all are explained and detailed more, but never in a way that feels like an infodump. If you don't remember what the terms and ideas are from the first book, I suggest you reacquaint yourself before trying this one. The author doesn't rehash too much from what happened or was explained before, so a good memory or a refresher is a good idea before diving in.
I didn't love this as much as I had hoped and wanted to, but that doesn't mean I didn't have a good time while reading Intuition. What Omololu does well, she does really really well. Her characters are likeable, her ideas unique, and her writing simple but effective. This may suffer a bit from sequel syndrome, but that doesn't mean I won't be eagerly anticipating any sequels or other novels the author will write. ...more