It's a rather large understatement to say I had high expectations for Daughter of Smoke and Bone. It was - and still is - pretty ubiquitous and lauded everywhere you find it mentioned. I was so keen on reading this novel I preordered it. I rarely preorder anything; bookbuying before seeing/touching the actual novel is one of the few area I can exercise some patience in. For example, the last book I preordered was George R. R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons after nearly six years of anticipation. But, lo and behold, even before the promised release date of September 27, a beautiful copy of Daughter of Smoke and Bone appeared on my doorstep. I devoured it in two days, only stopping because of a headache so bad I literally couldn't see straight. Laini Taylor's amazing novel more than met my high hopes: she exceeded them in every way. It's a novel that delights and entertains, neither stinting on the drama and humor nor on acutely attractive brooding male characters.
It's hard to review something you love - I've had trouble reviewing this as well as The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman and Kate Morton's epic The Distant Hours. I sat on this particular review for over a week trying to analyze how I felt about it and how to express my opinions other than just fangirl squeeling ("Oh my god, I wish I was Karou. Oh, My. GOD. Akiva.<33," etc). When you love a book, it's personal in a way few things are: you want everyone else to love it unconditionally, too, and hiss at any detractors. While Daughter is not the end-all be-all my review might sound like, it is one of my top favorite reads of the year/all-time. From the tagline "Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well," alone I knew I was in for an epic star-crossed love affair and had faith that Laini Taylor would handle it with aplomb and not melodrama. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a fresh read with unique elements, and note as well this is a young-adult novel that is certainly not just for young-adults.
Daughter is not a paranormal romance. Daughter is not an urban fantasy. Daughter is not a fantasy. Daughter is not a coming-of-age young adult novel with significant supernatural elements. Or rather - it is not just one of those genres individually. It is a marvelous and utterly unique mix of all four. It's the story of Karou, a blue haired, tattooed, lonely artist in Prague. A girl that "moved like a poem and smiled like a sphinx," and an utterly striking protagonist. Though clearly 'special' Karou is a magnetic character and one I like immediately without reserve. She's funny, human in the most defining sense of the word and not above a little petty revenge against those who need it. Surrounded by a cheeky best friend, the "master of the eyebrow arch" Zuzanna and her strange (more on that later) family, Karou manages to come across as a lonely and very alone young woman trying to balance a hidden demanding supernatural life with human problems like exyboyfriends, though without straying into self-pity. As the mysteries pile up around the young artist, I felt questions piling up in my head, wondering if the author would pull of answering all of them to my satisfaction: who is Karou? What is Karou? Where did she come from, and where/who are her parents? And like most reviews note: what exactly is up with the creepyass teeth?! While I thought the mystery went on too long at the time, the pacing and reveal feel absolutely perfect when they are - finally - uncovered. I should never have doubted.
The secondary characters are also mysterious, powerful... and above all, different. Hinted at in the tagline, Karou's adopted family is firmly in the "devil" camp - though the correct name is chimaera and one and all, from the snakelike Issa to the giraffe-necked Twiga, are never anything less than kind to the bluehaired waif they raised. I enjoyed the "humanness" Laini Taylor brought for her monsters. No side is black and white in this eternal way between angels and devils, and I thoroughly appreciate the 'human' monsters/crazed angels over a more black/white/ absolute scenario. Karou runs messages for Brimstone, a mysterious chimaera collector of teeth and granter of wishes - which allows her to eventually run into the angel foretold: the sexy and dangerous Akiva. A beautiful and forbidding seraphim sworn to fight the chimaera, Akiva sells his brooding mysteriousness and past pain without overplaying it. It took me a while to buy into more than his obvious superficial appeal, but the haunting backstory added a layer of depth to his personality. His looong life is a nice foil for Karou's shorter mostly conflict free existence of whim.Their chemistry is palpable and sizzling: one of the more exciting YA romances I can think of, honestly. (Wow, this is still waaaay fangirlly. It's just that good.)
More love: Laini's writing. Not only is it lyrical and poetic, but she manages to personalize everyone and everything - often with a dab hand at humor or image. Like Zuzanna'a master eyebrow mastery perfectly creates a sardonic, but caring face. Zuzana bursts with flair and personality: all the fun isn't reserved for lead role Karou. And the sparkle is not just reserved for the people: the setting benefits from the author's talent as well. Prague. Oh my godPrague. Between this and Wasserman's addicting The Book of Blood and Shadow I'd say this has rocketed to the top of my "Cities I MUST Visit in Europe" list. From poetic and vibrant passages like this,
"The streets of Prague were a fantasia scarcely touched by the twenty-first century - or the twentieth or nineteenth, for that matter. It was a city of alchemists and dreams, its medieval cobbles once trod by golems, mystics, invading armies."
to the day-to-day life of Karou, I was struck again and again by Ms. Taylor's narrative, consistently in love with the vibrant prose and the very-much-alive city it gave birth to. I loved the beautiful, not purple, prose, which consistently evoked colorful imagery of the setting, the characters, and the amazing world (in, within, around Prague) that wordsmith Laini Taylor has crafted. In a vibrant city of such history - and supernatural myths too of foundation by a witch - Laini Taylor breathes fresh life into old themes of forbidden love, fallen angels, and even the battle between good/evil/Heaven/Hell.
My few, teensy complaints: the "big reveal" to Zuzanna wasn't. It was offscreen and almost hastily brushed aside with a demonstration - and I wished for more time with the diminutive Czech scenestealer. I also felt that Karou and Akiva had a teensy bit of an instalove situation a la Twilight, but that fear was happily quashed. SPOILER AHEAD, please do not read if you've yet to get your hands on a copy. Seriously it's the next sentence. I also worry that the Karou I liked so much, identified with so closely - might "disappear" due tothe big twist/revelation near the end. I worry that the essential "Karouness" will be lost and I'll feel different about her in the second book. I hope not and have almost every faith Laini Taylor will not steer me wrong.
The story is striking and imaginative and unforgettable. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a genre-blending exercise of win, unlike anything I have read. It's a new, charismatic spin on the angel/devil/seraphim/nephilim/chimaera theme, populated with real characters with actual personalities - relayed by dialogue and deed rather than an infodump. I loved the nicely tuned balance of action and wit, drama with imagination and wordbuilding on a grand-scale. When's book two out? I cannot and hope not to wait long for another installment in this spellbinding world....more
Dark Inside was a number of firsts for me. It was the first zombieish/esque apocalyptic novel I've readRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Dark Inside was a number of firsts for me. It was the first zombieish/esque apocalyptic novel I've read. It was the first horror novel I've ever willingly completed (I gave Stephen King a try when younger. I think my delusional line of thought was: "go big or go home." I guess you could say I "went home". . . but I digress.) This is also the first time in a long time that I have enjoyed being scared (and disturbed) so much. Unfortunately, all is not perfect in Ms. Roberts' tale of world gone awry, but I more than loved it enough to make it one of my favorite reads of the year so far. It may not be the most traditional zombie/horror fare (though I have just admitted I have no idea and no right to judge but try and stop me!) but it is GREAT read, and is one of the few young-adult novels that can successfully bridge the gap into more adult fiction.
With a bleak tone right from the start, Dark Inside was a great change of pace for me. Not only are the "zombies" not technically zombies as usually defined, but darker, subverted and almost mindlessly enraged humans with no control and no compassion. That isn't to mean that the author stints from dark or disturbing elements - a scene with a pregnant womanbeing dragged by her hair into a murderous mob, or even just the casual mentions of people hunting CHILDREN at elementary schools still stand out in my memory days later - but they are simply not "supernatural" as in the undead. I liked that the monsters of the novel were actually humans, apparently those not immune to a force that has ravaged the earth before. And let me tell you, these monsters or "baggers" as in "Let's go bag a deer" with the deer now being people, freaked me the hell out. There are several scenes that legitimately had my ears up underneath my shoulders. The introductory scene with Clementine and her family in the town hall was particularly well done: I was intrigued, freaked out and eager to read much, much more of what this author had in store. I loved that the zombies weren't brainless either, but actually capable of matching wits and besting their prey. It added ANOTHER level of suspense to a novel that already had me constantly on my toes. In a book where the monster can hide in plain site, or even set clever traps, and converse pleasantly, suspicion can and does fall on every character and it is best to do as Mason is advised and, "trust no one."
The rotating POV's of four main characters alternatively works for and hinders the novel. So many perspectives (the four main kids and also sporadically thing called "Nothing" has a few, short POVs) allowed for a wider, more varied view of the monsters and the destruction of the earthquakes, but it can also get quite repetitive with the minutiae. How crazy/insane/inhumane the "baggers" are is repeated a little too often between Mason, Michael, Aries and Clementine. It is a little hard to differentiate between all four characters as none is what I would call a fully three-dimensional, realized personality. It's just too hard, for me as a reader, to identify, connect and empathize with four different people that closely with a limit of less than 400 pages. It just shifts too frequently, with too little time between the narrative change. I liked all the teenagers well enough, but if I had to pick two specifically I wish had more screen time I'd definitely have to go with the two resourceful and smart girls: Aries and Clementine. While neither was so distinctive or vibrant I didn't have trouble blurring their individual storylines up until they meet, they both impressed me more than their male counterparts. I just wished for more from each - more personality, more individuality to distinguish Michael from Mason and Aries from Clementine.
All four kids end up independent and in charge of themselves - the exact situation most would have wished for before the earthquakes and now obviously the last place they want to find themselves. Mason, whose mother and entire school died the day of the quakes, is the most extreme example of the isolation of this new world, but none are exempt. I liked the spin on what most teens would dream of: complete independence.. but at what cost? Clem at least still searches for a brother named Heath, representing her hope for survival in this cruel world, Aries has her quest for a mysterious boy named Daniel who knows too much, and Michael has a dad lost somewhere out in the wild world of America. Watching the world shatter through the eyes of these four disparate teens was entirely compelling. Though they are not perfect characters, I found myself slowly hoping for a better outcome: for Heath to be alive, for Mason to lose his anger, for Clem to live until the end.. (She was occasionally so naive it pained me! But she was my favorite! Conflicted!) Especially because this is clearly a series, I have high hopes that these characters will grow into some all-time favorites. The potential is there: either more length or a trimmed POV list is hopefully coming in the next volume.
The author also does a subtle job of slowly doling out the information about what happened the day everything changed: from the unpredictable acts of nature (6 9.5 Richter scale quakes) to the eerily similar acts of terrorism (123 schools bombed all over the world) - all while fueling even more questions.
How did some people know beforehand? (i.e. man on the bus, the bombings) Why are only some people turned into the "baggers"? What determines the intelligence of each bagger? If this is the earth clearing out the bad - why does it seem the innocent are the victims? Who/what is "Nothing"?
As the kids learn that no one safe, either alone or in groups, each moves towards Vancouver and I began to have a few issues. First of all, none of the above questions are really answered. The first third sets up all these questions and none are fully solved to satisfaction - I'm already going to read book two so I just felt unsatisfied by the lack of resolution for any of the characters. The predicted and inevitable meet-up of all four teenagers felt rushed and unnatural for the novel - in a book of distrust, they just literally run into each other right in Vancouver and. . . . everyone's all hunky dory? - and threw me off from the flow. Which.. speaking of, seems to be in need of a little polish as well. Some of the transitions for characters, both between and within POV transitions, were awkward and repetitive.
This is a violent, gory, disturbing, emotional and funny book. I loved this way more than I had thought I would. I had initially passed this over in my monthly Simon and Schuster Galley Grab email but decided to give it a go on a random whim: what a great decision in retrospect. This is not a perfect novel but I had such fun reading it I can't imagine any rating lower than a 4 out of 5. It is consistently taut with tension and occasionally fraught with emotion (Chee! Clem's parents!) and definitely not one to miss for anyone looking for a zombieish novel. A pulse-racing novel from start to finish, I can't wait to get my hands on book two - especially after such an open-ended conclusion. ...more
Claire Danvers is back, with all her messy adventures and crazy friends in tow. Round number two in the dangerous, vampire-infested college town of MoClaire Danvers is back, with all her messy adventures and crazy friends in tow. Round number two in the dangerous, vampire-infested college town of Morganville has all the fun, escapades and narrow escapes as the first one. In this one, Claire and Eve are invited to a Zombie Party, but with nasty hidden intentions. Not relying on the familiar path to reemerge, the author happily does a bit of explaining in this second novel. New important information about (my personal favorite character) Shane emerges, as do key players from his sad past. Claire also rounds out her personality a bit, though her main focus seems to be Shane and school. I can't complain too much - I like far more about Claire than what irritates me about her.
Patrick Rothfuss continues a high standard with his second published novel in the Kingkiller Chronicle, The Wise Man's Fear. I highly enjoyed this booPatrick Rothfuss continues a high standard with his second published novel in the Kingkiller Chronicle, The Wise Man's Fear. I highly enjoyed this book, just as much as I did the previous installment The Name of the Wind. As in the first book, the transitions can be a bit jerky and rough, but that is hardly noticeable as you are irresistibly caught up the story Rothfuss Kvothe is weaving. Sadly, the plot was not moved forward too much in the second book. As much as I am dying to know what has happened and all the details, I did not mind too much as the stories that Kvothe tells are vivid, entertaining, and kept my attention rapt. It wasn't until after finishing, I even though back to analyze how little had actually happened in the book. Even so, it was well worth reading. The author makes up for lack of plot advancement by compensating with rich, genuinely mysterious, original and humorous characters. Denna, Auri, Elodin, Devi.... the list of mysterious characters with mysterious motives and pasts is large but is exactly the mystery and cloak-and-dagger sleight-of-hand that works excellently for The Wise Man's Fear. Rothfuss can spin words in an elegant, delicious way that makes reading his books surprisingly easy and delightful. I look forward to the third part of the story and just hope it does a little more for the plot than this. More of my reviews here: http://bibliophileanonymous.blogspot.......more
I usually immediately launch myself into a Dunant novel and am immersed until I have finished. This book was the first one to break the pattern. UnlikI usually immediately launch myself into a Dunant novel and am immersed until I have finished. This book was the first one to break the pattern. Unlike The Birth of Venus or In the Company of the Courtesan, Sacred Hearts started out fairly slow and fairly boring, sad as it is to say. However, I stuck it out because even when the subject wasn't my favorite, I cannot help but enjoy the way she writes. So the writing, if not the plot itself kept my interest just long enough for me to be completely enthralled by the story. Building slowly, the reader finds themself in a colorful world, awash with political maneuvering, young love, and defiance and independence on different and individual terms. Yes, it's a slow starter, but after a while I found the pages flying by and me desperate to know how everything was going to end. Dunant's strengths are her writing, and her descriptions of Renaissance Italy. Her protagonists were different and intriguing women, that despite initial antipathy quickly grew into well-developed, intelligent, fun to read characters. I am very happy I read the entire novel and realized how lovely it was. More of my reviews here: http://bibliophileanonymous.blogspot.......more
This is going to be an interesting review. But that is entirely fitting since this was an interesting bRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
This is going to be an interesting review. But that is entirely fitting since this was an interesting book. I went back and forth on the rating of this as well. It's truly not good enough for more than a 3 star rating and yet, in the end, I sped through it and loved it. This also might end up being a tad bit more spoilery than I usually try to be; I honestly couldn't help it. This was part daytime soap-opera distilled into book form, part historical fiction set in London/New York in 1880s/1890s, The Tea Rose is one hell of a fun, epic melodrama. We've got truly star-crossed lovers, decades-long revenge plots, sham marriages, murder plots, dockworker's union strikes, crooked politicians, Jack the Ripper, falling in love with New York millionaires, famous celebrity cameos, and of course, betrayal and redemption.
There is a LOT of story going on here. I might sound critical, and I should; this book is not without a myriad of faults. Fiona, the main character, though likable, starts out as a bit of a Mary Sue cliche. She can be irritatingly overemotional and jealous in the beginning. Those annoying traits are stamped out quickly, however. Once she loses her father and her innocence, Fiona can finally find her own strength. Her enemy, the ruthless tea merchant behind her father's death, William Burton is chilling, though one dimensional. Regardless of the sheer outrageousness of the plot, shallowness of various characters and all the deux ex machinas, I loved this novel. It does have several things going for it: Donnelly spent numerous years researching her time period and culture of the Whitechapel area of London. Her descriptions of bleak and beautiful London were vivid, well-written and best of all, authentic. There was definitely the feel of 19th century present throughout the book. Ms. Donnelly managed to create an enthralling, absorbing atmosphere I had a hard time pulling myself away from.
Everything in this novel is done on a grand scale. Fiona needs hardship? Check - half her family is murdered (view spoiler)[(all, eventually it turns out at the machinations of Jack the Ripper!) (hide spoiler)]. She needs an epic love that is tested? Check - Joe and Fiona are separated (view spoiler)[ FOR TEN YEARS. With NUMEROUS and frequent near misses. It's comical. (hide spoiler)]. Fiona wants to have a business? Check - (view spoiler)[she has the BIGGEST tea business in the United States (hide spoiler)].
While the over-the-topness can be fun and work for the novel (such as getting Fiona out on her own and develop into a real character instead of a Mary Sue), it can also detract from the essentials. For instance, in this novel our intrepid heroes/heroines meet: Jack the Ripper (and have personal business with), the Crown Prince of Wales of England (Albert Edward), Paul Gaugin, Vincent van Gogh, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and numerous other famous personages frequented Nick's idyllic life in Paris. Fiona's closest friend Nick, in addition to being the heir of the bank controlling Fiona's nemesis's company (though Nick and Fiona are unaware of this the entire time [10 years!!] they're friends) ends up being Viscount Elgin, firstborn son of the Duke of Winchester. That was all a bit much. Fiona has ridiculous luck once she arrives in America (view spoiler)[(Nick gets her on the boat, a famous New York millionaire steps in o help her, falls in love with her, she "invents" iced tea and tea packets, etc) (hide spoiler)]; she has to in order to set her revenge against the men who killed her father. This made the book seem a bit rushed once Fiona and Seamie fled England. Also not helping the narrative were the random jumps of time between the three parts. Part Two to Part Three had an intervening nine years, in which crucial events to the story happen. Instead of showing Fiona build her business, her marriage, her revenge, it is simply "told" away in the beginning of the next part. I couldn't help but feel a bit cheated at that.
Sadly, parts of the novel, though fun and campy, were entirely too predictable. Michael's recovery from alcoholism so rapidly and easily, Will McClane's swooping in to save Fiona's shop and proposing, his crooked son politician plotting against Fiona, the list goes on. I laughed a lot and often at this book. The only problem is that I am not sure I am laughing at the author/book or with them, where intended.
Straining credulity, and poetic license aside (William Burton, Fiona's own personal foe was really Jack the Ripper? Really? That's where you went with that superfluous plotline?), I enjoyed this novel. It is not perfect, not even close. It's a melodramatic, over-the-top, romance-novelish tome of crazy. It's also a lot of fun. And the cover is pretty. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
As before with my previous Jennifer Donnelly novel, this one was an interesting read, and I might get a wee bit spoilery. And looooooong. After finishAs before with my previous Jennifer Donnelly novel, this one was an interesting read, and I might get a wee bit spoilery. And looooooong. After finishing the first, the question inquiring minds [me] want to know was if the author could top the sheer spectacle of The Tea Rose? That answer was a resounding YES, yes she can. We've got illegal drug trades, unwitting use of said drugs by innocent persons, women's suffrage, the emergence of female doctors in the workplace, dirty cops and politicians, a modern-day [1900's] Robin Hood, Africa, amputations, TWO escapes from jail, a serial killer, more star-crossed lovers (two couples this time! 100% increase in Angst Opportunity over last time!), women being hunted by lions and hyenas AND the most repellant antagonist I've read this year.
If I liked The Tea Rose and enjoyed its amount of sheer ridiculousness, then I lovedThe Winter Rose. This second story focuses on a female doctor, India, the quietly fierce, determined and oh yeah, disowned heir to the Selwyn Jones fortune, and the brother of the protagonist from the first, Fiona Finnegan's brother Charlie/Sid Malone. Instead of a Fiona-like righteous revenge driven plot like the first, this story focuses on the redemption of morally deficient, damaged Sid Malone.
The story blends the action and melodrama together much better than its predecessor. There is a believable mix of the outrageous (Joe Bristow personally knew Jacob Riis the American muckraking photojournalist?), and the touching (view spoiler)[when Sid and India are reunited for the [FINAL] time in the epilogue (hide spoiler)]. But where Donnelly truly excels is the same as before: in creating a believable, gripping, and rich atmosphere for her characters. (I may or may not have walked around using a 'orrible Cockey accent after finishing each book. I admit nothing.) Whitechapel is such a huge part of both these novels and the characters within them: the poverty and deprivation each suffered here marked them for life, in ways they're constantly discovering. Fiona, Charlie, Seamie, and Joe might have left Whitechapel behind, but they will never escape it.
I enjoyed the wit in this novel immensely. For instance when a crooked politician tells Sid that "crime doesn't pay", Sid's aside: "Not like politics does, that's for sure". In fact, I laughed a lot in this novel, during the lighter moments that were few and far between. Fiona, tea magnate extraordinaire, names her two dogs "Twinning" and "Lipton" because "they are forever at her heels." The humor was a nice and apropos touch against such a bleak backdrop for the characters.
One of the less-well executed elements in this novel was the constant and loquacious recapping of the first book. This happened nearly every other chapter and it got old, fast. It were heavy-handed when a light touch was need. For instance it was, "Fiona remembered back to that dark day when she learned her father died, and then had to flee to America, save her friend from ruin with a 10 year sham marriage, all the while creating the biggest tea empire in the world and pining away for her true love," instead of "Fiona remembered." Also, the foreshadowing was awful at creating suspense. The author would just ominously state something like: "Fiona thought she'd be safe. She was wrong" or "The past will always come back to bury you". If you're going to go that route, you might as well type DUN DUN DUNNNNN after "you".
I honestly believe the Charlie/Sid story arc from the first novel was superbly and tragically done. It continued to be the best element of this story; India and Sid's struggles to make a life for themselves anew held me attention far more than the Seamie/Willa story. It was sad, and oddly riveting to watch a promising and caring young man get sucked so far deep into London's underbelly that he became someone else entirely: Sid Malone. It's quite telling that until (view spoiler)[a serious threat is levelled to Fiona in Charlie's domain without Charlie helping her (hide spoiler)], Fiona refuses to call her brother Sid, referring him to constantly by his given name. Besides India, there was only one person who truly believed in Charlie and that was his sister Fiona. Fiona also seems to work best as a secondary character. MAybe I'd just read another 500+ page tome focusing on Fiona Finnegan Soames Elgin Bristow and a I needed a POV break. Either way, she was much less abrasive in this.
Let's talk about Charlie Finnegan/Sid Malone. I love him. LOVE. HIM. Donnelly made him so compelling, I couldn't help but love his character the most and genuinely care what happened in his life. He is funny, and obviously a rogue with a tender side. He falls for India, a do-good brand-new doctor who dreams to open a free clinic in Whitechapel.
India was also likable, a nice change from the immediate fierce, in-your-face attitude of Fiona. She is much more quiet and unassuming, but she posses a hidden fire and an unflinching will that was remarkable. She begins as a brash know-it-all, and sweeps into Whitechapel assuming broccoli and porridge are going to cure all the slum's ills. Once Sid shows her how deep the problems are within Whitechapel and its people, India becomes driven to do good in her city. She falls in love with Sid, with this "bad man trying to do a good thing" and decides to leave her life for a new one with him in America.
India begins the novel freshly graduated from med school and engaged to childhood friend, Freddie. Freddie is a slug that slowly reveals his slimy nature each time he appears within the pages. He does not love India since she dared to love someone else (before she knew of his feelings), and is using India to try and divert her inheritance towards a political campaign. He is a turncoat both politically and personally. He is shown as having a difficult childhood with his noble and abusive father. Accidentally killing his father when he was just 12, Freddie beings a dark slope that becomes truly despicable. (view spoiler)[He manipulates India's first love into prison and death, he out-right murders India's cousin Wish when he attempts to help her with the clinic and he murders Sid's former girlfriend when Sid falls in love with India. Then the places the blame on Sid so Sid cannot runaway with the now-unbeknownest-to-him pregnant India. (hide spoiler)]
All in all, this was just as crazy as book one. I just cared way way more about the characters. I got a little teary when Sid and India were separated in London (view spoiler)[and Africa, and then Africa again and then America (hide spoiler)]. Perhaps because Sid was more complicated and damaged than Fiona, he wasn't perfect. Perhaps because India seemed more relatable to me. I don't know what it was exactly, but I was hooked by these two characters and their story.
Both surprisingly enjoyable and unsettlingly creepy, Maybe This Time is one of the most intelligently told and enjoyable ghost stories I've come acrosBoth surprisingly enjoyable and unsettlingly creepy, Maybe This Time is one of the most intelligently told and enjoyable ghost stories I've come across. Set in the nineties, Andromeda "Andie" Archer does a favor for her ex-husband, to go to "the wilds of southern Ohio" to a haunted house and domesticate the two children living there. Of course there's old history ("ghosts" if you'll excuse the horrible pun) from her past relationship with North complicating an already entangled mess. Andie is likable, capable and above all, warm. She's funny, with a dry wit and little to no tolerance for bullshit. She changes from a very independent woman who is constantly looking for something/somewhere new into a devoted and loving mother-figure for the two tormented children. Alice, the younger child, is the more obviously affected by the ghosts. One in particular is possessive of her and violent towards any interference. Alice was, either intentionally or unintentionally, the funniest person in the novel. She's often "outraged" in the way only a child can be when they realize they don't always get what they want. She's a very emotional and vulnerable little girl, so it makes sense that she's very attached to her brother Carter, and eventually Andie. Carter himself is a cipher most of the novel. He's been through so much anguish and internal pain since the death of his mother, then his father, his aunt and a nanny that he has almost completely withdrawn from verbal communication besides Alice. He's utterly devoted and protective towards her, and I was always curious to know more about the hidden undercurrents going on around him. The pacing is wonderful and builds like a ghost story should be retold. At first there's hints and vague movements but as it get creepier and the multiple ghosts more malevolent, the pages fly by and the plot races on to a very riveting conclusion. Highly enjoyable. ...more
Just amazing. This delivered on all counts, on so many layers. Intricate, heartbreaking, darkly humorouRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Just amazing. This delivered on all counts, on so many layers. Intricate, heartbreaking, darkly humorous, The Book Thief is not a novel to be missed.
There are books that you read, that sink tendrils into your heart and never leave. These are almost the very best kind of books, books like: The Hunger Games, The Onion Girl, The Dogs of Babel or The Alchemist. Then there are those books that you feel, down to your very soul and in your bones. Books in which almost every word resonates perfectly within the reader, creating an enveloping, complete and often heart-wrenching story. Markus Zusak's alternately heart-warming and heart-breaking The Book Thief is one of those latter type of books: completely affecting, gorgeously written and endlessly readable. The Book Thief is not just a book of deeply affecting and believable characters: this is a book with living, breathing people upon its pages. Even Death, that fearful and unknowable force, is shown as compassionate and caring while watching the story of Liesel Meminger's life unfold. It's rare enough for me to add a new author to my favorites list, but Markus Zusak has done so with one novel, and one read of that novel, alone.
This is going to a different kind of review than my normal ones. It's very hard for me to articulate any kind of coherent thoughts about this book, even weeks after reading it. The Book Thief is impressive in scope, in character, in its vast, tangible emotions. Liesel Meminger is a burst of life and color from the page: real in all her imagined flaws, pains and triumphs. Spending over 500 pages with this determined foster child is revelatory and profound. It is best and most easily said succinctly: read this book. You will not be sorry you did. Yes, you will cry. Probably more than once (I definitely did at least three times), but The Book Thief is a novel deserving of your emotion and constant attention. Reading The Book Thief is an experience: draining but oh so worthwhile and rewarding. Encompassing love, war, hatred, fear, anger, infatuation and grief, this is a novel that is utterly unafraid to explore human emotion and human nature across the board.
Though this is by nature a more serious, emotional read, Zusak can come through quite unexpectedly with a sly or subtle humor that keeps the reader from veering into moroseness. I heartily appreciated the smattering of light-heartedness when they came about because this is a sad book, make no mistake. It's ultimately about the triumph of human will, of love and hope, but this is a sad novel to read.What I like best is that even when humor makes an appearance in the novel, it is used to prove or illustrate a point being made. I'm not going to go into detail about how vibrant and real I found Liesel Meminger, or her clinging to the written word in a world of uncertainty and denial. I won't go on about how a simple sentence like, "You never told me you had a son" would make several tears fall from my eyes.
The Book Thief may not be a "life-changer" for me as a reader (I don't know if any book is a life-changer), but it is definitely one I will take with me everywhere I go. And one I will recommend and throw at you until you give in and love read it. With a lyrical and mellifluous style for the chilling (and often heart-rending) events in The Book Thief, it is immensely readable despite the hard subject matter. This is a work of art in novel form, moving and poignant from its start in 1939 to its all-too-soon finish. Zusak's portrayal of these stand-out characters (Liesel, Hans, RUDY) will linger long in your memory. Don't dismiss this novel out of hand as just "another YA", especially if you are an adult. This book will resonate with and affect you even if you're long gone from the dreaded teenage years.
"Many jocular comments followed, as did another onslaught of 'heil Hitlering.' You know, it actually makes me wonder if anyone ever lost an eye or injured a hand or wrist with all of that. You'd only need to be facing the wrong way at the wrong time or stand marginally too close to another person. Perhaps people did get injured. Personally, I can tell you that no one died from it, or at least, not physically. There was, of course, the matter of forty million people I picked up by the time the whole thing was finished, but that's getting metaphoric..."
Lastly, a final quote from Death that I found particularly apt and poignant:
" *** A SMALL BUT NOTEWORTHY NOTE *** I've seen so many young men over the years who think they're running at other young men. They are not. They're running at me. "
BUY THIS BOOK.
You won't just passively read it: you'll experience Liesel Meminger's world in all its horror and beauty. I can't recommend The Book Thief enough. If you take one recommendation from this blog at all this year, let it be this one.
Very simplistic and extremely predictable. The author is self-published and it shows, I'm afraid rather badly. The editing needs a lot of work. The wrVery simplistic and extremely predictable. The author is self-published and it shows, I'm afraid rather badly. The editing needs a lot of work. The writing needs polish, and a clear voice. It's a rather Mary Sue book, though not as bad as other, more successful ones. The two sequels I am not going to bother reviewing because they are much the same, suffering the same deficiencies and were read merely so I could complete the trilogy.
There is originality (trolls!) and humor in the story, if uneven and perhaps unintentional (I was usually laughing at the book, not with it.) I was genuinely surprised by a turn the plot takes late in the novel and thought it might show a bit of promise for a much better writer in the future. Switched reads quickly and simply, but sadly this book makes little lasting impression; it's a generic YA fantasy in the brand of Twilight et al., with an unlikeable and dull Mary Sue protagonist in a strange magical world of which she is the unwitting center. ...more
I was pleasantly surprised by winning Hulick's Among Thieves in the Good Reads First Reads giveaway. I was told by a friend it reminded her of Scott LyI was pleasantly surprised by winning Hulick's Among Thieves in the Good Reads First Reads giveaway. I was told by a friend it reminded her of Scott Lynch and I can clearly see why. There are shades of Locke Lamora in Drothe, but only that, shades. I was reminded of Joe Abercrombie's Logen Ninefingers, perhaps. Either way, Drothe is a singular character, one that you're never sure what he's going to do or how you will feel about it. He is clever, he is desperate and he is amusing. He's also a dangerous, murderous member of the underground. He's not snow-white as a protagonist and that makes him a more interesting and thus more fun to read about for 400 pages. Hulick's writing is clever, descriptive and best of all, very engaging. He has created a thriving world, a unique Empire, an interesting theology, different magic system, culture and history. The book was exciting, interesting and wasn't too predictable for fantasy fare. There's very little reliance on magic to solve all Drothe's problems, and I was reluctant to finish as fast as I did. The magic system is fairly straightforward, but is unlike others in fantasy I've read and it was a pleasure to read a new idea on glimmer, as it's called. I highly enjoyed this first novel in his work, and I look forward to picking up the rest of them as he publishes (which I hope is soon!) More of my reviews here: http://bibliophileanonymous.blogspot.......more
Really more of a 3.5 out of 5 but favorite author status grants this the bump up here on GR.
Gail Carson Levine is one of my longest-held favorite authReally more of a 3.5 out of 5 but favorite author status grants this the bump up here on GR.
Gail Carson Levine is one of my longest-held favorite authors; since I was eleven years old and stumbled across a still-current-favorite (Ella Enchanted) this has been an author that I keep my eye out for her novels. That charming, original and fun version of the Cinderella tale stuck in my brain and for years, Ella and Charmant's were two parts of one of my all-time literary couples. Gail Carson Levine once again returns to her magical and charming fairy-tale world created over ten years ago for another outing Fairest, but this time the retread is of the classic Snow White story. Like Ella, Aza is a strong female character and one easily identitied with for the intended audience. Even for a reader well outside the target audience for this novel, I still found Fairest to be a creative interpretation of an ages-old myth.
While I readily admit to liking Aza, I didn't fall in love with her character or want to be her best friend the way I did with Ella after ripping through that novel. I didn't mind the social awkwardness the girl exhibited routinely throughout - it was entirely believable and even to be expected in a peasant girl thrust into a Court with no knowledge, but her repeated lies wore thin. It's hard to feel true sympathy for a character that backs herself into a corner so very effectively. I wish I could invest into her relationship with the prince of Ayortha as well - it was a bit insta!love for my taste. Ijori comes off as nice enough, but there's very little personality there and no further development as the story progresses.
The magic of the novel, though exceedingly slight, serves as a nice backdrop to the more human problems Lady Aza faces with Ivi, Ijori, and missing her family. I liked that the focus was more on the character of Aza, and less upon her rare and unique magic. But sadly, here we are, at The Bad of the novel. I hate to say this, really I do, but for a society built around song and singing . . . the music portion was by far the weakest part of Fairest. The lyrics were odd, didn't fit, or just jarred as a "song" from the musical land. I wish a little more finesse had been applied to that (and pretty much the only) attribute of the Ayorthan people. Well, besides the birds flying in, out, around the palaces and castles. A little more time, detail spent on fleshing out basic elements of the novel would've added up to a more well-rounded, nicely-executed novel.
This was a good book. It wasn't great, though it had potential to be and hopefully so do the sequels; it was fresh, vibrant and unexpectedly lively. TThis was a good book. It wasn't great, though it had potential to be and hopefully so do the sequels; it was fresh, vibrant and unexpectedly lively. The pacing is fluid and unhurried and filled with enough tension to make the pages fly. The climax is not the most exciting or gripping, honestly, but it is interesting and with enough surprises to keep your attention. The main character was well-written, and I truly liked that she didn't immediately become dependent on either boy to define her character or her desires. Yes, she leaned on one for help and support but she did so without losing her identity for his. She's feisty without being a parody of feminism, she's clever and enjoyable to read. However, there was a particular part of the novel, near the end, when Aislinn's nonreaction to a rather important plot point left me disjointed. Literally, it made no sense for her not to have any sort of LARGE reaction to the revelation. It completely pulled me out of the narrative right at a pivotal moment and I never sank back in as completely. Aside from Aislinn, Donia was another favorite of mine. Beira largely seemed a cat without claws for ninety percent of the events of the book. She was intimidating, vocally sadistic and cruel, and bitchy, yes, but we never actually see her do anything (to the Summer Court.. she takes out her own with no compunction) but hiss and threaten. Most of the characters are detailed and real (Keenan, Seth, Donia, Beira) but a few were token characters that didn't add anything essential but emotional baggage for Aislinn (Grams, friends/teachers at high school) to worry over/possibly leave behind. The virtues more than make up for the flaws in the book. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable, quick read....more
Lively and creative, Garth Nix's Sabriel shines with imagination and invention. The magic system is simple, but clever and unique to his world. Also oLively and creative, Garth Nix's Sabriel shines with imagination and invention. The magic system is simple, but clever and unique to his world. Also original and intriguing is Nix's concept of a long barricaded Wall, one that separates the dreaded dangerous Old Kingdom where the Dead can gain Life and can walk, and the more technologically, electrically enhanced Ancelstierre to the south. A few parts of the plot seemed overdone and a tad cliche (landing practically right on top of Touchstone and saving him?), but for the most part this is an enjoyable, utterly unique and lovely book. Character-wise, Sabriel was believable and and interesting. Mogget was the best character of the book, probably because no one is really sure who/what he is, what he wants or who he's truly serving. His ambiguity and mystery is partially what had me racing through the pages. Touchstone didn't really develop into a 'real' character; for much of the book he is in, he is silent or doesn't really connect as an independent part of the novel. Despite its small problems, this book is full of adventure and surprise revelations, making Sabriel worth reading more than once. More of my reviews here: http://bibliophileanonymous.blogspot.......more
A terrific beginning to a sure-to-be entertaining series. Sullivan starts off very well in his first published novel with the first of the Riyria ReveA terrific beginning to a sure-to-be entertaining series. Sullivan starts off very well in his first published novel with the first of the Riyria Revelations. A gang of likable rogues, most notably led by Royce Melborn and his buddy-cop-esque comrade Hadrian Blackwater (bonus points for using the name Hadrian!), they are successful, entrepreneurial thieves. Both are dangerous, sarcastic and interesting characters. Royce is the more malevolent, withdrawn character of the two and has a rather mysterious, mostly unexplained dark past. Hadrian supplies most of the light banter throughout the book and a lot of the humor as well. Alric is the unwitting, untried Crown Prince of Melengar that gets caught up in the tangled web around the two thieves. Over the course of the events in the book, Alric matures a great deal and his character went from a selfish childish boy to an honorable man. In terms of female characters, the options seem to be rather limited: Gwen, the clever and kind prostitute with a heart of gold, and Arista, the Princess of Melengar, a determined intelligent young woman. Gwen makes scant appearances in the novel but it is made clear she's much more than her profession. Arista is more in the spotlight, being of the royal family and acting regent of her kingdom. She's capable, smart and daring enough to be the only one to search out the dangerous, inscrutable Esrahaddon. It's a fairly light fantasy series, as opposed to the darker, grittier (I'm really tired of that word as applied to fantasy books) trend. It's very fluid and easy to read. The pacing is excellent; the exploits and adventures move the plot forward marvelously and without adding unnecessary action. The focus is clearly on the characters, the betrayals, alliances, secret meetings, rather than on world-building or giant armies marching into calamitous battle. A very nice beginning to a fresh and vivid new series from a very promising author. More of my reviews here: http://bibliophileanonymous.blogspot.......more
Avempartha is the second in a series of standalone novels called the Riyria Revelations, and picks up two years after the infamous escapades of RoyceAvempartha is the second in a series of standalone novels called the Riyria Revelations, and picks up two years after the infamous escapades of Royce Melborn and Hadrian Blackwater in Essendon castle. The first book was primarily about a simple sword heist that was not-so-simple at all and all the fall out from said sword-theft/assassination. The second book centers more on the machinations of the Church and whatever measures it deems it has to take to find the Heir and crown him as Emperor once more. Avempartha is a fine sequel to The Crown Conspiracy, building on the knowledge of the world we have from the previous book to create an intricate, delicate and creative world. More backstory on the history of the world, the Empire, the Nyphron Church, the elves and dwarfs are all expanded upon from the first book, creating a credible and believable basis for a world-wide tension among all the races. No longer in Alric's realm, we find our heroes in Colnora, a moderately sized city and the urban center of Avryn, where they are stunned to learn someone has been asking for them... by name. Investigating this anomaly, Royce and Hadrian find themselves enmeshed with a force even they cannot defeat alone. My personal favorites, the charming and funny Pickerings, make an appearance in the novel with two scions of the House, Mauvin and Fanen, joining our intrepid rogues in an unprecedented showdown. The Art, as magic is called in this universe, is expanded upon greatly. We learn more about what used to be possible, how Art functioned and was needed in the days of the Empire to its sad decline to the state it is in during the novels. Esrahaddon, as inscrutable as ever, appears as a harbinger of evil? good? One is never certain what his end game is, who he is using and most of all, what he knows. Esra is by far the most dynamic character in the series thus far, though Hadrian is another personal favorite of mine. Arista is a main character in this novel as Melengar's foreign diplomat and official Ambassador but her brother Alric does not appear. Arista continues to grow into a flawed, intelligent and above all, believable character. At times frustrating, at times determined and likable, Arista continues to grow and change as a character. Royce and Hadrian and clearly the heart of the series. Their interactions and dialogues are like old friends that can count on each other, and in the end that's one of the things that keeps me coming back to this series, the relationship between Riyria. More of my reviews here: http://bibliophileanonymous.blogspot.......more
This is yet another riveting entry in the Riyria Revelations series. A year after defeating "Rufus' Bane" in Thrace's tiny village, Hadrian, having loThis is yet another riveting entry in the Riyria Revelations series. A year after defeating "Rufus' Bane" in Thrace's tiny village, Hadrian, having long been weary of his mercenary, wandering lifestyle with Royce, wants something with meaning to define his life other than thieving and spying, even if it's for the Crown. Royce wants to hang on to the life he's achieved with any means necessary- even deception from his closest and only friend. Drawn again into international conflict with Melengar's sneaky princess Arista, Royce and Hadrian have to accomplish this one last job before potentially splitting ways. Intricate and deftly woven, this is another amazing ride with Royce, Hadrian and Arista appearing, along with the renamed Thrace as Modina. I do have to say I had a "I KNEW it moment!!" right before the end of the book, only to have my jaw drop on the VERY LAST PAGE with sheer and utter surprise and freakoutery. A lot of theories I had planned out from this idea were dashed to pieces with a very few words. It was a masterfully, marvelously well done plot twist. These are books that can be read separately, but I do have to say some prior knowledge of recent events and people involved are somewhat necessary to understand the full gist of the power plays, manipulations and deceptions that take place across the board. These characters, especially Hadrian and the surly Royce, are beloved and cherished to me now. I'm very fond of them, and the plot twists and history behind each build a better picture of each. Hadrian, a man full of promise but no outlet and tied to an eccentric friend that really only trusts him alone. Royce emerges as a man with a heart at least, but just for a select few and the reasoning behind his demeanor. A very entertaining read from start to finish. I would highly recommend this series and I hope that the concluding three books are on the same standard as the first three. More of my reviews here: http://bibliophileanonymous.blogspot.......more
Really more of a 4.5 but benefit of the goodreads system = 5. Deeper thoughts later. Now: In a setting worthy of Zelazny with its intricate and deadly fReally more of a 4.5 but benefit of the goodreads system = 5. Deeper thoughts later. Now: In a setting worthy of Zelazny with its intricate and deadly familial intrigue, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms was a more than pleasant surprise. I expected a typical high fantasy novel: full of magic, scheming, unwitting heroines, dastardly but lovable rogues, you know, the whole usual bit. I think Patrick Rothfuss said it best about this novel when he said, "I have a great love of fantasy that does something a little different, and this book is a little different in a whole lot of ways." I got all that I expected and more, with twists and surprises I never saw coming. The entire novel, from the innovative world/political system to the mythological aspects of the Gods, was a well thought-out, superbly-executed, hugely entertaining-to-read first novel.
The story jumps right off from the first paragraph; we meet Yeine, our Darre protagonist immediately. This novel is much more about her inner struggle, or with her relations, than an epic war or battle; it's more personal and close. The first-person perspective is used very effectively with Yeine: I constantly felt like I was reading/speaking with her the entire time. The narrative is scattered and hesitant; a clever device as she's slowly remembering, constantly re-fitting this story as she's imparting it to the readers (Yeine even occasionally breaks the third wall and addresses the readers directly, but it's appropriate and works for the novel). Her style is very informal and as a "barbarian" of the High North, it fits. The first of many intriguing twists on fantasy cliches: Yeine is not white, nor of the ruling caste, and is from a barbaric matriarchal society. Instead she's described as "darkling" and is constantly reminded of her low status among her pale, cruel Amn relatives.
A lot of themes are touches on throughout the novel. Race (and racism), gender, slavery and even religion are not shied away from. In a world where the ruling race is the pale-skinned Amn, who in turn are truly controlled by a single large, monstrously cruel family (the Arameri, to which Yeine reluctantly belongs) who are regarded as the height of civilization while being the depth of depravity, the "barbarian" Yeine is actually the most humane. The Arameri do not allow slaves on their lands, yet they house four of the most enslaved creatures in existence. This was yet another twist of Jemisin's; this time on the fantasy cliche of a God's War or the Fall of Gods. Enslaved former Gods after the war among the The Three in which the Itempas won. For millennia, the Arameri have caged these expunged-from-history Gods as weapons to ensure their power and a gift from the winning side. There was Nahadoth, the Nightlord and his three surviving godling children Sieh, Kurue, and Zhakkarn. The mythology and origins of the Gods from the Maelstrom was creative and well-planned.
There was almost an East-Asian feel to the atmosphere of the story. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms certainly did not feel Eurocentric or written with the Western world in mind, though Yeine's homeland felt almost Amazonian in its ferocity and independence. This individuality in a time of many medieval-type fantasy novels was a another nice touch I appreciated: these creative ideas can make or break a novel. The novel felt fresh and new, unlike a familiar retread of a much-used storyline. There is no over-reliance on magic to solve the world's or even Yeine's problems; it's more cerebral than that. When the magic does come into play, it's restrained or deftly applied to the characters. (view spoiler)[ I thought that unwittingly possessing a part of a fallen Goddess's fractured soul was uniquely witty way to reinvent the young girl with immense but hidden power stereotype. (hide spoiler)]
The only complaints I had were these: the love scenes between Yeine and Nahadoth. They were a little cringe-worthy and cliche; I think for the next book I'd like to see a little more finesse, perhaps more belief in a relationship before two people (Gods? Swirling masses?) hop into bed. I'd also like to see a wider view of these Hundred Thousand Kingdoms that the Arameri control. Only Sky, center of the Amn, is described at length, though even then only the nobles or privileged Amn are shown with any details. Yeine's homeland Darr warranted an occasional mention and one visit, but that was nowhere near enough to sate my curiosity about the warrior-women society.
The ending, though it what was expected even foretold throughout the novel, had quite the surprise attached to it. While completely concluding and resolving the stories and plots within this first novel, it managed to be the perfect cliffhanger for the next in the series, The Broken Kingdoms. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Really a 3.5/5 for me - I really wish I could do half stars here! I liked this quite a bit. It was clever, fun and easy to get into and read. Full revReally a 3.5/5 for me - I really wish I could do half stars here! I liked this quite a bit. It was clever, fun and easy to get into and read. Full review later.
Easy to read, easy to get sucked into irretrievably, easy to digest - The City of Ember is a pared-down examination of human nature. In a world used to deprivation, shortages and power outages, Jeanne DuPrau introduces us to a world where the last refuge for the human race is tucked away underground. Following the mysterious, and as yet, unexplained devastating calamity known only as "The Disaster", the Builders (whoever was behind the creation of the city, almost revered as deities by some Emberites) constructed a hidden hideaway to ensure the survival of the species. My first thought upon beginning this novel was that the author had created a genuinely intriguing, new idea for a teenage dystopianish novel. In a literary market seemingly inundated every week with ridiculous, new, implausible stories, the simplicity and believability of DuPrau's ideas shine.
Jeanne DuPrau's second of the Books of Ember series continues the trend begun in the introductory novelRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Jeanne DuPrau's second of the Books of Ember series continues the trend begun in the introductory novel, The City of Ember. Compulsively readable, lively and easy, The People of Sparks was a novel mostly on-par with the levels of excellence from its impressive predecessor. By drastically changing the setting, as well as introducing new characters and ideas allows for an entirely different kind of novel than the first; the author makes a story replete with familiar characters fresh and vivid. Surprisingly violent and tense, The People of Sparks is a careful exploration of the nature of conflict, brinkmanship and the idea of community. Interpersonal conflict, intercommunity conflict as well as self-conflict are each explored in various ways through various characters throughout the story. It is a deft and simple examination of conflict, prejudice and the results of such depravity upon the human community.
As "Ember" was a symbol for the dying population of the city, "Sparks" is a reference to the fledgling town itself - one that is barely beginning to prosper and survive. The village represents more than just food and lodging; it is a chance for a new start, to begin again fresh. A spark of life in a wasteland of death and destruction, Sparks is the only stable community for the Emberites after their mass exodus from underground. With tensions and fears between Sparklers and Emberites high and running, this seems far more emotional and volatile a novel than before. There is a constant back-and-forth from both camps, with allusions and hints of serious trouble down the line for two strange people trying to acclimate to one another's ways.
More crucial and previously withheld information is supplied on the mysterious and warlike past of this world. "The Disaster" referenced so fearfully in book one is revealed as four epic wars and three plagues that wrecked havoc and nearly ended the species of man. Beyond that, not much detail or history is expounded upon. Don't look for the same character development as found in book one, either; this sequel concerns itself mostly with the plot and not the characters. Sadly, neither Lina nor Doon really grows or changes from the experiences in this novel. I didn't mind that much - I was far more caught up in the drama of the clashing communities. They're also kept apart for much of the events of the tale, which further limits the easy atmosphere of the previous novel. Lina's adventurous side does appear, and she is in fact the only character to give the reader a glimpse of the "world" beyond Sparks. Through her journeys, the devastation is made plain; this is a world that has torn itself apart with hatred. So how can the people of Sparks and the people of Ember change history and keep the peace?
In the simplest terms, this is an engrossing, simple but GOOD book. I think I would've enjoyed this at about 12, at 15, and even now at 23 years old. I did feel that some parts were filler action, or superfluous for the main story but the very good drastically outweighs the bad in this novel. ...more
Clever, highly enjoyable and easy to read. That is an easy to way to sum up this book. What's harder to express is the humor, the wit and the sheer waClever, highly enjoyable and easy to read. That is an easy to way to sum up this book. What's harder to express is the humor, the wit and the sheer warmth of McCafferty's novel. Her Jessica is real, sarcastic, bratty, and above all, believable. I enjoyed this novel very much, and look forward to the next as well as the rest of the Jessica (Notso) Darling series. More of my reviews here: http://bibliophileanonymous.blogspot.......more
Jessica Darling is just as entertaining, sarcastic and believable in McCafferty's second book in the eponymous series. The same funny, ignorant, goofyJessica Darling is just as entertaining, sarcastic and believable in McCafferty's second book in the eponymous series. The same funny, ignorant, goofy Pineville (or Pinevile) characters return to torment Jessica into remembering how much she hates her hometown, misses Hope, can't stand her family and how much she can't wait to escape New Jersey. A satisfying and fun read. The pages flow by with McCafferty's warmth as a writer shining through, making this an easy, enjoyable novel. More of my reviews here: http://bibliophileanonymous.blogspot.......more
Continuing the trend started in the first two books, this was a quick, delightful read. Parts are laugh out loud funny, but it's not lacking in seriouContinuing the trend started in the first two books, this was a quick, delightful read. Parts are laugh out loud funny, but it's not lacking in seriousness or emotional pull. Jessica is just as confused, maddening, confusing, spoiled, intelligent, dumb, loving as she has been. What she has done is mature a bit, stand up for herself a bit and learn a lot about herself, her relationship with Marcus and even her thought-to-be-unassailable relationship with Hope. Jessica grows and matures as a character a lot during the events contained in the book, which is probably why it's the best of the three. Her family, especially Bethany, is revealed to be more than the paint-thin personalities they've been portrayed as in the past. By making Jessica's family more realistic, more approachable, as actual people than black-and-white enemies, McCafferty's Darling series benefits greatly. More of my reviews here: http://bibliophileanonymous.blogspot.......more
Consider me a fan of this series! While it may be a bit premature to announce that after reading just oRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Consider me a fan of this series! While it may be a bit premature to announce that after reading just one book of a planned four (with two novellas as well), by the end of this book I did not want to stop reading. Despite its flaws, despite my initial apathy towards the main character, I was completely won over by this faery tale with a modernday twist.
Meghan Chase is our female main character, a teenage girl of half-human and half Summer Faery lineage. She's special and unique and wonderful, but only in the Nevernever (aka Faeryland - a name I hate and will not use for this review.) At home in backwoods Louisiana, she often feels ignored and neglected by her mother and stepfather. She has one friend, Robbie Goodfell to rely on and depend on in hard times (like in this book when her brother Ethan is abducted and replaced with a creepy creature that looks just like him...) Meghan's determined, very impulsive, intelligent but occasionally annoying. She thinks she's a lot more capable than she actually is -- such as when setting out to rescue Ethan she makes various stupid decisions leading to more than a few repetitive situations where she must be saved by another. The good thing about Meghan Chase is that she adapts and she learns quickly; she doesn't make the same stupid decision twice. Her flaws and faults make her a more fleshed out and real character, in my opinion. Once confronted with the facts of an alternate, hidden fae world, Meghan doesn't bore the reader with thirty pages of "but HOW?!" and "it's just so impossible" or some such nonsense. Instead she does what made me like her more and more as she is confronted with unlikely and dangerous situations: she constantly adapts and plans her next move.
Her best friend Robbie in turn on their quest is revealed as the beloved Robin Goodfellow of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. A living extension of the mythology of this world, of the idea that human belief creating and sustaining the Nevernever, its Courts, peoples, creatures, etc., Robbie has existed for hundreds of years because he is continually popular within human culture. As Puck, I liked the character much more than Robbie. His personality is much more fleshed out and real as opposed to the goofy best-friend stereotype he was in Meghan's mortal life. Puck's irreverent humor and whip-sharp sarcasm were a nice contrast to Meghan's more straight woman act. Sad as I am to say though, in this love triangle my support definitely belongs to the broody Winter Prince, Ash. Though a bit of their relationship is troubling (half the time he's either trying to kill Meghan or she thinks he is), I've always been a fan of the mysterious, strong silent type, a type Ash fits completely. I know I usually despise love triangles in YA supernatural stories, but I was genuinely fond of both love interests so I was not too harsh when considering the inevitable wishwashy back-and-forth to come. It also helps that the triangle doesn;t consume too much of Meghan's inner monologue; as of yet she views Robbie as only as best friend though I predict that will change within a book. I also was a bit miffed at how fast both Ash and Meghan went from "I think you might be trying to kill me and I don't trust you" (about 200 pages) to "Oh my god I love you" (about 30 pages). As much as I like each character, I want more credibility than that, please. Ash is a Winter Prince of the Unseelie Court and Meghan a Summer Princess of the Seelie Court - it's not going to be that easy for two kids to be together when their families are mortal enemies.
Outside of the characters, the author clearly has a vivid imagination and has let it run wild. The easy style makes for fast reading, so it's easy to get caught up in the action and miss the side allusions to a fully-realized and populated world. The author is very visually descriptive without trying too hard to make the words shine, so the focus is on what is said, rather than how it is said. Like the changeling who took Meghan's brother's place that was mentioned earlier. many creatures in this novel are pretty creepy and unsettling. The list of familiar and new-to-me malevolent creatures reads like a horror movie: ogres, goblins, kelpies, norrgens, wisps, redcaps, glaistigs, etc. All were unique and reminded me of fairy tales before they became glossed-over happily-ever-after tales, when they were dark and full of danger and no one in the story made it out as good as it began.
While not human and not monsters either, the fae population of both the 'good' (Seelie/Oberon/Titania/Summer) and the 'bad' (Unseelie/Mab/Winter) at large seem morally grey, with neither side acting particularly humanely nor kindly towards Meghan in her plight. While the Summer Court may not be as openly sinister as the Winter Court (openly stating how much the nobles would like to drink Meghan's blood is disconcerting) neither Oberon nor Titania is sympathetic. Titania is actually enjoyable madcap and malevolent towards her husband's daughter, further isolating Meghan in the only world she has felt at home. While I might have wished for more personality from Oberon or even a sliver of affection shown for his daughter, the overt animosity of Titania worked better to keep Meghan moving and plot advancing. I had hoped for more of Mab as well, but clearly she is to play a much larger role in further books. I look forward to how Kagawa will distinguish her version of the popular Winter Queen from all the rest.
This is an unexpectedly engrossing story. For one populated with old, well used characters and a familiar plot, the Iron King still manages to be original and completely fun faery tale. From vivid action sequences that pop off the page, to a modern-day twist on age-old lore about Fae themselves, I was engrossed in this story, this world and cannot wait to jump into the next book, the Iron Daughter....more
Round number two in the Iron Fey series with Meghan Chase might suffer slightly from a sophmore slump, hoRead This Review And More Like It On My Blog!
Round number two in the Iron Fey series with Meghan Chase might suffer slightly from a sophmore slump, however, as it was the middle branching book in an (originally) planned series of three, some faults were to expected. A bit uneven with pacing and tension (the Winter Formal high school dance scene tossed into the action threw me off for several pages), this was nevertheless a fun, diverting journey into a fully-realized and often strange world. In this book, we find Meghan in the hostile Winter Court, having just killed the Iron King to save the Nevernever from his poison.
This second installment jumps off from the first page; it almost feels like an extension from book one, a later chapter in that same book. The ease with which I was caught up in Meghan's mind and world was astonishing: it was as if I had never left. Though this was a book much more emotional in tone (I'll get to that in a bit) and feeling, I had the same sense of fun and adventure, mixed with interesting and dangerous fae creatures that I experienced and so delighted in while reading The Iron King. The mix of traditional faery lore coupled with new, innovative and creative mythology is unique to Kagawa and absolutely well-thought out and planned. I hate when authors have a great concept and only use it half-heartedly; the fully-realized Iron fey that Ms. Kagawa has envisioned is the best hook this book has to offer. While there is the traditional Summer/Winter Court animosity to keep the both the tension and stakes high, it is the mysterious and implacable Iron Court which dictates the dance those two powers will play. While the first book's plot was simple and essentially outlined from the first chapter, the plot of this second book is more nebulous, with several different subthreads throughout the story.
One of the things I did not love so much about The Iron Daughter was the teenage "why doesn't he love me anymore" angst. Meghan is in love with a mortal enemy of her people, had been warned many times (in The Iron King, Winter's Passage, the beginning of this very novel) that weakness is death in the Winter Court and he cannot be weak in his love for her. Instead of accepting that, "hey, I'm in my enemy's palace, maybe I should do what I am told" Meghan has an emotional hissyfit over Ash's "aloofness." It is very grating on my nerves that a previously capable, intelligent and independent girl cannot handle a situation she's been continually forewarned about. Instead of using her brain to realize Ash is protecting her as best as is possible, Meghan lost major points with me for being too Bella Swan-esque. A character that was not that naive and silly previous to this event frustrated me more than anything else in the novel. Another minor irritation of mine was that in this novel, Meghan forgets several key "faeryland laws" she KNEW in the first book! A little continuity, please -- either Meghan knows not to eat the food, or she doesn't. The constant back-and-forth of what she does know versus what she should know got old.
I was happy to see that the Winter Court was more expanded upon. In its madcap, viscous and chaotic way, the Court and its sidhe were described beautifully and hauntingly. I find myself wishing for more glimpses into the day-to-day life of the fae in this realm, and in the Summer Court. While Mab doesn't appear enough to give a sense of an individual personality (besides a White Witch proclivity to freeze her enemies alive in ice), her two sons besides Ash do finally make appearances. Sadly, besides our well-known players from before and the two Winter Princes Sage and Rowan, no other character in the Winter Court is fleshed out enough to make a permanent impression. This is a problem I had with the secondary villains as well. Only one villain SPOILER (coughRowancough) was malicious enough and present enough to really achieve the same level of malevolence as the Iron King from the first book.
Sadly, a couple scenes almost feel like filler, and the first quarter moves more slowly than the rest of the novel. However, once the titular Iron Fey are introduced back in the fray, calamitous things start to happen and fast. The love triangle because solidified as both Ash and Puck are drawn to the half-human Summer princess, but happily it does not overtake essential plotlines with its banality. The constant repartee between the two male sidhe is amusing and real; they come across as two teenage boys trying to constantly out-do the other. The camaraderie that has built around Meghan's little band (Ash, Puck, Grim, Ironhorse, etc.) enhances successively, the more this disparate group works together. In a world full of segregation and hate, it is interesting to see that the only people/fae that continually save the Nevernever are a ragtag, motley bunch that should never have met, nor even suffered the others to live. In a world of intolerance, these characters are the only ones to display humanity. Meghan, for all her problems and her family in the real world, refuses to walk away and take the easy road. Ash, as Winter Prince, rebels against laws he's followed his whole life. Puck disobeys Oberon numerous times to help Meghan. These characteristics have made me love these characters.
The uneven pacing, and random filler scenes, along with Meghan's initial personality change, make this a more uneven novel than the first. Still enjoyable, still fun and original, The Iron Daughter suffers from many of the problems of being a "mid book" in a trilogy (though now there are four novels - quadrology?) By no means did these relatively small problems in the novel dissuade from my affection for this series/author/heroine/Ash - I am jumping into The Iron Queen later today....more
In what was originally planned as the concluding book in the Iron Fey series, The Iron Queen neatly tieRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
In what was originally planned as the concluding book in the Iron Fey series, The Iron Queen neatly ties up most plot-lines, while creating enough new questions and emotions to trouble the reader long after the final page wraps up. Meghan, Ash, Puck and Grimalkin must once again team up, and struggle with each other and the forces of the Courts to save the Nevernever from the iron poisoning of the false king. This unlikely group of lovers, enemies, friends, and cats is the heart of all these novels; each character adds something unique and necessary to the mix. One of the things I love about this book is that in a world of harsh segregation and racism, it is a motley bunch from all three realms (Winter, Summer, Iron) that volunteers to save everyone, regardless of their affiliation. From the Court of Summer (Meghan herself, Puck), and Winter (Ash), and Iron (Ironhorse/Glitch/gremlins) and even the independent cait sith (Grimalkin) this group of individuals sets out to achieve what no 'normal' group of faeries would even contemplate.
In the third foray into this compelling and entrancing world, further glimpses of the Nevernever outside of the Summer and Winter Court are shown. Societies and cities (like the giant city of Mag Tureidh) are shown, and even become important settings for the novel. I appreciated the change of scenery in the story: in the first two books The Iron King and the Iron Daughter, the focus is mostly on the Iron fey themselves and the world they've created. The explorations of the group allow them (and the reader) a view into the Iron realm, Arcadia, Tir Na Nog, the wyldwood and everywhere else they must go. Each new place and denizen serve to illustrate how dangerous, alluring and just different from humans all the fey, Sellie/Unseelie/Iron are. With such a large and varied realm like the world of faery, Julie Kagawa teases and hints with details of a place that seems both plausible, interesting and above all, dangerous. Another thing I like about this author's style is that the details of this world are slowly doled out and revealed, making it appear that as Meghan discovers this world, so does the reader.
Speaking of revelations, there is much more insight into the periphery characters than in previous novels. Ash is shown to have more sides than just the "broody, silent, sexy protector" he's been shown to be and Puck demonstrates his capability for more than just pranks and clever name-calling. The love-triangle issue is dealt with fairly quietly and easily, a fact for which I am most grateful. Meghan herself continues to grow and change in a strong character arc, that over several books, has impressed me greatly. In the first book, Meghan is a passive and almost weak girl. When taunted by her schoolmates Meghan cowers in the restroom. In the Iron Daughter, Meghan gains a bit of backbone; enough to confront to powerful faery monarchs. Here, in the Iron Queen, Meghan takes the initiative to learn self defense and "fight her on battles." While the line itself may be a bit hokey and cheesy, I can't help but love when a formerly passive heroine actually decides to change, to take charge and do something. Brava for Meghan. I respect her more for not simply standing back and letting her boyfriend protect her. Meghan's increasing confidence in herself, as well as in her intelligence has waxed large over these books and one of the highpoints of them. Another note about Meghan that I really liked: for a character that is so imbued with potent, unique power, Meghan rarely makes use of her glamours. This relatively human aspect, among characters that shift into birds and turn to ice, keeps Meghan relatable in an inhuman setting. The focus is on Meghan herself, rather than what she can do.
This novel certainly does not suffer from the slow start of book number two. Instead of introducing us to a new and unfamiliar place as before (the Nevernever in general, the Winter Court), the action launches straight from the first page. Picking up right after the final words and events of the Iron Daughter, the Iron Queen wastes no time in getting to plot and the huge problem facing the Nevernever and its traditional fae population. The battles between the Summer/Winter Fey and the Iron Fey are stark and bloody. Described with a gory and gritty feel, the battles came to life and resonated with each character. Mab and Oberon were impressive in battle; I did have hopes for more close scenes but since the main story is Meghan away from the central conflict, I cannot complain too much. The finale/climax was detailed in its superb execution and fulfilling, while managing to wrench my heartstrings and leave me lamenting several twists and turns I had not foreseen. The overwhelming message of this novel, and the ones preceding, is that family is who you love, not who shares your blood.
Though these books are not without problems and faults, I wholeheartedly have loved this series. I am delighted that there is a fourth book about Ash. I'm also intrigued that it is the only one not from Meghan's perspective; it will be interesting to see the Nevernever and also Meghan herself through another's, non-human eyes. ...more
Without a doubt my absolute favorite of these four books, The Iron Knight was a fantastic finale to a sRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Without a doubt my absolute favorite of these four books, The Iron Knight was a fantastic finale to a series I've come to love. Though it was strange initially for me to not read Meghan's internal thoughts and concerns, the switch to Ash's POV for the final volume was a brilliant decision; one that allows the reader to once again see the Nevernever in a completely different light. It's a bold, fresh take on a well-loved and familiar world. It certainly helps that Ash was my favorite character (with the possible exception of Grimalkin), but the transition between the two differing viewpoints/characters was smooth and handled well. In this fourth novel, Ash is faced with the impossibility of being with his love in a realm poisonous to his very being. Determined fey that he is, Ash sets out in The Iron Knight to find a way to his love.
I have stated in previous reviews that I was tremendously impressed with the character arc Meghan had over the three books centering on her. I have to admit I was even more impressed with the depth, and care with which Ash has emerged from a shallow, silent killer into a real, conscientious being. Ash's own personal evolution takes place over a much shorter time than Meghan's (though he started to defrost in The Iron Queen) but it is rich, believably filled with pain and hope. Through Ash and his struggles, Julie Kagawa openly explores what it means to be human. Is it loving another beyond caring for oneself? Is it expressing regret and atoning for the wrongs committed? Ash must face questions unknowable with hard answers and repercussions if he is to be with his Queen in the Iron Realm. The once unassailable Winter Prince is revealed as human after all (forgive the saying). His moments of weakness, remorse, sorrow and joy are all spelled out in ways unseen in previous novels. This lowering of the wall of Ash's solitude makes him a far more real character.
This is a series that has improved with each successive novel. Each time the plot grew more complete, the atmosphere more enveloping and compelling, the characters more vivid. This is no exception: even the dialogue between frenemies Ash and Puck is at the best its been. There's a perfect balance of humor to level out the emotional and platonic tension. The interplay between both, without Meghan referring, is also an exposition minefield. Finally, more details on life before Meghan emerge: the reader can see the former closeness between the two fey, as well as the latent hostility. Even the mysterious figure of Ariella does not remain nearly as much of a cypher as she was before this book. The pacing was also top-notch, with a firm nod to a more creepy feel than the previous books; the numerous, varied adventures the band stumbles through were diverting and kept the pages moving at a steady pace. Kagawa's great talent for storytelling, along with the easy, smooth flow of the novel creates a story and world the reader is reluctant to put down.
Though missing several players from earlier stories, and adding a few completely (read: JAW-DROPPING) additions, the Iron Knight is not to be missed. Ending a well-loved story/series with delicacy and care is a hard accomplishment. Thankfully, Julie Kagawa can be grouped with J.K. Rowling as authors who were true to their characters, their world, and their fans. This book gets a very well done from me, along with the melancholy knowledge that I will never again have an Iron Fey novel before me. I highly recommend this series....more
Interesting and clever premise for a series. Subtly subverting the archetype of Cinderella, Lackey interprets the fairy tale in an original and fun taInteresting and clever premise for a series. Subtly subverting the archetype of Cinderella, Lackey interprets the fairy tale in an original and fun tale. I think the opening chapters fell a little bit flat, and were slightly boring the first hundred pages or so. I liked her idea for how magic works and is channeled through certain people via The Tradition, shaping and creating different versions of classic fairytales throughout the Five Hundred Kingdoms. The main character was annoying at first, but she grew on me, like the rest of the book did. The other characters in the book were fairly one-dimensional and lacked any real fire, except for maybe Alexander. It was not as good as I hoped, quite honestly, but it improved drastically after all the introductory details and background were finished. The only other main issue I had with the story was that the final conflict and resolution seemed rushed and stilted in their execution. A decent effort, overall enjoyable and easy to read. More of my reviews here: http://bibliophileanonymous.blogspot.......more
This was a drastic improvement over the first in the series of the Five Hundred Kingdoms. Almost none of the problems I had from the first novel wereThis was a drastic improvement over the first in the series of the Five Hundred Kingdoms. Almost none of the problems I had from the first novel were in this sequel, and it was vastly more entertaining to read than The Fairy Godmother. Instead of focusing on the "Cinderella" fairytale, the second book is about the Greek legend of the Andromeda sacrifices in a small, poor Kingdom with no Godmother. First on the list of vast improvements is Andromeda herself. Andie is the main character and is actually that, a character instead of a cliche. She's smart, bookish, resourceful, and clever. She's a very engaging character, as were the villains of the story (which surprised me). Second on the list, the conflict and resolution did not seem nearly as rushed as the end of the first book. The entire novel felt more well-planned, thought out and written. It's also much funnier and filled with more fleshed out characters instead of one-dimensional second-rate "personalities". One minor problem I had was that sometimes the actions of a character would make absolutely no sense, as in did nothing to help that character out and were blatant attempts to make the ending work to its predictable Traditional path. That being said, the ending did surprise me in a way that I totally loved and grinned while reading. A much better book than the first and I look forward to the next. ...more