I went into this UF/PNR pretty hopeful: spunky heroine, a secret wizard organization, HurriRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
2.5 out of 5
I went into this UF/PNR pretty hopeful: spunky heroine, a secret wizard organization, Hurricane Katrina, and an undead sexy pirate. What's not to love, besides the Louisiana location (seriously, hasn't another paranormal series coughSookiecough dominated that locale for the last 7 years?)? Well, if you're an apparently unsatisfied reader like me, three out of those four items did not live up to expectations. DJ failed to impress me throughout her misadventures, and the much-advertised Hurricane Katrina lacked the emotional pull the author was aiming for, and this is no Harry-Potter level of wizardry. Suzanne Johnson has the large and unenviable task of setting up a series from this introductory book, and based on the "strengths" of Royal Street, I wish her much luck and patience. '
It's never a good sign when you can't even agree with the heroine on the nickname she gives herself. Drusilla Jaco prefers to go by "DJ" but in my head, she was always Dru. As in, "Dru, why are you doing that?", "Really, Dru, really?!" and "Don't you want to maybe think that through before you do it, Dru?" Dru is a deputy sentinel and is oh-so-very aware of the first word in her title. She doesn't believe in herself or her abilities and feels crippled when her mentor goes missing in the aftermath of Katrina. My problems with this novel really began with Dru: despite my chummy nickname, this is not a character I invested in, even marginally. I managed to finish this because I was powered by an interest to see how everything would wrap up, rather than a desire to see Dru grow and change as a person. She's also mind-numbingly slow to put things together - example: (view spoiler)[when her supposedly dead mentor appears to her and tells her to lie to everyone, especially the authorities, she doesn't take this as a sign of something bad. She just blithely accepts his word and goes along. (hide spoiler)]
In an ironic twist, it's not DJ, or her partner Sentinel Alexander that is the character with the most life. No that honor goes to Jean Lafitte, a pirate who is technically...dead. He's a bastard alright from the first moment he speaks, but damnit, at least he is an interesting and dynamic one. In a cast of so few, where I dislike most of the few, Jean was the one character I would root for continually. He didn't add the most to the story, but when I wanted to slap Dru for her wishywashy romantic love triangle BETWEEN COUSINS, Jean was the only tolerable part of the page. The love-triangle isn't as pronounced as some UF/PNR novels, but is fairly shameless and stupid on DJ's part. Within pages, Dru decides she doesn't want Alex, and goes on a date with his cousin Jake, only to be jealous of a girl looking at Alex while she is on the date with Jake. What? Really? At that point, I just thew up my hands and accepted that DJ was not a girl/character to whom I would ever relate.
If it was all just characterization issues with Royal Street, I could've easily seen a 3or maybe even a 3.5 rating for this novel. However, the twists and turns of the story are sadly predictable and telegraphed to the reader prematurely. I foresaw the resolutions to the main plot as well as most by plots easily and early on - I mostly continued reading to corroborate my correct guesses and see in what capacity Jean LaFitte would sidle into DJ's life. Perhaps best along with Jean, the villains of the piece are worth reading about. Unlike their cliched main character counterparts, Marie Leaveau and Baron Samedi are interesting and unpredictable for the duration of the novel. The murders committed at the heart of the mystery are semi-interesting but tend to get lost in the endlessssss searches for Gerry and the non-ending back-and-forth reporting to the Elders and waiting for a response. So much of this book is research or reporting or waiting that I got bored and would set it aside for several hours before returning to the story.
The world that Johnson has envisioned for her characters to play within is barely sketched out. It seems to be the same world as the one we actually live in (notable appearances: Louis Armstrong, Marie Laveau), but with wizards, vampires, undead, ghosts and other supernatural ilk. The wizards themselves were given a bare framework to illustrate the mechanics of the Sentinels program that was slowly fleshed out as the novel progressed. I liked the separation of talents into different spheres of influence (green congress versus red congress, etc.), though it does severely limit the possible scope of Dru's abilities. Also: (view spoiler)[ I also have to wonder why other European sentinels did not come to help with the influx of supernaturality after Hurricane Katrina. It is mentioned that American sentinels went to Europe in 1976 for the "Wizard War", so why is no help forthcoming in this apparently most drastic of times for New Orleans, with 'pretes' and historical undead just waltzing into the city? Holes like this, in the logic of the main plot of the entire novel, just distract me. I kept wondering why the author would mention a possibility to fix every thing (call them in to help with the pretes AND finding Gerry! Both plotlines wrapped up in thirty pages) and then ignore it for the rest of the book. It was...odd. (hide spoiler)]
This is the first in a series, and one I doubt I will pursue. Though my first impression formed ("I like that dead, dastardly pirate!") was one of the few favorable ones I took away from Royal Street, I believe this is a novel that will find a wide audience. Dru is far from a horrible protagonist, and some will genuinely like her wide-eyed and innocent approach to life - this is just not for me. 2/5 stars and a "no, thank you" - I will wonder what Jean LaFitte gets up to in his afterlife on Earth, but curiosity won't make me pick up book two when its out. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Short but sweet, The Alchemy of Forever is deceptively simple and remarkably engaging. The plot may noRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Short but sweet, The Alchemy of Forever is deceptively simple and remarkably engaging. The plot may not be entirely the most original, nor the writing the most striking, though it certainly has its moments of sparkle, but this was an unputdownable read. Finished in under three hours, my first experience with the series of the Incarnates was like the perfect sugary snack between actual meals: filling while eating and left no feelings of guilt or shame when I was finished. With both a great title and a new spin on teen immortality that isn't vampires or even vampire-adjacent in its immediate favor, I obviously found The Alchemy of Forever to be a very entertaining novel.
Seraphina and her story are instantly energetic; her story begins on a night of death but it is far from the end of Sera's existence. Alchemy, an ancient (and real) fruitless search for gold/youth and immortality among others, is successful in this alternative world of Williams's imagining, and wonderfully so. In this fantastical London, science and magic are indistinguishable, and fit in wonderfully with Sera's tale of escape and redemption. Sera and Cyrus have a core, selected group with which they share fellowship: Charlotte, Sera's BFF for 200 years; Jared, a pirate from the 1660's and a sort of enforcer for Cyrus; Sebastien, a reticent and largely unseen and mysterious member of the coven; and lastly, Amelia, an icy blonde that seems to harbor ill will toward both Charlotte and Sera. With each member needing a new body roughly every ten years, this is a group with many ghosts in the closet, though only Seraphina is shown to have any remorse for the killing left in their wake. While this seems to be set in an alternative world to ours, different only in the successful alchemy, I thought I caught a reference to Bram Stoker's Dracula - a dog named Harker that doesn't seem to take to Kailey/Sera... As I've mentioned I find the Incarnates condition and modus operandi (stalking/killing victim to replenish own lifeforce) and vampires to be very similar, I wonder if it is an intentional mention. There's not enough evidence to be sure yet, but I will be on the lookout for more clues/conspiracies in the sequel.
By virtue of becoming 'Incarnates' aka basically "body snatchers" with original souls in tact with her first love Cyrus, Sera endures centuries of life - but not real love, nor true happiness despite all the exotic experiences had and places she has been. Cyrus emerges as controlling, insane, volatile type of man - but happily, instead of mistaking this psychotic behavior as the danger it is and not misconstruing it as love, Sera attempts to free herself from his clutches. Even the act of hiding petty change gives her a thrill, to "have something that was mine." From the moment I realized Sera's plans, I liked her. For the first time in centuries, Sera dares to make her own decisions, dare to dream for herself instead of fearing what Cyrus will do to her as punishment. Her naivete at 14 haunts her for the most part of her endless centuries of life, and her maturation from selfish, thoughtless girl into an actual woman takes longer than eighteen years. Sera is a very introspective woman, as can be expected from someone downtrodden and controlled for so long, and that means much of this book is not action. As I adjusted to Sera and her style, I appreciated more the inwards-bent of her thinking - this is another of those characters that sneak up in your affections.
The Alchemy of Forever is a very engaging if all too brief, novel both in terms of character, and the unique, entirely welcome new spin on immortality. But this is also slightly disquieting book. The notion of "body snatching" is itself pretty creepy - the actual person is dead but the shell remains, with another inside, unbeknownst to anyone else. How is that not the height of creepitude? There are no less than three movies since 1945 devoted to just how horrific this concept is to us. Sera herself seems very aware of this, commenting internally and often that "the daughter they knew was dead and they had no idea" in several different reiterations, with just Sera wearing her skin around them. And the fact that there is an entire coven of immortal-body-snatching-murderers-with-permanent-wanderlust out there adds another level of menace to the novel it otherwise lacks. Cyrus certainly makes for an adequate villain and foil for Sera - more than adequate when he's actually present on the page instead of a ghost or memory- but the threat of him doesn't inspire as much tension as it could otherwise.
While I can't say the "relationship" between Sera/Kailey and Noah the black-haired neighbor-boy with a heart of gold smacks of the long-sought-after and advertised "true love" from above, there is a clear chemistry and sweetness between the two. I think I found Noah a bit too wide-eyed and perfect to entirely believe in him - or his continued attraction to Kailey after it emerges how shoddily she treated him for years - but overall I liked his character and could see the appeal even if I stood outside of it. From what is alluded to about Kailey pre-Sera she seems like a hard-to-like girl as well, so I wonder why Noah didn't remark upon the abrupt and 180 degree attitude changes that "Kailey" experienced in the novel...? I also wonder at how this thing between the two will develop - how will Sera reconcile Noah to the fact that the Kailey he knew is gone but the "Kailey" he loves is an immortal murderess hundreds of years older than himself? But while I found the 'love' between the 'teens' to be somewhat lacking, the home relationship and dynamic of the Morgans is refreshing and warm, and real. They present a stark and very bleak comparison to the 'love and family' that Sera has known for centuries with the coven, and it's nice to read a non dysfunctional family once in a while.
The ending is abrupt, let's just say that. It comes to a screaming and ominous cliffhanger right at the very moment you most wish to keep reading. While I can understand the cutoff as an incentive to read the next novel it left me somewhat dissatisfied with this first in the series. Unfortunately, many, many threads are left wide-open after that bastard of a cliffhanger for an ending and no main conflict is resolved - the book just ends. What happened to the magical book Sera had the night she switched bodies? What happened to Taryn, who might know all of Sera's secrets? What was Kailey doing the night she died? The questions are endless and enough to ensure, above all doubt and frustration with this finale, I will be continuing this series. ...more
Sequel Syndrome strikes again! I had been looking forward to reading this direct follow-up to Callihan'Read This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Sequel Syndrome strikes again! I had been looking forward to reading this direct follow-up to Callihan's engaging and fun first novel, Firelight, for months now. Upon randomly stumbling across and loving the first in the Darkest London series earlier this year, I was eager to see where Callihan would take her version of London run amok with the supernatural. First seeing this up on NetGalley, the anticipation of a good book when I was approved.. all added up to a lot of pressure and excitement on my part...which never really panned out here in Moonglow. A lot of the charm, the fun, the inventiveness that made the first so memorable and easy to read is missing here. I must admit that I really struggled to finish this, through the predictable plotlines, the meandering plot, the boring sections when nothing happens, though my ARC was only 300 pages. I've gone back and forth with my rating for this - from a 1.5 to a 2.75 to a 2.5 and then finally settli9ng a "2". It's not horrible, but it's just not good, either. Other fans of the first and the series don't seem to be nearly as disappointed as I was, but this is going down as my biggest let-down in months. It had so much potential, so much momentum from the first, and Moonglow utterly squanders both.
I hate the disappointment that often comes so easily to a series of books, usually right where Moonglow is in sequence - the volume between the first inception of a series and the finale of it all. The concepts that were so creative in the first book of Darkest London, just don't have the benefit of the originality, and so it falls to the characters and plot to make up for the lack. That never happens here. Never. Instead of the fresh concept of paranormal curses like what plagued Archer, Moonglow is just another romance novel werewolf tale. I wanted to like the two lead protagonists in Daisy Ellis and Ian Ranulf, but I never invested or connected with either person. It, that ineffable quality some characters possess to make you like themeven against your will (see The Hound, Jaime Lannister, etc.), just wasn't there for me. Not for Ian the charismatic, dark anti-hero of Benjamin Archer that I so easily fell under the sway of before. From a villain in the first book to the hero of the second, MacRanulf just fell entirely flat in his presentation, his character and his actions. I also couldn't buy his motivations and change of character from one book to the next. An anti-hero or a man with a dark past is one thing, but the Ian from Firelight was an ass, one I hated, and I therefore couldn't (wouldn't?) buy into his Poor Noble With A Troubled Heart act here in book two. Callihan did her work too well with the first novel with his character for me to see him as sympathetically as she tries so hard to paint him here.
Daisy, his obvious love interest from the first book, had plenty of sass but it felt forced, and disjointed when with her lover. Their tart, acerbic banter could be amusing on occasion, but for the most part, left me cold and disbelieving of their affections for one another. I don't even have a lot to say about Daisy. She was there, she did what she had to move the book along. She's blah, meh, milquetoast to the tip of her blonde head. I missed Miranda's fire, excuse the pun. The third person POV doesn't really do any favors for either lead: perhaps had I read inner monologues and thoughts I would've cared at all more. I certainly liked that Daisy was independent and had a mind of her own, but I just couldn't connect with her. I wanted both her and Ian to mature the hell up and act like adults instead of the "I like him/her so I am going to be as rude, inscrutable, cold and mysterious as possible" act that went on for far too long. This isn't young-adult literature, people. This is a romance novel with supernatural elements: please stop with the teenage melodrama and wishy-washy bullshit.We all know you're going to fall in love and bang - please don't make the read there unbearable. When the romance finally did happen along, proceeding as we all knew it would, I had issues; partially due to their weird interactions leading up to that point, but I wasn't into it. The two complement each other well, sure, but I just didn't care about their love lives, their sex scenes or, above all, their angst over the other. If I don't care about either character independently, why would I care when they're together? Oh right: I don't and I didn't.
The mythology of the weres and the lycans is weak. I can't think of another way to put it. It's not explained nearly enough and seems to be ridiculously arbitrary. (view spoiler)[ Why are female lycans and weres so rare? If they as a species reproduce so infrequently, how come there are so many mentioned? How did the clan come into being? Are all the weres/lycans supposed to be alone their whole lives? Are they homosexual by nature? Then how does the breed survive? Why doesn't the bite of a werewolf turn a human? And if the bite is so weak, how could the disease be passed so easily? (hide spoiler)] See? I have many, many questions upon finishing this...none of which are even close to be answered. All that mess adds up to a very unsatisfactory read, full of holes and problems; showing a novel that doesn't take the time to flesh out its own world and lore. I also have to note that this has a Scottish werewolf pack with members named Maccon, Conall, and a beta named Lyall. That doesn't sound at all familiar to fans of Gail Carriger's delightful Parasol Protectorate series, does it? Noo, not at all. Coincidence, or homage? Either way, it's too close to home for yet another alternate supernatural history of England to name their wolfen members such names.
Too much of the plot here was predictable, when it even cared to make an appearance (which was rarer than the female lycans mentioned in passing.) I called two of the key twists long before they happened, to my immense chagrin. I don't remember the first novel's plot as being this transparent and was surprised at how obvious a lot of the "mystery" was to the reader. A little more authorial sleight-of-hand to camouflage the clues would've gone a long way. Long stretches of boredom permeated my one-day read of the novel; sections filled with the annoying back and forth of the main character, with absolutely no plot advancement. Seriously, for like 75 pages, everyone forgets there is a mad, murderous werewolf on the loose. Other elements just felt stuffed in, randomly, like the GIMs, who don't serve any real purpose til the end... (view spoiler)[ when they really do become deux-ex-machinas, or ghosts in the machine. (hide spoiler)] That whole bit just seemed like lazy writing to me - an easy out to fix a plot point. I expected more from what was there - without the side filler and angst, this would've been a much stronger, more enjoyable read.
I'm torn. I like to finish what I start, but I don't know if I will be continuing the Darkest London series with the third Ellis sister installment: Winterblaze. Kristen Callihan has an easy style, but I was not happy with this latest effort. Much weaker, much less original, much less detailed, and with much more off-putting leads, than Firelight, Moonglow was big swing and a miss. Callihan is 1 for 2 so far, and only time will tell if I give my disappointment time to cool.... and choose to pick up the third.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
These short stories are quite fun - especially with Valek as a POV character! I wish that that happened more in the full-length novels. Either way, IcThese short stories are quite fun - especially with Valek as a POV character! I wish that that happened more in the full-length novels. Either way, Ice Study is a definitely 3.5 out of 5. ...more
Firelight is a great read! I didn't have high expectations going in, but I am glad to say that I was on the wrong foot when starting the gem that is tFirelight is a great read! I didn't have high expectations going in, but I am glad to say that I was on the wrong foot when starting the gem that is the first in the Darkest London series. One I am both enthusiastic about after finishing and also feel comfortable, almost eager, to recommend to others. With two such dynamic leads as we have in Archer and Miranda, an enthralling and very fast read, further coupled with a fresh take on 1880's London, Firelight adds up to a prime recipe for both easy reading and instant enjoyment. This is a retelling of the classic tale of Beauty and the Beast, but with a unique supernatural bent. The subtle and/or dry humor spiced throughout ("Think of England, darling.") is a nice touch added to balance the darker story of murder, mystery and betrayal that permeates through Ms. Callihan's evocative read.
The writing of the novel immediately caught my eye - in a very favorable way. Sentences like:
"Mud-thick fog hung low on the ground, refusing to drift off despite the crisp night breeze. It never truly went away, ever present in London, like death, taxes, and monarchy."
appear often and early. Ms. Callihan can certainly set a scene and her version of London at the turn of the century is both compelling and amusing. Most of the time the writing in the novel is pretty and flows with remarkable ease. However, this is a first novel and it is not free from errors. While I just stated my love for the prose, I have to admit at times it did wax occasionally florid with descriptions and dialogue -which is, by rights, a small complaint when the majority of the novel is carried so well. The beginning of Firelight is also a bit rough in comparison - cliches abound and might scare off less forgiving readers, but Callihan hits her stride early on and rarely veers off course after. Firelight may stumble out of the opening gate, it more than gathers steam (and steamy scenes!) as it progresses.
One of the things I enjoyed so much about Firelight right from the beginning is that the book makes it quite obvious that the beloved story of Beauty and the Beast (even the original La Belle et la Bete) is itself a retelling of the legend of Psyche and Eros. Many retellings are either unaware of the genesis of the story or gloss right over the origins without a nod - which I mean clearly, I am being nitpicky here as such details are not required - just enjoyed by myself. But Callihan does it so well, without detracting from the forward momentum and I liked the subtle allusions and reminders the author inserted into Miranda and Archer's tale. Archer himself is the best part of the whole novel: reimagined and intriguing London and mysterious powers having no claim on the charismatic but tortured hero. I was more iffy on Miranda, especially at the beginning (Aaah - the cliched girl in pants! Can we just please retire this trope already?!) but her strong-headed independence and good attitude quickly catapulted her high in my estimations. Both Archer and Miranda are wonderfully realized characters for the most part: neither one is perfect and neither one should be taken at appearance value. I did have issues with the immediacy and the passion of Archer's feelings for Miranda based on little but looks - it smacks of insta!love - but happily, and against all expectations, their relationship much more complicated than it appears initially. Miranda, perhaps for the first time, sees in Archer someone that will value a true equal, someone who looks beyond her outside and finds value within. For Archer, Miranda represents acceptance and love in a world that has spurned him - really, the two complement each other quite well and have a relationship to root for.
I liked this better than the first, but Aria is still a wash for me. Perry is better, and Roar is the best of them all. I will keep reading; Rossi3.5
I liked this better than the first, but Aria is still a wash for me. Perry is better, and Roar is the best of them all. I will keep reading; Rossi continues to learn and grow as a writer but I do not love this series the way others do....more
Another solidly impressive journey into the life of Marie Antoinette, Grey again proves, with her second novel in a planned trilogy, that she is a skilled writer, able to evoke time, place, and characters with equal vivacity. Beginning two weeks after the first novel, Becoming Marie Antoinette, ended, Grey immediately relaunches herself and the reader into an opulent, turbulent world with her title character more prominent than ever in French society. In this detailed, rich novel, full of eye-popping descriptions of everything from le Petite Trianon to the poufs that adorn Marie's head, both the narrative and the letters from the Queen to her family at home in Austria all serve to form a comprehensive picture of life in Louis XIV's France. Formerly the Dauphine, transitioning now into the role of the Queen of France, Marie finds herself with prestige, but little actual power. Iconic, but politically impotent, bereft of the love and attention she desperately craves, Grey provides ample reasons (that actually work!) for the reasons behind the monarch's spendthrift ways. Much like the evolution she underwent in the first book, this well-rendered version of Marie Antoinette is far from stagnant, but makes choices, for good or ill, that will drastically affect the people and country she governs.
The Marie so carefully cultivated by the author is much more than the villianess that most of history remembers her as. Spoiled, yes. A glutton for fine things? Yes. But evil, intent on harming the common folk and abusing them? No. The vivid woman shown here in Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow is a more mature, more intelligent version of the girl she used to be and Grey takes care to paint her protagonist as realistically as possible. For all that Queen Marie is remembered and vilified as a one-sided caricature of vice, selfishness, and greed, Grey shows a multitude of other facets of her personality. Kind, lonely, funny, maternal, the author is deft in her portrayal in all the facets of this fascinating woman from the good to the bad. Her Marie Antoinette is always not wholly sympathetic ("For what is money, with happiness at stake?"), but she is often understandable in her opinions and attitudes. With her well-meaning but often oblivious husband Louis balancing an already-taxed treasury with the wants, demands, and rights of the people he rules by divine right, Marie and her coterie of noble ladies find themselves skewered by cartoonists, and resented for the life of grand palaces and sumptuous gowns they use once and discard, despite the Queen's good intentions.
Louis plays a larger role in the second novel than he did in the first; the King is much more directly involved with the plotline of this novel than the previous. More peripheral in the introduction of the series, here in part two, now, married and reigning as King, this Louis indulges his wife's flights of fancy, and spending as a concession to make up for the lack of intimacy and input he offers her in their private life. With the Queens of France traditionally have prestige but no real governing power, Louis is very Gallic and rigid in his role, a devoted adherent to the traditions his wife so dislikes. Louis is a good foil for his spendthrift femme; often shown trying to reign in the out-of-control treasury, his royal brother's profligate attitudes about women and coin, to little or no avail. He is not developed as Marie, but he is shown in realistic views - and Grey even tries to rectify his reasons for a lack of a royal heir (for seven years after marriage!) with a possible, plausible medical condition. His (unknown?) rival for Marie's affections in the Swedish Count of Axel von Fersen adds even more intensity and tension to a novel thick with conflict. Though there is a love-triangle of sorts in Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow, Juliet Grey is able to pull it off with aplomb, without making it halt the plot's momentum or the characters involved tiresome. Each man appeals to a different side of the complicated Queen, and though she may be more her father's daughter than she thought to be, Marie's attractions to both came off as authentic - as did her actions.
For the most part, I thought that first-person POV was an excellent choice to showcase the plot and varied characters of this story. It allows for a closer view of Marie and how she works internally, and reading Marie's well-intentioned inner monologue helps to firmly create the three-dimensional version of the character. It is easy for feel for the entitled Queen, even as she haplessly carries herself and her friends toward a grisly end. With factions all around her vying for favor (Polignac vs. Lamballe, etc) even among her dearest friends, Marie Antoinette is a commodity, a property, to be used and controlled for position, power, and money. Her narration helps humanize her and separate this version from the historical, as even her own family-in-law undermines her with the people. The only places the narrative stumbled for me were the thankfully rare occasions that abruptly jumped to third-person narration - like Emperor Joseph's meeting with du Barry, or Jeanne de Lamotte's cunning deception of the Grand Almoner, Rohan. A nice flow, and even pacing across long periods of time, coincide with the well-chosen point-of-view, and all add up to a thoroughly enjoyable, eminently readable historical fiction novel.
Juliet Grey ably paints a vivid, frenzied look at Marie's troubled, occasionally vapid existence of self-interest and whim. Between the constraint of etiquette steeped in outlandish traditions and little privacy that she found so oppressive, and Marie's subsequent alienation of certain powerful nobles, and with the French-monarchy-supported American Revolution giving the French people new ideas, wants and seeding deep doubts about the right of divine rule, the foreshadowing is subtly woven into the novel and reminds readers of the royal family's ultimate fate while still leaving them wanting more. A fully realized scenario of the French country and economy as it stood in Louis XIV's reign, the atmosphere of Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow grows ever bleaker and more ominous with her chapter. It's a hard to put down book, but one that is easy to involve yourself with the goings-on even as that fateful day in October looms ever closer.
Juliet Grey delivers a solid, engrossing, completely entertaining sequel. One that is filled with fleshed-out versions of the historical personages known so well, even into the modern age. Not mere stereotypes or villains, but real, plausible renderings of people who have left a mark on history. What Becoming Marie Antoinette started, Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow ably continues - a tradition of well-written, thoroughly detailed, engrossing historical fiction novels centered on one of the most interesting times and people in history. I personally cannot wait to see how this talented author will chose to recreate the last years of Marie Antoinette's life, and the fall of the Bourbon dynasty to the French Revolution with the trilogy's conclusion, The Last October Sky. ...more
And a "well done" to both Kaufman and Spooner for bringing it with book two in their shared series. With better plotting, a great female lead, a well-And a "well done" to both Kaufman and Spooner for bringing it with book two in their shared series. With better plotting, a great female lead, a well-written romance, I think This Shattered World was an improvement on its predecessor These Broken Stars. ...more
Not A Drop to Drink is a strong, well-written, and evocative read. It smartly captures and portrays a world without easily-accessible water, and McGinnis ably spins her story of survival in desperate times. Main character Lynn is a striking protagonist and a memorable one as she grows up in this world where cholera is once again a deadly force and the thirsty dead roam free. With her third person narration and the story's creative spin on a post/near-apocalypse, Not A Drop to Drink is easily one of the better YA debuts for the latter half of 2013.
The premise itself is a clever one, and McGinnis explores it pretty well. There's not a lot of information immediately dispersed about the world Lynn and her mother live in, but details are slowly revealed through dialogue, conversation, and deed. The desperate atmosphere is palpable, the drama is intense, and above all, it's a believable scenario. Scarcity of drinkable water is something billions of people in the modern world already face, so it's easy to see the possibility in McGinnis's future. The author creates several clever ideas for her characters to be able to live and function in this world, so while Lynn and Laurel have done alright, they always live on the brink of disaster and dehydration.
Lynn is a more grown up, more mature character than a lot of YA protagonists out there. Her life is demanding and one of those demands is that she grow up fast and learn to defend what is hers, be it from other people or from the encroaching and increasingly bold wildlife. Threats come from all sides in McGinnis's world, and Lynn has been capable of killing to stay alive since she was nine years old. Her world is harsh, but Lynn isn't unlikeable. She isn't afraid to make hard choices and do what is necessary. I applaud that, and Lynn's pragmatic approach to survival. Going through the day-to-day chores Lynn performs to just stay alive is a refreshing change from how most authors would approach this kind of story. It makes for a quieter, less action-packed read, but it keeps everything realistic and fresh.
However, the characterization is the main reason I can't rate this book higher. There are more people than just Lynn and her mom in the novel, but none really came to life the way the first two did. Stebbs, a longtime neighbor, came closest, but the secondary cast needs some serious fleshing out. There is a love interest, but he was wooden and ill-defined. I wanted more from the characters -- Lynn is a powerhouse, and everyone else just kind of fades away. None possess her level personality, logic, or strength. It's frustrating because there is definite potential being wasted for the characters of Neva and Eli especially. Lucy straddles the middle - she's neither as well-rounded as Lynn, but she is not as one-dimensional as her mom and uncle.
If you liked Hatchet, or are a fan of teenage survivalism and self-reliance, Not A Drop to Drink is your book. It's a smart look at a realistic apocalyptic event, told ably and well by a strong debut author. Lynn will remain memorable for me for a long time. While this is a standalone with plenty of resolution, I wouldn't be averse to a sequel, or a companion novel. ...more
Ari Berk's slowly plotted but excellently told tale of teenage Undertaker Silas Umber is a magical, encRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Ari Berk's slowly plotted but excellently told tale of teenage Undertaker Silas Umber is a magical, enchanting, if occasionally macabre, tale - one I found hard to put down. The smooth, mellifluous flow of the writer's style eased me into an alternate world of revenants, lichs and ghosts in the necropolis of the book's setting, in the town of Lichport. I can't stress enough how much I enjoyed this quirky, individual young-adult novel with a supernatural bent. Death Watch may take a while to sink its clever claws into a reader, but once I began there was no turning back for me: I had to get as much time as I could with this strange but completely, morbidly fascinating tale and Silas himself. This is a heavy, almost haunting novel - mournful without being too much, but very readable. I went into this expecting perhaps a modern, male Sabriel (shepherd of the dead with unusual tools, dead/missing father, etc.), but Death Watch is a creature of its own making and name.
Silas is one the best parts of the entire endeavor, and a character quite dear to my heart. While his name is both a clever hint and a subtle foreshadowing of his death-centric life (Silas is veeeerry similar to "solace" and "umber" is a brown pigment, hinting at the dirt of the deceased), Silas isn't a creepy character at all: he's kind, quiet, disappointed, sad, lonely (sly mentions of invisible friends allude to the persistent loneliness of the young Umber's life) - all normal, understandable teen emotions. He's a well-developed character that's very aware of words and the power they can have, and as an empathetic young man in a house of brutes or drunks he stands out as the only likable main character in the whole novel. I found Silas' reaction to his father's mysterious disappearance and his mother's complete indifference in response to be wholly compelling and added a nice familial conflict to add in to the more supernatural elements in Silas' life. I also very much enjoyed the arc of Silas development while in Lichport: from a passive but angry young man, he evolves into one of my favorite male protagonists of the recent past.
Silas's job as the Undertaker of Lichport remains vague for the most part of the first half of the novel. I was very curious about this and the role the dead were to have in Berk's tale - fearful he'd veer into caricature or horror - but my fears were unfounded. The role of the Hadean Clock, or Silas's tool to see the ghosts the Death Watch itself, played a minor if very vital role. After so mant paranormal/supernatural reads I loved that the focus of the novel was on Silas himself rather than his "magic" or his Watch. While I found the repeated and varied ominous warning anf fear of the "mist ship" to be less than effective for creating suspense, other characters more than made up for the lack (coughCharlescough) that the supernatural failed to bring. What did more than add to the general atmosphere and the feel of history of the story/family were the notes/addendums/quotes taken from previous Undertaker's collection of knowledge. These little bits and pieces of scattered information did a lot to sate my ever-growing curiosity about the Undertakers, but did not give away too much detail to spoil the story. The supernatural elements the author does choose to include within his mythology all work together marvelously with the mundane, humane aspects to create a very fun novel for readers of any age.
I did wish for a more developed cast of background character in the case of Silas's mother, the very off-putting Dolores Umber. Silas has a strained relationship with his gin-happy mother, but Dolores is painted only one color for the whole novel: black of heart. She is never shown to have a heart or even care for her son and I felt that "disappointed in her life" was a lame and quick sop to explain her extreme apathy for her husband and their child. The slightly Hamlet vibe between Dolores and Silas's Uncle (aka Dolores' brother-in-law) is just plain creepy and did more to establish "Uncle's" character than anything else said about him. The third-person perspective used by Ari Berk is done quite well: equal light, both favorable and disfavorable, is shone upon all the characters of the novel. I just wished for a more believable motivation behind Dolores' actions and vitriol. Her bitter, typical woman-done-wrong routine seemed out-of-tune with the otherwise (mostly) superbly plotted novel. The other periphery characters of the novel - the friendly but dense Mrs. Bowe, the question of Bea - add more flavor and mystery to the novel, but none were what I would call fully-rounded and developed characters. In a novel with so much prose dedicated just about the importance of the past, of ancestors and history, I found Silas's extended family to come up a tad wanting.
While I loved the style, the voice and the characters I did have issues with the plot-lines central to the story. From the initial and almost McGuffin-esque disappearance of Amos Umber to the mysterious ghost ship to the creepy Bea, nothing felt wholly explained or even thought-out by the end of the book. Bea in particular seemed quite unnecessary and like filler for the alternate plots within the story - I would have rather more time with search, in Uncle's house, etc. These essential plot-lines also tended to get lost in the story and the details in Silas's explorations of the town and probably didn't help later on when the novelty itself flagged and I got slightly bored. The mist ship, source of so much worry and fear for 500 pages was a complete let-down and a bust. Its end was sadly all-too-predictable and lessened my overall opinion of Death Watch for it felt out of tune with the rest of such an atmospheric and affecting read. It also doesn't help that it takes quite a while (nearly 250 pages in the 540 page tome) to get any kind of real explanation of basic principles of the world/the magic/the Undertaker job itself.
Another love of mine throughout the pages of Death Watch was the town of Lichport itself. With such an obvious harbinger for a name, I loved the random but delightful flares of supernaturality in the town. From "the Restless" (basically a reanimated corpse/lich) to angry and unsettled ghosts, Lichport is a field of deadly imagination.While I thought Silas explorations of the misthomes/shadowlands fell way short of its potential for awesome. Instead of showcasing the individuality and flair of the nearly-dead town, it was an extended yawn for me after about page 350 until just about 100 pages later. I will admit to chuckling at the sailor's club line about their wives, but one quip does not save 100 pages of meandering novel. It is very impressive that the rest of Ari Berk's novel is strong enough to carry a 4 star rating, even with that 100 pages of yawns. Also: Mrs. Bowe's ridiculous reticence to tell Silas ANYTHING! made me very frustrated and cranky with her character. That also was a situation drawn out too-long and made both Mrs. Bowe and Silas act in ways contradictory to their personalities.
I love love LOVED the author's unique way with words. Ari Berk can write, make no mistake. While I might have minor issues with select parts of the novel, I cannot deny I was repeatedly struck by a passage of a quote in the middle of a page, a paragraph. I know quoting from ARCs is supposed to be a big no-no, but this is a perfect illustration of why I adored the reading experience itself:
"The day his dad didn't come home, it was like a huge window over their heads had shattered, and every day they were walking through the broken pieces. Nothing fit together. Nothing made sense or seemed connected to anything else, and every step hurt."
This is an author that doesn't delve into purple prose or overdone phrases laced with unnecessary adjectives and adverbs: his is a style of simple lyricism and ease, with a vivid picture easily attached. I loved the frequent descriptionary verbosity as it built a vivid and compelling frame for his characters, but I can see why some readers may be put off by his intensely wordy writing, in addition to the slower pace of the novel. This is certainly not for everyone and I will understand most complaints a reader could have for this story, but for me, this was a wonderful read that left me more than eager for its sequel. Death Watch is best summed up as: a compelling, morbid, weirdly fascinating tale of Wailing Women, Peller-Men, families of mutes, ghosts, lichs, revenants and a great hero, all told in unique and fresh stylings of Mr. Ari Berk....more
Is it sad that I enjoyed this short story a whole lot more than I did Fire Study? Cause I totally, totally did. Where's a spin-off series with just ArIs it sad that I enjoyed this short story a whole lot more than I did Fire Study? Cause I totally, totally did. Where's a spin-off series with just Ari and Janco? Maaaybe Maren. I'd read it....more
Much like the first in the series, Just Like Heaven, this is a charming and easy read. The Smythe-SmithRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Much like the first in the series, Just Like Heaven, this is a charming and easy read. The Smythe-Smith Quartet is shaping up nicely to become a must-read - which is something that doesn't often happen for me with this type of romance novelish book. A Night Like This is a light-hearted and thoroughly charming novel with two very likeable and compatible leads in Daniel and Anne (and scene-stealers in Frances, Elizabeth and Harriet.) There's much more than steamy sex scenes to look forward to in this - there's comedy aplenty (I admit I lol'd at the play chapter especially) and plenty of action and danger to keep the pages turning with alacrity.
I freely admit don't read a ton of romance novels - I have nothing against them, but on the whole, every reader goes into that genre of novel generally knowing the final outcome: love, sex and a happy ending. What makes it fun to read these type of books are the authors who take the time to create whole, rounded characters and a real plot to keep things advancing instead of just sex scene after sex scene. I don't/can't/won't care about the sex if I am not emotionally invested in the people having it! Julia Quinn is one of those rare authors, which is why I have found myself completely wrapped up in everything in this novel. There is am emphasis on the romance (instalove ahoy), but I didn't mind in this book, with these two. Thankfully, both Anne and Daniel are both flawed, amusing, wholly believable, personable characters with motivations and secrets of their own. They complement each other very well and have chemistry to burn but they are not utterly dependent on the other. Anne is a resourceful and smart girl that can save herself - and does on several occasions. Daniel's chacterization is a bit more typical of a young, honorable lord but his sense of humor and interactions with Miss Wynter show a more rounded version of the Earl.
I can't talk about characters in A Night Like This without mentioning the unexpected and utterly hilarious trio of girls that Anne is governess for: Frances, the unicorn-loving youngest, the middle-child Elizabeth, constantly caught between propriety and annoying her older sister, and Harriet, the earnest young playwright behind such classics as The Strange, Sad Tale of The Lord Who Was Not Finstead. Anne and Daniel are more than compelling to read about with their interwoven tales of revenge and mystery, but it is the three Pleinsworth cousins who truly make this as light-hearted and humorous as it is. Several times during their appeareances I would actually laugh-out-loud (thank you, Frances.) The cast of this novel is really the biggest attraction to he had - moreso than the slightly predictable plot, or even than the genuinely sweet romance angle of the two main leads, the large, clangorous and musically-impaired Smythe-Smith family is just plain fun to read about.
This is only the second of the series, and my imagination is already at work trying to predict the main leads for the third novel. Hugh Prentice and Sarah? Harriet? While it's a bit early to tell just now, you can be sure that I will be stalking GoodReads, waiting for the next book to pop up with information. Julia Quinn has an easy, inimitable style and her novels are an amusing way to pass an afternoon, but rewarding at the same time. With each novel of this author's that I read, I am more and more inclined to buy another. Fans of her Bridgerton series as well as of the first book will find more of the same here easy humor and steamy sexy scenes in A Night Like This. Julia Quinn, I am officially a fan. ...more
Well. That was weird, wasn't it? This young-adult paranormal/mystery novel started off very Twilightesque - down to reluctant and non-speaking lab parWell. That was weird, wasn't it? This young-adult paranormal/mystery novel started off very Twilightesque - down to reluctant and non-speaking lab partners! - and then became slightly creepy, but without any involving characters. And then, the main character, Camelia, is quite dense and often Too Stupid To Live, though of course she does. The series and Camelia's life continue on with three published sequels (Deadly Little Lies, Deadly Little Games, Deadly Little Voices) and another in the works (Deadly Little Lessons) but I doubt this is a series I'll continue reading.
I gave this poor little attempt at the paranormal teen genre two stars out of five because while I find it to be a shallow (and transparent) ripoff of several novels cobbled into one, it wasn't a completely horrible one on the level with, say, Tris & Izzie. I did like Kimmie, the Goth cliche best friend, and was mostly amused by her dialogue. I was certainly more drawn to that colorfulish character than Camelia, who just made me insane. I hated the "relationship" between Ben and Camelia. Several words spring to mind to describe it in all its youthful glory: Manufactured. Dumb. Baseless. Ridiculous. And I'm just going off the top of my head here, kids. Basically, this novel is just not good. I called the twists, I called the overall antagonist (and couldn't believe when Camelia didn't and walked off willingly with her stalker after mistrusting everyone right and left...) I just fail to see the point of this novel: why exactly was there a need for this to be written, published, continued in several sequels?
Like I've said over and over there's very little noteworthy about this novel. Even the element that adds "paranormal" this book's description has been done before (L.J. Smith's Dark Visions trilogy) and better. Deadly Little Secret is so generic and really completely unnecessary I have trouble remembering the title and I've only (just) read one out of the whole series of five. This is nothing exceptional in itself and I'd steer readers to more unique, original novels than to start this series....more
Just.. wow. This is such a novel. I don't even have the words to articulate how rich, lovely, and special this book is. I knew I loved the first, Wow.
Just.. wow. This is such a novel. I don't even have the words to articulate how rich, lovely, and special this book is. I knew I loved the first, with its blue-haired, quirky protagonist and it's legions of monsters and angels, but this one is better.
Days of Blood and Starlight is a far cry from Daughter of Smoke and Bone, but it s a deeply magical and thoroughly unique, beautifully written piece of art.
Legacy is sadly one of those books I wanted to like more than I actually liked in the end. Legacy can be, and very often is, dry, slightly2.5 out of 5
Legacy is sadly one of those books I wanted to like more than I actually liked in the end. Legacy can be, and very often is, dry, slightly boring and stilted in its execution. With so much of the novel reminiscent of other novels like the boarding school a la Harry Potter, Strange Angels, Vampire Academy, Hex Hall, etc., or the two love interests that have to be kept apart for someone's safety a la Twilight, The Clann or really almost every vampire young-adult novel ever, it is quite hard for Legacy to make a unique impression that is entirely its own. It's a sad echo of more action-filled and invigorating reads that populate this kind of novel. Though it merits only a 2.5 out of 5 stars for me, I did manage find some worthwhile aspects to this long young-adult novel about witches and evil in New England. I wish that there was more to recommend this supernatural tale from a veteran author, but I was disappointed and bored by this read. It was one of those books you finish out of endurance, rather than a genuine desire to conclude the story.
Serenity Katherine "Katy" Jessup Ainsworth is, like many teen protagonist in the paranormal YA genre, isolated, lonely, abandoned in a strange place and possessing strange powers that shouldn't exist. There's sadly not much to distinguish Katy from her peers of the genre. She's sadly cliched in many of her personality/abilities, and fails to truly connect with the reader. There's also so many pointed remarks about her "creepy" or "snake" eyes but no real reason is provided for entirely too long, so every ensuing remark drove me batty. Added to her already full closet of cliches and tropes is her Mysterious Dead Mom - another easy plot structure that Legacy falls prey to. I was supposed to feel for Katy, as she was just abandoned by her unfeeling, remote father 1500 miles from her Floridian home, but I just.. didn't. Her isolation and loneliness are extreme and I didn't buy into the student body's treatment of her, both pre- and post-Peter. I wasn't a fan of how her relationship with love interest Peter matured either: there were far too many rapid-fire shifts in emotion and status between the two of them to be believable.
Legacy is quite slow-moving for the bulk of the narrative. Not much happens in the small town of Whitfield, nor in Ainsworth School besides teenage hazing and Katy's pining for a boy she hardly knows. I wish that Legacy had been less predictable: the easy-to guess plot twists combined with the slower pace for the non-events did not do the story any favors. I found the romance of Peter and Katy to be pedantic and predictable as well: from this initial hatred to her unfounded fascination with him, I called it all. I absolutely hated the presentation of the student body within the boarding school: even the non-magical (the "cowen" in this novel's particular vernacular) are ridiculously and stupidly bigoted against Katy from the day of her arrival. Yes, the outcast role in a novel is popular because so many of today's teens can relate and identify closely with just such a character, but it was just ridiculously overdone here. These kids really were like cows: they hate Katy when Peter does and love her when he abruptly switches to the other side and loves her.