I love this book wholeheartedly. Kate Morton rocketed to my absolute favorite author list last year onRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
I love this book wholeheartedly. Kate Morton rocketed to my absolute favorite author list last year on the strength of The Distant Hours and The Forgotten Garden, but this latest novel absolutely cements and guarantees her continued place there. The Secret Keeper blew my mind. Honestly, it might even rival The Distant Hours for my all-time favorite Kate Morton and mystery novel. It's just that good great; it's more of what Kate Morton does so very very well. All the time taken and careful preparations of the plot, scene, characters clearly show, and add up to make this novel a compulsive read filled with vibrant and flawed characters. I wanted to stretch out my reading experience - it's one of those few times when 480 pages seems like too little for a novel rather than a good size. For all my restraint and desire to keep this going as long as possible, I inhaled this novel in 14 hours - eight of which I was sleeping. An impressive fourth novel from a very talented author, fans and newcomers alike will eat The Secret Keeper up.
When I first started this, I was sure I was going to like it, but it didn't immediately grab me the way her first two novels had. I was curious, and intrigued where the multiple plotlines across various periods of time would eventually go, but it wasn't until about 100 pages in that I was truly gripped and aware that I was reading something truly special. The tension slowly builds as main character Laurel uncovers more and more about her mother's life before children and marriage, evoking both intensity and curiosity as her revelations show a very different woman than the mother she had known her whole life. The shifting perspectives of various characters (Laurel, her mother Dorothy, and a woman named Vivien) from 1941 to 1961 to 2011 allow for a wide view of the plot across the many eras that impact the story. The merging of the different plotlines and timeliness works so well under this author's capable hands. I did not want to put this down to eat, to sleep, or anything. It's hard to write this review because the reveal and payout are so rewarding, and I don't want go give anything - ANYTHING - away that might spoil the deft authorial sleight of hand that Morton has going.
I had high hopes going into reading The Secret Keeper, and if anything, this book exceeded any and all expectations I had for it. Morton's obvious and immense talent for prose, for setting, and for crafting such realistic, concrete characters to operate upon the page - alive in all their wishes, hopes, pasts, flaws, and mistakes - marks her as one of the best authors I have ever had the pleasure to read. With twists and turns and huge reveals that I never predicted and never once came off as hackneyed, this is an author that continually proves she knows how to write a story, as well as a truly mystifying mystery. An impressive storyteller with talent across the board including an-all-too-rare talent for subtlety and foreshadowing, her latest novel is heavy on detail, inner observations, and contemplation, but is never slow or boring. Themes of unexpected consequences, and desire are explored with caution and care, further adding to the complicated plot of the novel. With one of the top three best endings I've ever had the surprise of reading, The Secret Keeper is thoroughly satisfying and totally unpredictable.
Kate Morton is amazing. I am a huge fan, and I won't let too much time go before I dig into the only novel of hers I've yet to read - The House at Riverton. Her style is uniquely her own, and her ability to create such detailed, well-characterized novels truly sets her above most other authors. Nuanced, emotionally involving, original, and completely wonderful, The Secret Keeper further proves that my fangirling extreme love for Kate Morton's novels is more than founded - it's necessary. I haven't had such a strong reaction to a novel in far too long; I cared intensely about the characters, I was caught up in every timeline shown. This is an author who will be a favorite for a long, long time. I can only hope that a fifth novel is on the horizon for this immensely talented writer. ...more
I love when books can surprise you. I had a general idea of what to expect with Karen Thompson Walker'sRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
I love when books can surprise you. I had a general idea of what to expect with Karen Thompson Walker's meandering, character and thought-driven novel about the end of the world, but I had no idea how bittersweetly she could spin this science fiction-adjacent tale of change, hope, young love, and death. I somehow assumed that this thoughtful exploration of the Earth's "slowing" would be a young-adult effort, but though protagonist and narrator Julia is a preteen, The Age of Miracles should not be confused for a simple young-adult story; don't be deceived as I was. Karen Thompson Walker proves herself more than adept at crafting a unique, easily-envisaged scenario in which for her characters to live or die here, and it is contemplatively engaging from the get-go. Though this is a debut author, there is clearly a lot of talent at play within this new author's fertile and expansive imagination — this is one novelist whom I will be sure to watch in the future.
I was struck by the author's writing within pages. Simple and spare, Walker and Julia are gifted with an easy but strong voice, alive with imagery. Walker has a gift for striking descriptions and a unique way with words, one easily lent to creating atmosphere and tension within the novel (from the ARC, page 8: "We did not sense at first the extra time, bulging from the smooth edge of each day like a tumor blooming beneath skin.") Her style fits this loosely apocalyptic story; the focus is not on the extreme events that happen as a result of the slowing (like "solar superstorms" or "gravity sickness"), nor in finding/explaining the cause for the change, but rather on the effects of the aforementioned on Julia and her family. As the world and the things taken for granted fluctuate and stretch, so too do the inner lives and previously unassailable facts of life for Julia, her father and mother.
Julia grows up, and into her role as narrator, quite fast in a world where "dark days" and "white nights" are the norm, and her character is neither stunted nor fully-dimensional. Hampered, perhaps, by the very short length of this novel (only 212 pages in ARC form), I never quite connected to Julia. I was curious about whether the cards would fall as I predicted, but I never fully invested in her as character. Like the particularly apt reference to the Gary Paulsen novel Hatchet and akin to its protagonist Brian, young Julia finds her way alone in an unfamiliar, and hostile world. I rooted for her in her suburban catastrophes; I just didn't love her. All the characters, from dad Joel to hippie Sylvia, feel sketched-out, rather than fully drawn and realized. Despite this, I was fully involved in the story unfolding throughout The Age of Miracles - the steady stream of new revelations, the twists and turns of the more mundane plotlines and above all, Thompson Walker's inimitable prose, kept my attention firmly affixed to the page.
Though quite short and not completely perfect, The Age of Miracles is a bittersweet and worthy addition to the science fiction/apocalyptic genre. Karen Thompson Walker's foray into writing is largely a success on many counts - it is original and compelling and distinctly written. It is, I hope, a pleasant harbinger of more to come from the debut novelist. I will definitely be tuning in as well as going forth and recommending this book for those seeking a slower-paced, more introspective take on the end of the world.
This is a mess. I've long since grown out of most of my misguided, uneducated affection for Philippa GrRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
This is a mess. I've long since grown out of most of my misguided, uneducated affection for Philippa Gregory novels, but any lingering chances I will read her subsequent novels were firmly ended by this read. From beginning to end, this is a dull, vapid and uninvolving novel. Full of undeveloped, one-dimensional and just plain boring characters, with little to no plot to speak of, there's nothing to recommend about Changeling. It's a sloppy and anachronistic mess of a book, and one that doesn't leave much hope for the rest of this series. Simply and best put: Changeling is a disappointing mess, even for those who have grown inured to Gregory's ham-handed attempts to write historical fiction.
Changeling is supposedly the tale of two (very dry, very flat) protagonists, Luca Vero and his female counterpart of Isolde of Lucretili. It's hard to connect with these cardboard cutouts masquerading as characters, and even more difficult with their cliched background characters of Freize and Ishraq. I don't have anything to say about either protagonist; both Luca and Isolde failed to come to life as people, nor gave me cause to invest in their respective stories. There's no real "mystery" to anything that Luca investigates, nor is the "changeling" label ever fully explored by the author. It's mentioned maybe twice, and then... just dropped in favor of a ill-fated (and inauthentic) romantic plotline between two sets of characters.
With no plot to speak of and with the adventures the group encounters coming across as sporadic, unrelated vignettes, it's hard to get a clear picture of the world that Gregory is attempting to create here. Is the supernatural real? Where are my alchemists and death dancers I was promised? This is an "Order of Darkness" novel, the first in an expected series, but bare lip service is paid to the idea of an overarching theme or message. This is Gregory's weakest effort on many fronts, and it shows throughout the dialogue-heavy novel, and badly. Events and reveals, plot twists are all predictable - from the twist about Isolde's fortunes to the "mystery" of the stigmata and poisoned nuns - each new revelation failed to achieve the any impact author was going for.
Changeling is affected, obvious and anachronistic. This review is unexpectedly hard to write because I cared so little about anything that was going on, nor about the main characters. Gregory's earlier novels aren't "good" per se, but they at least managed to entertain the reader, instead of bore them to tears, as this one does. You would think a novel with a trail about possessed and poisoned nuns would be a little more riveting. You'd be so so wrong. Lacking any significant character development, with a staid and predictable plot, Gregory is better suited to staying in the genre she's come to dominate. Stick with her fluffy, bodice-heaving novels and stay far, far away from Changeling....more
Monument 14 seems to have a lot of things going for it: killing hailstorms, a bus explosion, death andRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Monument 14 seems to have a lot of things going for it: killing hailstorms, a bus explosion, death and abundant destruction... and all that's just within the three chapters of the novel. This sounds like an action-packed read and like a thrill-ride from that promising initiation to main character Dean's survival story somewhere in the vague future. And it is all that, right? Right? Well....kinda, for a while. Monument 14 unfortunately falls prey to the trap of becoming mired in high school melodrama and love-triangles instead of focusing on the more original and striking aspects of the novel (things like the megatsunamis [not just regular ones, but megatsunamis], the kids abandoned on their own in a poor man's Walmart), which not only bummed me out but brought down the overall enjoyment I took away from the book. This one is going to get a bit spoilery, so DO NOT READ ON if you don't want to read some plot twists in the novel.
The 5- 17 year old cast of characters here are largely defined by their age, and their respective attitudes. None of them is particular defined outside stereotypical roles (The Jock [Jake], The Bully/Jerk [Brayden], The Perfect Girl [Astrid], The Mom [Josie], The Troubled Teen [Sahalia], The Brain [Alex], so on and so forth...) or experiences a whole lot of growth. Dean, the main character and the sole POV for Monument 14, is supposed to be the type of guy that's quiet and awkward, bookish, not quite mature but working for it, and overall, a likeable and relatable guy. But for me, he wasn't. I was iffy on his "voice" from the start as it didn't feel authentically male to me, but gave him the benefit of the doubt enough to keep reading past the first few pages of holy-shit-killer-hail-oh-hey-there's-already-a-dead-kid. Several things added up to my overall dissatisfaction with Dean as the main character: though I didn't love him, it took time for my antipathy to set in. Now, young Dean has a crush on Astrid, a senior to his junior, and worships the ground she walks on. We get to hear about Dean's fervent love for a girl he doesn't really know often. It gets repeated ad nauseam. C'mon kid: the world as you know it is dead, surely you can ignore Astrid's perfect back for another twenty pages. Or until you've had a real conversation with her, jeez.
Another problem I had with the characters here in Monument 14 are their attitudes. Not necessarily the expected teenage 'tude, but the intelligence and self-awareness that takes years to acquire shown in 5, 8, and 13 year-olds. I had expected the older bunch of high schoolers to act wiser than their years in a survival story and definitely got that in spades (I don't buy that Niko's Scout Training was that comprehensive for all the skills/abiltiies he has. I'm not a Scout, but it's awfully convenient) but the younger kids were abnormally aware when the book needed them to be. I'm talking 5-year old twins correcting adults' traveling plans because "no one travels at night" - what child knows that? And there's Max, the way way wise-beyond-his-years elementary schooler who knows about guns and domestic violence, and also Batiste the 2nd grader obsessed with sin and taking the Lord's name in vain and creative chef. I'm not saying it's impossible for children to be and do these things, but all of them, together, so aware and smart? It strained my credulity for a book about a chemical leak that can attack people differently based on their blood type..
Once the kids are in the store and safe from the killer hail and exploding bus, Monument 14 gets way too invested in teenage bullshit drama. Yes, this is a young-adult novel so I was expecting some form of romance to worm its way into my nice post-apocalyptic survival novel filled with murder machines. What I wasn't expecting was how much of the book is caught up in lovelife machinations, whining, and just overall drama. Why should I care if Niko harbors a secret love for Josie but Josie is with bad-boy Brayden if none of them have been developed into real characters? Why do I care about Dean getting to be with Astrid when he spies on her having sex with her boyfriend? (Also: is naming a girl's boobs a "thing" nowadays with young people? I'm only 24 but I find that: laughable, stupid and the opposite of arousing..)
So much of this novel seemed distasteful (like Dean's spying), over-the-top (like Jake's journey from sobriety to druggie to recovered addict) or just plain silly (all the damn love-triangles) that what was awesome about it gets lost early on. Megatsunamis, people, think about the poor neglected megatsunamis. While I was interested in the life in the Greenway Superstore and the kid's self-government there, and recovery is a necessary part of any survival tale, I wanted more on what had forced them into the store and kept them there so long. With the chemicals affecting people with O-type blood with bloodlust and loss of all reason, this should have been a much more suspenseful and creepy tale. Three of the kids in the store have just that type and Hulk out into murder machines if exposed, but beyond one slight threat, the O-ffected (heh, puns) don't really factor into the novel at large. There's a teen offed in the first ten pages but the rest of the novel doesn't live up to that level of death - which as macabre as this sounds, I was disappointed by. In tragedies, people die. In cataclysms and natural disasters like on this scale, even some of the initial survivors would die. While the kids sadly don't devolve to Lord of the Flies status (there's only one real fight and it's pretty one-sided and deserved), I had hoped for a more cutthroat approach to the 'after' part of this.
The ending does redeem Monument 14 a bit because it went an entirely different direction than the previous 280 pages had seemingly lead to. The surprise alone helped his pull a higher rating that the one I had preemptively assigned to it. I actually liked the bait-and-switch and think it will lead to a hopefully better, less romantically-inclined sequel. With all that said, the best line of the book: "I can always spare a moment to delouse a friend."...more
Revealing Eden has the benefit of containing one of the most original premises I've come across for a melding of both post-apocalytpic and dystopic fiRevealing Eden has the benefit of containing one of the most original premises I've come across for a melding of both post-apocalytpic and dystopic fiction into a young-adult novel. It's such a shame that such a great premise was not delivered upon. Eden is a difficult protagonist - one it's hard to root for, empathize with or even read for an extended amount of time. I was hooked by the idea of reading a novel about a racially constructed dystopia - that's the only reason I was drawn to this, honestly - but instead of a struggle for equality, I got a meandering book about a Jaguar Man and a lousy romance. This is not a novel I would recommend for anyone searching out a dystopia/post-apocalyptic novel. There are so many in that particular subgenre, this one can really be passed over without notice.
Let's get to both problem number one and one of the most irritating parts of the 307 pages in this first in a planned trilogy: Eden herself. EdenNewman, to be specific. Again: what is it with authors and the painfully obvious names/sur names? A protagonist named Eden Newman in a novel supposedly about a controlled dystopia with a population issue? It's both too on the nose and just kinda silly. Eden herself is silly, ridiculous, among other kinds of unfavorable descriptors. Her emotions whip around at the speed of light, often without any kind of valid reason for the whiplash - just reading her inner thoughts about her love interest, Bramford, manages to be both annoying and repetitive. While Eden can inspire a bit of empathy and curiosity while in REA/the Combs, out in the wild shows her true (nasty) colors. Eden pretty much ticks off every marker on my "Things Not To Do As A Main Character" list: she complains no one trusts her but trusts no one herself, acts suspiciously and gets angry for being called on her sketchy behavior, and most of all, she ignores what she is expressly warned not to do.
Speaking of Eden let's return to her boss and "love interest" Bramford. Right off, I hated the dynamic, the interplay and finally the "relationship" the two had for Revealing Eden. Bramford is too perfect, as shown by his "98% mate-rate" and the way the author writes him. Bramford also is a controlling bastard for much of the book: he orders Eden about with no reasoning or explanation, and is just kind of an ass because he can be, as a 'Coal'. Their "relationship" is a joke: neither can be bothered to trust the other, listen to the other or even just be nice. Eden is constantly on the look-out for something bad about Bramford or his motives - or even just something she can spin to seem like it's bad about Bramford. It's exhausting to read: " I love him!" "I hate him!" ad nauseam, with very little variation. The stupid, pointless bickering between the two is very repetitive. They also have zero chemistry together, so I found heir motivations/actions after discovering it to ring false. I can't buy that Eden does things out of love for Bramford because I can't buy that Eden really does love the part man, part jaguar part anaconda part eagle.
Almost all the twists and turns of the novel were telegraphed early on, or ridiculously easy to call. The writing as well could do with a bit of sharpening. Transitions especially need work here; the changes can be quite confusing with the often clumsy wording used. My dissatisfaction with the plotting was compounded by the poor worldbuilding and the nonexistant details about the science of the novel. Since so much of the novel focuses on Dr. Newman's experiments - and not the post-apocalyptic/race issues - I expected at least some kind of backghround info into the "Adaption" other than: science happens and BAM! Anaconda-harpy eagle-jaguar man! The father just "does science" in his lab and it's not enough to build believability for the resulting being. The only lip-service paid to the "dystopia" aspect are the mood enhancers, mind-numbing drugs, 'Life-Band', and 'World-Band' - all of which are referenced frequently, but never explained. I need worldbuilding, people. A good dystopia has detailed worldbuilding - none of which is to be found within the covers of Revealing Eden.
A muddled plot with flat characters and zero worldbuilding pretty much doom the first of the 'Save the Pearls' trilogy, Revealing Eden. There are kernels of good ideas here - the race-orientated society is both uncomfortable and compelling to read - but the good gets lost in the mire of miscarried ideas. This is sadly another case of "good ideas, faltering/poor execution". The race factor hardly matters for the duration - except for Eden's single-minded focus - which feels like a missed chance. In a choice between a book about a dystopia centered on race or a book about an adapted animal-man, I'd pick the first every time. The amusing thing is, when I started this, the former is what I thought I'd be getting and the second is what it really was. Caveat emptor! But seriously, steer clear of this one. You're not missing out on anything besides a headache.
Written as a prequel to the well-loved Ender's Game, Johnston's Earth Unaware tries to fill in some ofRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Written as a prequel to the well-loved Ender's Game, Johnston's Earth Unaware tries to fill in some of the holes and unexplored history of the "Enderverse" and the first Formic War that led to Battle School, and Ender's adventures in vanquishing the "hormigas"/Formics. When this book works the most, it succeeds predominately on misplaced nostalgia for the earlier-published-but-later-in-the-chronology novels like Ender's Game, Xenophobe, Children of the Mind, etc. I found Earth Unaware to be a weak, ghost-written book that lacks the easy charisma, dynamic characters, and unique storyline that the other books possessed in abundance and which made them so memorable.
There are obviously some good, interesting ideas at play here (the asteroid mining and the cultures that sprout up around them [free miners versus corporations, etc.]) but Aaron Johnston is primarily a graphic novelist, and it shows quite obviously here. Nothing about the novel is realized to its full potential -- from characters to plot to even the action, almost all about Earth Unaware felt contrived, weak, and overdone all at the same time. This is a superficial and shallow adaptation of Ender and the world's backstory, obviously written primarily to lure in fans of Ender's Game and its subsequent sequels. The plot is minimal, the characters are in dire need of more/or a rounded personality (or in Wit's case, a connection to the actual story. His Earth-bound plot will surely coincide with the events of the sequels, but for Earth Unaware, they are more filler than anything else, Mazer Rackham cameo or not.)
Wonky pacing, uneven and unconnected storylines, cliched or predictable characters, and more made this a miss for me. The few things I found interesting were often and quickly glossed over to focus on the less developed ideas and characters. There are people who will absolutely love this and gush over the finally explained and explored first contact with the Formics, but Earth Unaware is nowhere near the league of Ender's Game in any area. This review is much shorter than most, but my disappointment with this and OSC's raging homophobia make it almost impossible for an impartial thought.
And other thoughts:
When I first read Ender's Game, I was 10. It was my first scifi novel and Ender was a protagonist seemingly created just for me to love. I still love it to this day, but more for nostalgia and my first sense of how powerful children could be than for anything else. It was revelatory: kids can be heroes and save the world too! Now that I'm older, wiser, and more exposed to the kind of hate that OSC regularly spews towards homosexuals, I find myself less and less inclined to pick up anything he's written (or was written for him.) I debated whether or not to even review this (though it's far from a glowing review) because I don't want to promote OSC in any way, shape or form, negatively or not. In this recent climate, among all these debates about author behavior and how it affects readers, I find it hard to justify my read of this/these books. Sure, OSC has never attacked a negative review or reviewer (to my knowledge, but I certainly try to ignore anything that comes out of his mouth at this point), but how authors behave does impact their work and those who read it.
As I was reading Speechless by Hannah Harrington right after this novel, it made me think about silent compliance, ignoring the bad stuff, and just doing what everyone else does for the sake of not making waves. I'm done, I'm gonna make my own wave about this; I just can't support an author who thinks it's right to discriminate against and dehumanize other people. I was granted an ARC of this, but you can bet this author will never see another penny of my cash. I won't be finishing the First Formic War series, and though I thank TOR for the generosity of reading the ARC, even an ARC of the sequel won't tempt me. Goodbye, OSC. I will still reread Ender, but I won't recommend it anyone anymore.
So long, Enderverse, and thanks for all the fish....more
2 out of 5 stars and that's me, being very kind and generous towards a very trying, unoriginal and blanRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
2 out of 5 stars and that's me, being very kind and generous towards a very trying, unoriginal and bland novel. This was quite nearly a DNF for me. Some books just read effortlessly and easily and some books are a struggle from the first page until the last and The Girl in the Steel Corset is definitely a member of the latter group. Only a few things could have kept me going in this four-hundred page mess and one of them was the immense, looming obligation I felt to read ARC I received for the equally-long-winded sequel, The Girl in the Clockwork Collar. Several aspects of this first novel were mystifying to me amid and during my boredom and struggle to complete it - like why, exactly, is this lip-service "steampunk" novel so many readers' first (and judging by the "gadgetry" shown in this novel, their only taste) taste of that kooky and inventive subgenre? And why is Finley so brainless and hard to like? I have to readily admit my experience with Finley and her misfits were much less than satisfactory and note honestly that if I hadn't won this book, I would be pissed at having spent my hard-earned cash on it.
The Girl in the Steel Corset is just plain bad often, and frequently a mess by many measures. There're love triangles galore (Jack-Finley-Griffin and Sam-Emily-Jasper), missed character potential in order to focus on fripperies, coffee (coffee?? I'm sorry - I thought that this was alternate England not a new universe. Where's the tea?!) and clothing, and most damning (and frustrating as a reader) of all, there are unfulfilled and unexplained plotlines AFTER the resolution and roundup on the final page ((view spoiler)[seriously, who killed Felix? No answer is provided. (hide spoiler)]). I have major, major issues with how the steampunk aspect was "incorporated" into the story - I like steampunk quite a lot and have read several series just for the inventive gadgets and sky-high dirigibles. When it's done well, steampunkery can add a certain flair and fun to a much more straight-forward tale. When it's done like here in The Girl with the Steel Corset, it comes across more as a bunch of deux-ex-machinas draped in clockwork - every invention in the novel comes across as just too convenient or perfect for the situation at hand. Cross's "steampunkery" leaves a lot to be desired and overall, doesn't add anything vital to the story at hand.
Character-wise, we also have some issues.
Finley Jayne. (view spoiler)[Sheppard. (hide spoiler)] My issues with Finley began about two minutes into the book, give or take. As the novel opens, everything seems to be lined up in the young Miss Jayne's favor: she's smart, strong and can kick some arrogant lordling ass. However, as she's running away from the introductory attempted rape and her violent response to the situation, she LITERALLY runs into another strange young lordling but decides to follow that one home...to stay. Her logic being that her mom's going be pissed she lost her job with Asshole "Attempted Rapist" Lordling of Jackass Hall. Uhh.... ok, then, I guess? From that less than auspicious meeting point, I further got tired of Finley's brainlessness: she repeatedly makes harebrained, dangerous decisions without informing anyone else of her plans, she doesn't think consequences through and she's difficult.
Griffin King. I'm just going to stop a moment and ponder the possibility of a Duke in 1800's England having the surname of 'King'. Really? I'm supposed to buy that? And what is with YA authors and painfully obvious names/surnames? Griffin is like a mix of a Batman origin story (parents murdered, forever seeks justice in an unjust world as a result) in an I, Robot world (machines trying to kill Sam against their programming). Much like his lady counterpart, Griff's characterization, and like everyone else's, is blunt and repetitive. This is not a book for any kind of subtlety or subterfuge - Kady Cross is an author that likes to beat her points around your head until you collapse. Griffin's honorable and a duke; he's smart and capable and kind. How do I know this? The other characters are kind enough to remark upon his attributes often, both vocally and internally, instead of, y'know, showing me their individual relationships with their actions and dialogue. But besides all that, I do think I have the beginnings of a book crush on the Duke of Greythorne - yes he is too perfect to be real, but he is the most only likeable male in the misfits.
Sam Morgan. I hate Sam. Few characters have inspired to this level of do-not-want but he did it under 200 pages. Sam is the most unlikeable, undeveloped and hardest-to-understand character out of the whole bloody lot. In a cast of similarly clouded and unrounded characters, he takes the cake as the most frustrating. He's also quite thick - I called his twist as soon as it appeared disguised on the page. His actions towards Finley (like trying to MURDER her) do nothing to redeem his character - he is merely tedious in his capslockian rage.
Cordelia. Griffin's telekinetic and telepathic aunt quickly emerged somewhat of a major issue for me. (view spoiler)[Also - how does she have such an ability without exposure to the Organites? No one else has such talents without them and she is never around them... (hide spoiler)] Cordelia tends to use brute mental force to invade someone's mind just because she can and she wants to, despite being asked and TOLD by Finley, repeatedly, to not mess around in her head. Cordelia also violates Griffin's expressed desires for cranular privacy, but self-control and heeding the wishes of others clearly matters very little to his guardian/aunt. Her part reduced more and more as the novel went on and the kids grew into their roles and independence and I wasn't sorry to see her go.
Characters I did like, for the most part:
Emily O'Brien. Emily is the Irish genius behind Griff's crime-fighting force. While I got very tired of seeing the word "ropey" attached to describe her hair, and her "lads" and "lass" at the end of every sentence wore my patience, Emily is the best part of the novel. She's smart, self-aware and every-bit as interesting as main character Finley Jayne.
Jack Dandy. Dandy is the final leg in the love triangle of Griff and Finley and despite that working against him, I quite like the fake Cockney bastard - I'm always up to root for a good antihero. He, at least, has personality to burn and verve. While I found the overdone and obvious attraction between him and Finley to be well, overdone and obvious, he is certainly a scene-stealer and amusing. I liked that he was very different from Griff - one appeals the pure side of Finley and one to the darker - but I do wish he had had more point in the story than just causing romantic friction between the main characters.
There are admittedly some cool ideas at play here (Griff's abilities, the mutations of the group due to the exposure to the Organites) but unfortunately, much of what is good gets lost in the shuffle and the tedium offered in the rest of the book. Perhaps this would've been a stronger novel if there hadn't been so many POVs, but rather just Finley. Griffin's is an acceptable narrative because it complements Finley's nicely, but Sam's adds absolutely nothing to the reading experience except an increased apathy for the part-robot. And if the characters aren't the selling point of the novel, the plot and action had better make up for it -except that is not the case here. In fact, after Finley's dustup and then meetup with Griff and until her showdown with Sam, there's very little real action to be had for a novel about a girl worried at one point about begin possessed by a violent demon.
The Girl in the Steel Corset is frustrating, time-consuming and an energy-sapping read. I hate being disappointed in books I've looked forward to reading which is perhaps 10% of the reason why I'm being quite so harsh here; there's just so much unrealized potential passed over (Em's brilliance) for less compelling ideas (Finley's dual nature). There is an open ending that leads quite obviously to the main events and plot of book two, but I was underwhelmed by both the final conflict and the denouement shown here. There is also no reason for this book to have the length it does - a dab hand at editing could excise about 50 - 100 pages of nonessential data and detail and have a more streamlined, consistent, and involving novel. All in all, if I didn't have a copy of book two waiting, I wouldn't continue this series.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
No. Just no. Am I reading the same book as everyone else? This was awful across the board. A smatteringRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
No. Just no. Am I reading the same book as everyone else? This was awful across the board. A smattering of a (very) few good ideas, scant worldbuilding (and what is there is very unoriginal), and very poor execution coupled with two unlikeable protagonists make for a very unsatisfied Jessie. This is not going to be pretty. I'm pretty damn disappointed with this novel, as well as being supremely frustrated with it. I had passed this over several times on my frequent go-throughs of NetGalley - PNR/UF is far from my favorite genre as they tend to be predictable and all vaguely alike - and I should've stuck with my initial, quite wary, thoughts. Misled by all the 4 and 5-star reviews I'd then subsequently seen for this, I thought Blade Song might be the exception to my UF/PNR rule... and no. Absolutely not. Not by a long shot. The few, creative things I liked about it in the beginning pages were soon abandoned to the mess that is the rest of this cliched and poorly-executed book.
What I Liked:
-new kind of supernatural being - the aneira - warrior women with magical abilities, aka amazons -new ideas on typical vampire mythology -lose more and more of their soul as they age, feed on humans for blood, but also emotions they have lost as a result - a POC for a love-interest (too bad his actual personality is as nails on a chalkboard. For 250 pages.)
What I Hated Did Not Like:
Okay, seriously, I'll go through a few of my many, many issues with this book. It made me too angry to go through them all, and I have many other books I'd like to read, so here's the short rundown.
For a novel that started so strongly, Blade Song devolves fairly quickly. A lot of my problems with this first in a series stem from the weak main character of Kitasa herself. She's just so incredibly brainless, thoughtless, heedless. For the ENTIRE NOVEL. Also, for a half-amazon assassin, this is a pretty worthless fighter. She's always fainting, passing out, or just plain needing to be rescued. Where is the strong warrior character I was promised? Cause she for sure never showed up past chapter two. Instead, I got a weak-willed pushover who confuses a controlling asshole for a worthy love interest. Kit is much more a weak-willed damsel in distress waiting for her man to come save her. No. Just.. no. Especially when I was promised an active, capable heroine. Not cool.
Damon is an asshole, and I hated him from start to end. Though spared from his POVs (thank you!), his actions and disalogues with/to Kit show him to be a Bad Idea. Alpha males are far from my favorite type of love interest, and here is no exception. For about 90% of the novel, he's abusive, or controlling,or just plain rude. His abrupt switch from unagreeable aggressor to lovaaah is just too quick, foundation-less, and unbelievable. You don't get to "wring [Kit's] neck" black and blue, and then oh-so-love her a week later, with all forgiven. No. I'm sorry. I don't buy that. You don't spy on her texts and control her actions and then get to be the hero over and over. Bad Damon, very bad.
This was a big miss and a huge disappointment for me; I was prepared to and really wanted to love it, based on the reviews I read from trusted friends. It just wasn't meant to be, for me. The few good ideas were easily and quickly glossed over in favor of typical and standard genre fare - power games, a human(ish) woman caught between a powerful vampire and a powerful weresomething in an human/supernaturally incorporated city - and Blade Song never delivered on its promise of a fun, smart, deadly Amazon assassin. Simplistic, cliched, with flat and unlikeable characters, I won't be continuing this series with Night Blade, the second book due out sometime in the near future.
If you're morbidly curious or wish to try out Kit's special blend of stupid and reckless for yourself, the good news is that Blade Song will only set you back about $5 to read. Just be warned: may induce feelings of incredible frustration and severe disappointment....more
I think it's fair to say I hated this book. A lot. For a variety of reasons.
High hopes and huge disappointments - What are my two key emotions for this odd, disjointed and often off-putting supernatural endeavor called Drain You, Alex? It all sounds so good at first glance - a unique, quirky protagonist, evil vampires, a humorous and dry tone - but none, none of that lives up to expectations. The title is the most appropriate thing about the whole book: I felt the will to read drain out of me the more pages I turned. The "humor" here wasn't funny, the main character is one of the most unlikeable people I've ever had the misfortune to have to read about, there was no real presence of any tension in the novel, and the "plot" is MIA for the majority of the novel. It's a mess, and not a fun one.
If you don't like main character Quinlan, chances are high you are not going to like the rest of what Drain You has to offer. I hated Quinn. Hated, hated, hated, like I haven't disliked a fictional being in a loooong, long time. She's self-centered, selfish, rude, annoying, stupid, ungrateful, unthinking... I could go on and on with what's wrong with Quinn and her "characterization". Pages of my reading notes for this book are littered with things like: "WHAT did she just say?" "Why does she treat everyone around her like shit?" "Why am I supposed to care for a character that doesn't have the decency to warn other people when she is putting their lives and their entire families' lives!, in mortal danger?
And what else do I hate in YA novels besides dumb, superficial female protagonists? Instalove, and with a murderous, mysterious vampire! (How original! I've never read anotherYA paranormal book/series like that!) Be warned: Drain You has that hackneyed romantic element in spades. Quinn is astonishingly like the hated Bella in regards to her undead lover: they both consider their lives as "meaningless" when separated from their vampire boyfriends (in Quinn's case this is after knowing James less than three weeks' time. And her life is "meaningless" without him? GET A GRIP), they both fail to understand the danger of what they're involved in, they're both flat and dull girls who don't really know what they're getting into. Quinn is Bella - just with a "punk" twist and a much more liberal wardrobe. She even has the normal human boys that just can't help but fall in love with her! (and that she summarily rejects, uses, rejects, and then uses again. It's gross.)
Despite the (or maybe as a direct result of) complete lack of tension or suspense in the novel, I was majorly, majorly underwhelmed by both the final conflict and the denouement shown here. Maybe that's a direct result of the lack of plot, or antagonist presence but the end of the novel is flatter than the cardboard Quinn was made from. Either/or, it could go both ways because really neither the plot nor the villains play much into the storyline. The bulk of this disjointed, choppy narrative is devoted purely to all angst and emo and melodrama about how lonely and bored and cool poor little Quinn is, when really all she is is insufferable. Even when she is the direct cause of ALL THE PROBLEMS she faces with Morgan, Naomi. Whit and James, Quinn feels the most for...herself, takes no responsibility or ownership over the danger she puts everyone in. Not once. Fuck, I hated this character. GTFO.
Drain You was an entirely underwhelming disappointment, one I wish I had DNF'd halfway through. If I could tell past-Jessie "it doesn't get any better, any funnier, any cleverer" I would've set this down after Quinn decides two stalker-y nightwalks with a creepy, blood-covered boy constitute the beginning of a good relationship. No. Just no. Lots of potential, extremely poor execution is the final verdict on the mess that is Drain You.
This is just so so good, from start to finish. I'm still having a hard time putting coherent thoughts aRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
This is just so so good, from start to finish. I'm still having a hard time putting coherent thoughts about it together, but If I Lie made me cry, oh, once every 75 pages or so. It's gripping, and touching, and altogether beautiful in several ways. This is a book that made me feel things (All the feelings!), that made me care intensely about its wide cast of multi-dimensional characters people; all in all, this is a damn good book and I literally have zero complaints. It and the themes and issues explored in those 276 pages brought to mind The Scarlet Letter and another novel I recently read, Speechless by Hannah Harrington, on how inaction and silence can be as harmful as telling secrets. And, however much I was initially reminded of those novels, this is very much its own novel. Corrine Jackson is undoubtedly an author to watch and she more than proves her talent with this contemporary debut. Though I read an ARC of this, I fully plan to buy my own copy when it's available. Heart-breaking in a variety of ways, If I Lie is easily one of my best of 2012 reads.
This book is so much more than the blurb seems to let on. It's not the same tired old highschool angst and melodrama about a girl caught in a cliched love triangle. If I Lie is anything but that. It's heartfelt and emotional. In the end, it's about hope, love, trust, family, and ultimately, what it means to be your own person. It's about growing up, moving on, and learning how to live with curveballs life can and does throw at you. Though I called the secret even before starting, the heart of the novel isn't uncovering what happened those two days before Carey shipped out, but in watching how that secret affects and continues to impact the characters various lives after he's gone.
Main character and chief protagonist Sophie Topper Quinn is one of those few and far between heroines: she's strong, passionate, honorable, stubborn, flawed, and real. I absolutely loved Sophie and reading about her life, through her ups and downs, her stubbornness and her pride. This is the kind of character I can care about, root for and invest in heavily. Her voice is... real, organic -- it gets under the skin and makes you care about her and her life. She has hopes and dreams, is an active protagonist, even if some of what she does is more harmful than goo in the long run. This book is a great example of how first-person POV can be used effectively to make a reader identify closely with the narrator. I felt what Quinn felt, her full spectrum of emotions caught me early. Her inner monologue is just so realistic and further reinforces how authentic and grounded this character is. Corrine Jackson has this characterization, voice, plot all down pat here in If I Life, and I was impressed even as tears were streaming down my cheeks, multiple times.
Though my family isn't nearly as military-oriented as Quinn's is shown to be, I do have a brother who is a Sergeant in the Marines, and who has served two tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. And while, thankfully, he has never been MIA or wounded in action, the actions of the characters in this novel really hit home for me. The simple fact of not knowing where they are or how your loved one is is stressful and can lead people to do things they otherwise wouldn't. I'm not just talking about Quinn here (though her case is obviously not the same as others), but Carey's parents and friends as well. While their actions towards Quinn can be and often are abusive, I understand how it is to act out of fear for someone you love but cannot do anything to help. Corrine Jackson's skillful writing and my personal experiences makes it so that I understand them, even if I disagree with how they act. One of the best things, out of a multitude of options, about If I Lie are how human all these characters are, even the antagonists of Jamie and the Breens. They're practically alive with their flaws, mistakes, and errors.
I picked this up yesterday morning, intending to read a few chapters before I went to work out. I ended up pushing back my workout by several hours because I absolutely could not, and did not want to, put this down. If I Lie is compulsively readable, even as it repeatedly shatters your heart and wrangles all your emotions. Though the ending is more open-ended than anything, I choose to see it as a hopeful finale, for Quinn, for Blake, (view spoiler)[ for Quinn and Blake together as a couple after the summer ends (hide spoiler)]. It's perfect. This is a great book. Read it and love it. I can't recommend it highly enough. Well done, Corrine Jackson. You have made a fangirl out of me with just one novel alone and I eagerly anticipate whatever else you publish.
Eventually, I did get to my gym. But first, I went to see my brother and gave him a big hug and a 'thank you' for all he has done. Though the military is far from perfect, I am eternally grateful for what they all - every branch and every individual servicemember - have sacrificed for this country. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Every Day is another remarkable novel from a very talented and thankfully prolific author.Read This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
4.25 out of 5
Every Day is another remarkable novel from a very talented and thankfully prolific author. Just when I start to feel again that YA sticks to and retreads the same trends, ideas, themes, constantly, Mr. Levithan publishes such a starkly original and thoroughly readable novel. Unlike anything else I've read (though I can see slight shades of both The Time Traveler's Wife and Quantum Leap in components of Every Day), this is a thought-provoking and emotional novel that stands firmly on its own two feet. Levithan has proved himself as more than capable of creating unique scenarios, coupled with compelling characters, along with completely original plots and themes, and he is at his best here with this latest, engrossing novel. While Every Day may not be perfect - the ending and a few other issues I had preclude me from anything higher than that 4.25 - I absolutely loved reading this novel every chance I got to sit down and devour it.
This is a novel that made me feel, that made me really think about life, love, and relationships. Those kinds of books are rare -especially in a genre that, unfortunately, tends to romanticize alpha males and submissive female characters - and I appreciate Every Day all the more for its fresh take on love, gender, religion, and even society. It is centered more on love and a relationship than anything else - A's drive to see Rhiannon and make it work drives the narrative - but it's not cloying or saccharine. I didn't read his instant connection with her as instalove - more as a desperate need to connect with somebody, anybody, who might be able to accept him as he was.While the social commentary aspect is prevalent throughout the short-ish 336 page length, it can come across as occasionally heavy-handed (and is one of the very few reasons this book is not a 5-star read for me). But, happily, for the most part it's meshed within the overall plot quite well and with aplomb. A may not be perfect and occasionally judgmental and preachy, and his/her views are certainly their own, but this starkly original journey through grief, first love, loneliness is one that will resonate with many, many readers.
Once again, Levithan exhibits the same talents I have come to expect and treasure from such an able writer. No one else can write like he can. If I could, I would quote from nearly every chapter in this touching novel. Levithan is that good. Every Day is alternatively bittersweet, creepy, aching, interesting, and compelling. For once, this is a book where the execution of the book itself matches the high level of the idea behind the plot. With Levithan's beautiful, thoroughly readable way with words leading the way, the novel's wandering through philosophical questions about life, identity, human nature are explored maturely and with appropriate emotion. Under a different hand, Every Day could have easily been an overwrought, melodramatic angsty mess, but it never is. What it is, is a wholly genuine and wonderful book that explores so many of the prevalent issues that kids of this age have to deal with.
Every Day is a book about possibilities. It's not one for definitive answers or for totally complete resolutions. If you as a reader can suspend your disbelief enough to buy into the premise - a body jumping "person" - then the rest of this lovely novel will be an evocative treat. Give this one a chance - I highly doubt you will be sorry that you did.
"I don't have the heart to tell him that's the wrong way to think about the world. There will always be more questions. Every answer leads to more questions. The only way to survive is to let some of them go."
"If you stare at the center of the universe, there is a coldness there. A blankness. Ultimately, the universe doesn't care about us. Time doesn't care about us. That's why we have to care about each other."
Three stars and a 'read' tag because I made it almost to 60%; it just shouldn't require this much effort to read. As is indicated by the three stars iThree stars and a 'read' tag because I made it almost to 60%; it just shouldn't require this much effort to read. As is indicated by the three stars instead of a 1 or a 2 as I was tempted, there are several redeeming aspects to The Printmaker's Daughter. The relationship between Hokusai and Oei is more important and complex than any other in the novel (in fact, she defines herself by him/his work as is hinted at in the title), the city of Edo itself is vibrantly drawn and realized, from the Corner Tamaya bordellos to the markets. But on the other hand are the weird and somewhat random accents and 1990's California-valleygirl speech patterns of 1800s courtesans, the interminable stretches where nothing happens, and awkward, jarring transitions between third and first-person narration. I wanted to love this; I'm halfway there thanks to the cover alone. I may try this one again, in the final version, but the ARC I had wasn't working for me. I was entranced for 50 pages, then bored for 220 before calling it quits. Longer, disappointed diatribe to follow....more
Afterwards was a lot of things for me: frustrating, alienating, weird, intriguing, and eventRead This Review And More Like It On My Blog!
3.25 out of 5
Afterwards was a lot of things for me: frustrating, alienating, weird, intriguing, and eventually, quite moving. There's a lot of hype built around this newish author, largely due to the wild success and continued love for her first novel, Sister. With that in mind, I went into this sophomore effort with high hopes that were never quite met. There's a lot of potential in this novel about mothers and daughters, love, and independence but it never quiiiite reaches the heights it could. I want to clarify my 3.25 out of 5 up there - it's the result of knee-jerk reactions deep thinking. The first 300 pages were a solid, disappointing 2 out of 5 stars. An awkward and jarring style (second person POV, told with the present tense), a somewhat overly perfect main character, and a truly irritating overemphasis on italics on nearly every page (and I am an italics, bold and strikethrough addict) mar an intriguing and thoroughly gripping mystery. The final 100 pages of twists, turns, "Oh my god!" and "No way!"s do much to alleviate the various, now-previous problems I'd had and also made me happy I hadn't given up early on this one.
The second person POV rarely, rarely works for me as a reader. In fact the only time I have actually appreciated it as a storytelling medium were for the rare interludes during The Night Circus which used it sparingly. Here, with Grace narrating everyone's actions to/at them ("You do this, say this, want this" etc.), it's very cumbersome and unwieldy to read as a non-involved observer. By the time I grew inured to the strange and uncomfortable style used throughout Afterwards (and it took a while, trust me), I could start to appreciate the subtlety of the mystery that Lupton has created. It's both layered and nuanced in its inception and execution - truly the strongest element to the novel is the whodunit. This is not one of those thrillers where the culprit or culprits is/are transparent from the beginning - several cleverly manipulated red herrings lead the police investigation, and my theories, jumping from character to character. I have to applaud such deft narrative sleight-of-hand - I was curious from the start. Even when I was close enough to giving up, the question at the heart of Jenny's problems wouldn't let go of my imagination.
I wish I could appreciate the spectral-astral plane-ghost-spirit-whatever the main characters have going on. The fact that what's going on with the two main characters isn't really explained in depth was another misfire for me - it came off as gimmicky and rather calculated. Another disconnect was with the main character and narrator, the mother, Grac(i)e. She, her husband, her daughter and son were all too perfect to be entirely believable. And as the novel went on and revelation led to revelation, it becomes apparent that Grace doesn't really know anyone outside her family at all. (view spoiler)[Her closest mother-friend has been abused for years? Elizabeth Fisher was left by her husband? Knows nothing about Rowena even though Maisie is very knowledgeable about Grace's own family? Her snap, inaccurate judgements of Ivo due to her own feelings? (hide spoiler)] Her love for her children was certainly compelling and believable, but her harsh judgement of sister-in-law Sarah further spoke to Grace's own shortcomings and didn't inspire any likeability. Sympathy is entirely another matter, because as a "spirit-whatever", her interactions with Jen do allow Grace a bit of growth and personal evolution even though it takes forever.
The story at the heart (heh) of Afterwards is definitely a good one - the mystery well crafted and thought out, but the style really does take a large adjustment. I'm obviously of two minds about this because there's much to love and a lot to lament. There are intense moments of brilliance book-ended by the awkward style and gimmicky status of the main character, but for all its faults, I ended up mostly enjoying Afterwards. It gave me emotional whiplash and I'll keep my eye out for what else this author does in the future. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
There's a lot going on in those three-hundred-odd pages, the first-of-a-new-series by authoRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
3.5 out of 5
There's a lot going on in those three-hundred-odd pages, the first-of-a-new-series by author C.J. Redwine. Defiance boasts a mix of several genres and subgenres, two decently flawed and interesting narrators and protagonists, and one of them a strongish female main character, as well as plenty of action and adventure to lure in readers and keep them invested. Like my other 3.5/5 ratings, I want to stress that I really enjoyed this, particularly after the rough beginning, but just thought it could have been better with a little time and finesse. As it is, there's a lot to enjoy about this easily read, fast-engrossing young-adult novel. Uneven pacing, character issues aside, I am pretty impressed with C.J. Redwine's debut novel, and think it will find a wide audience. Defiance, at its best, is an inventive, creative and unpredictable novel, and for me, that was enough to merit an somewhat enthusiastic review.
The setting of tyrant-controlled Baalboden and the destroyed world Rachel and Logan live in is both a strength and a weakness for Defiance. The interesting mix of fantasy with flightless dragons (or "the Cursed One") and the post-apocalyptic clues/vocabulary ("periodic table" "algorithms" "Pythagorean theorem") make this world seem like it's possible version of the real world rather than a pure-fantasy imaginary land. But sadly not enough detail or worldbuilding is provided to for readers to form a clear, believable picture of what lead to this apocalyptic scenario or the picture the current conditions that the characters live in. What we do know about it/Baalboden/the world before the Cursed One comes early in the novel, and then bare lip-service is paid to creating a plausible current situation as much more time and attention is given to Rachel and Logan's struggles against the Commander and their alternating inner monologues. This is a first in a series so I am sure more detail and concrete answers are on the way, but the omission and neglect of information often got in the way of my truly being involved in the story.
Much like the setting, Rachel is both a credit to and a flaw for Defiance. (It doesn't help that her "voice" and that of Logan's can read almost interchangeably for the majority of the novel.) She's presented as a strong, headstrong girl in a misogynistic, patriarchal world that misuses and mistreats its women so it's obviously very easy to root for her, but she's also careless, self-absorbed, and stubborn beyond belief. The respective backstories for both her and Logan are delivered somewhat clumsily in infodumpy dialogue, but Redwine outgrows that early on and it doesn't overshadow the the narrative for too long. I like flawed characters, I appreciate them much more than a perfect protagonist with no life or vivacity, but Rachel can sometimes be very frustrating to read because she is so determined to make her own way without telling anyone or trusting her family.
It's also frustrating for me that Rachel is literally the only girl in her walled city-state that can defend herself - it can make her bloodthirsty and dangerous personality look a bit inorganic for the novel and its setting. Surely Jared can't be the only parent who wants his daughter to able to defend herself in a world where a woman can be flogged to death for going outside without her "Protector"? That quibble aside, Rachel does eventually grow up and change for the better throughout the novel, so it's impossible to call her a one-dimensional character or even stagnant. I have high hopes for this character and her further characterization in the future books, as well as for fellow females Willow and Sylph to grow into more than just cardboard cutouts.
A strong-ish female protagonist, an interesting mix of fantasy and tech, dystopia and post-apocalyptic scenarios all make for a unique novel in the vein of The Hunger Games, etc. Fans who aren't too picky about their worldbuilding and detail with find much to enjoy here, especially those who enjoy bittersweet teenaged romance. The beginning is the roughest part to enjoy and get into, but once things start to gel together, it's easy to get lost in the story at the heart of the novel. ...more
This was the perfect novel to bust me out of my bad book reading funk. The majority of last several booRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
This was the perfect novel to bust me out of my bad book reading funk. The majority of last several books I've read had been frustrating, time-consuming, and often, disappointing. Happily, that is far from the case with What's Left of Me. Though this debut novel is far from being free of all errors, Kat Zhang's first novel in the Hybrid Chronicles manages to be innovative, engrossing, unique, and affecting. I absolutely could not, and did not want to, put it down; this was another one-day read for me. With shades of The Golden Compass, Never Let Me Go and Unwind, all three of which are among my favorite-ever books, this novel is sure to entertain and engage, all the while making its rapt readers think. This is one of those rare YA novels that could, and does and will, hold a wide appeal for readers of different ages and genre preferences.
There's a lot to recommend about this novel. It's action-packed and also contemplative; it's filled with remarkable, highly individual characters and strong characterization; it's a fresh, innovative concept coupled with great storytelling. I love it wholeheartedly, even with its issues. The few things that missed with What's Left of Me only slightly detract from the overwhelming good about it. There are some sections that could use some tightening, some periods where the fluid pacing gets a bit stuck, but on the whole, this is a great book. One I would easily and happily push on my fellow bloggers, friends, and family. I felt that the ending was a bit rushed, with some key plot points left too vague and undetailed (the surgery, the tech, the drugs, etc.), but I was left with a unquenchable need for the second book as soon I as I metaphorically turned the last page.
The dystopian elements of the world shown are bare, and sketched in only slightly more as the story progresses, but I... didn't mind all that much. I often harp on worldbuilding, especially with fantasy and dystopian novels, and while What's Left of Me left some principle explanations missing in action, the characters and the plot of the novel more than made up for the lack. This is a solid, well-constructed novel and while the book's momentum hits a few snags as it moves quickly along, the emotion and relationship I had invested/built in Addie/Eva's struggle for life was more than enough to keep me fully engrossed. The other characters are almost uniformly remarkable and well-rounded, highly individual even in their twinned souls, but it was the two main characters that meant the most to me.
A few other quibbles: I found the main antagonist of the novel to be rather weak, and sadly one-dimensional in his presentation. I wished for more of a presence for him, felt that would have added more of a sense of tension to the atmosphere of the book, and for what he represented for the hybrids, but that never materialized. I also thought that the "twist" revealed at the end was a bit too open-ended and an obvious lead to buy the next book and it felt superfluous to the already-engaging plot of the novel. But like I said, these are minor complaints in the face of all the awesome shown and revealed here in What's Left of Me.
This is a great novel; entertaining and horrific at the same time. It's one that I will be buying a finished copy of as soon as it is available, because rereads of What's Left of Me are going to be necessary. I'm very impressed with Zhang's storytelling ability, as well as her obvious talent for innovative, creative plots and for crafting real, flawed, human characters. Read this book, especially if you're a fan of Unwind, Never Let Me Go and/or The Golden Compass -- for once the hype and the comparisons are dead on. I can't recommend this one highly enough.
Also: I have to note that the cover is completely perfect. Two people in one body? Creepy, awesome, eye-catching. This is not one to miss, for many reasons! ...more
I did it: I finished this loooooong, dry book full of flat characters, endless repetition and tons of oRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
I did it: I finished this loooooong, dry book full of flat characters, endless repetition and tons of of the hated "showing not telling" way of expanding the history. Though my experience with round two of this "straynge band of mysfits" was sliiiightly better than with its predecessor The Girl in the Steel Corset, I want to express this loudly and clearly: This series is not a good example of steampunk. Also, why I am just griping: whyyy the random, painful bastardization of "strange band of misfits"? (SPOILER for first in the series) If you've read book one, you know that "Jayne" is not in fact Finley's surname, nor does she go by it at all during this novel... So enough with the strange application of "y"'s. A lot of my issues from the first are present oce again here: Finley herself continued to be a bit of a disappointment and an erratic and brainless main character, continuing my lack of enthusiasm for her, most of the background characters remain flat and one-dimensional, and the villain/twist is telegraphed very early on in the book. This review might get a little long and spoilery, or even a lot, so keep your eyes elsewhere unless that's what you want.
Things I Am Vastly Tired Of Reading About In The Steampunk Chronicles:
Emily's "ropey" hair (what does that even mean? Dreadlocks? Braids?)
any kind of overwrought love triangle (Jasper-Mei-Emily or Jasper-Mei-Wildcat - either/or - no, thank you)
Sam surliness/moodiness (less of an obvious page-to-page problem than in book one, but still not redeemable)
How Finley's drawn to the darker side of life (it's been two books, countless examples [Felix, Jack, fights, Dalton] and something like 800+ pages - we get it already!)
Finley's worries about being worthy for a Duke (I'm pretty sure the boy that can be ~one~ with the Aether doesn't care about society, given that he already lives unsupervised with two young women of not exactly sterling repuation)
Griffin's "I-trust-you-now-I-don't" wishywashy bullshit with Finley + worrying over whether he is exciting enough for the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-ian girl he loves likes (Have some self-respect, dude.)
Anything involving the word Organites (including Darwin and this books misuse of his theories on evolution)
I think some of the problem with this series is that it wants to be X-Men but with a steampunk background. On the surface it seems to sort-of/maybe fit the mold cast by Charles Xavier and his motley crew: there are a bunch of mutated kids with special abilities like super strength and speed and healing, the ability to talk to machines, dual natures, etc. that all live together in a big mansion, owned by a family with a lot of money. But such a comparison starts to fall apart upon closer inspection - most aspects of this historical steampunk young-adult novel are rather run-of-the-mill and cliched, easy to find in slightly different forms all over the paranormal teen novel market.
Though this takes place merely a fortnight after the events of the first book, a lot of the superficial details have changed, including the cast of characters. At first I was, well, not really excited, but less apprehensive to start this based on the cover. For one - it's not a generic, whitewashed cover. Mei is an important part of the plot - in fact the whole book falls apart without her participation - and I'm really happy that an Asian young woman was selected to show and advertise for ya novel. But there's always a but, and here is no exception. Mei is a new character and her race makes her stand out in this largely English cast, but I'm bothered and disappointed that the author chose to name her "Mei Xing." As in the word "Amazing" - how awkward and shallow of a choice! But that was just the first of many character issues I found here. I also wish there had been more subtlety with her role in the plot (subtlety from the woman who named her main male character/love interest Griffin King? My bad) - while I wasn't sure at first, it's rapidly apparent what's going on. A lot little more authorial sleight of hand would make the unraveling of the plot and characters much more engrossing to read.
Main character Finley has been a problem from me since early on in the first chapter of The Girl in the Steel Corset and sadly, she is no better here in round two. Her previous problem of acting brainlessly and without thought for repercussion shows up early and often but good ol' Fin now drags her friend Emily into her messes. I know that the big 'deal' with Finley is constantly-battling dual nature, but the author's depiction of her lead's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-type tendencies is really over the top here. She's supposed to dance on the fence of morality and legality, but considering backhanding another girl for a look? That's extreme and just makes Finley look like a judgmental and unhinged maniac - not a fiercely protective and loving friend, which is I think what the author was trying to impart? I may have missed the finer point of it because Finley was devolving into an autocratic violence machine.
Once again I felt there was a superfluous amount of POVs used here - just like I thought for the first book; Finley's alone would be sufficient if grating on my nerves. So much of the text feels like repetition - even if it's Finley, or Jasper or Griff, they all think along the same lines. I mean, Jasper explains and re-explains his plans to hide a device multiple times. It gets old, quick. It must be said that Jasper's voice is the most identifiable, but that's largely because of his affected and annoying accent. (Also? Being from San Francisco and wearing a ten-gallon hat does not make one a cowboy. OK?) The lack of Jack Dandy is lamentable, but at least the love triangle tension and drama was slightly scaled down as well. The charming but fake Cockney crime lord is one of my few liked characters, even if Griff is slowly climbing his way up in my estimations to give him a run.
In the end, I'd have to say that The Girl in the Clockwork Collar is ultimately just as energy-sapping and time-consuming as its immediate predecessor. It's also just as frustrating to slough through for over 400 pages. It feels amateurish, characters haven't grown or evolved, there's too much focus on fripperies instead of potential awesomeness, and infodumps and love triangles run rampant. There seems to be some love-connection type resolution for Finley and Griff (until she gets back to London and Jack...) as well as the main storyline. With a rushed ending that was over veeery quickly, I can't say I'm sad to say "goodbye!" to this series - for forever - even if there's a book three. ...more
Jellicoe Road was my first Marchetta novel - though this is an author highly touted and often recommended, I was strangely hesitant to read any of her books. Example? I bought Marchetta's acclaimed ya fantasy Finnikin of the Rock for Nook over two months ago, when it was on sale for $2.99, and haven't yet peeked at a page. Hype is often a double-edged sword, as many other anticipated YA novels can attest and I didn't want to feel the sting of disappointment here. I have to say that the first 50 pages of Jellicoe certainly intriiigued me, but they didn't quite convince me as I had hoped. I can certainly see why some readers find the beginning off-putting and hard to comprehend initially, but even after the dual narrative of past and present were cleared up, I just didn't get It, the Big Deal about this book and this author. Then, near about 100 pages later and a "save yourself, Taylor," I got it in a big way. This book made me Feel Things. All of the feelings really: happiness, amusement, sorrow, anger, fear, love. I'm stuck with the feeling that no matter how much I edit and revise and rethink, I will never be able to do this beautiful novel justice.
As soon as I finished this, I knew I didn't want to think about other characters, other stories. I wanted to stay here, in Jellicoe, with these characters. So I did the only thing that made sense and flipped the book over and immediately began rereading all my favorite parts. It still packs a punch the second time around, even knowing explicitly what will happen.
I grabbed this on a whim three days ago, having been close to finishing the excruciatingly emotional Code Name Verity but with 100 pages and hours of work to go, I opted for a longer novel that hopefully wouldn't make me cry at work. How wrong I was; tears were streaming down by my lunch break (aka p. 255) I engulfed this absorbing, heart-breaking tale in just over twelve hours, covering work and family dinner, starting just before I left at 9 am, sneaking in pages whenever - wherever - I could. Melina Marchetta is the real deal: an imitable and simple but striking style, a masterful storyteller with impressive authorial sleight-of-hand, capable of rendering complex, fallible and damaged characters I still wholly and completely loved.
This novel is a masterpiece of young-adult fiction (the 'territory war' was obviously the weakest part of the novel, but it brought together the core four [Taylor, Santangelo, Raffaela, Griggs] initially and eventually was revealed to have a larger purpose) and Melina Marchetta deserves all the accolades she's garnered. As the lovely Emily May so aptly put it: "[She] plays my emotions like Jimi Hendrix played guitar." Skillfully, elegantly, and above all subtly, Marchetta takes utmost time and care with crafting both her storylines and her compellingly damaged and so so real characters.
And let me tell you: oh boy, did I ever care about Taylor, Jonah, Jude, Hannah, Tate, Jessa, Webb, etc. While it took a while for these many personalities to manifest, I think this might one of my most beloved ensembles. From Jonah to Jude, these characters are real, vibrant, and dear to me. Jonah Griggs: I officially Get It. I officially Want One of My Own. Everyone take note for in Jellicoe Road, with Melina's hand at the wheel, there is an authentic, believable and touching YA romance with a swoon-worthy broody love-interest. I don't go in for broody as much now that I'm not 17 and I certainly don't say "swoon-worthy" as a descriptor for men I like, but Jonah Griggs defies that. He is broody and swoon-worthy, but that's not all he is. Like Taylor and Jude (Oh, Jude <3. I think he broke my heart as much as Griggs did.) this damaged young-man is developed and rounded. The scenes between him and Taylor - fighting, teasing, loving - all have electricity, a palpable tension, and their relationship is one of the few credible romances in YA.
Jellicoe Road is moving, powerful and dramatic without being emotionally manipulative - when Taylor lashes out at whoever is convenient (not my Griggs!), I feel for her wild pain instead of rolling my eyes at her melodrama. Most of the characters have significant tragedies in their pasts, especially Taylor and Jonah, but this is an author that appreciates retraint and how to show emotion without overdoing it and making it a Production. I finished this novel nothing if not in awe of the talent shown throughout from the author - from plot development to character reveals, this is one of the best.
Before, I was scared to read Marchetta because I feared she/the novel wouldn't live up to expectations. Now I just don't know where to start - I've ordered hardback copies of Finnikin, its sequel Froi of the Exiles, and Saving Francesca. I just can't do this novel justice - whatever I say feels inadequate. This book moved me, like The Book Thief did - at my core, in a place few novels and characters truly reach. I said before that Melina Marchetta could have been a victim of the hype machine but now all I want to do is force all my family and friends to read her novels. I've decided that the hype around this author and this book isn't big enough yet - everyone should be reading this author.
Jellicoe Road is a gripping read, one that inspired a wide, fully-felt spectrum of emotions and reactions - all of them complimentary. I love this book like I love few others.
My reactions by page, because by 250 I couldn't think critically, I could just fangirl absorb the words as fast as my eyes would move and jot down impressions/thoughts:
p. 250: Oh my god. I <3 Jonah p. 255: WTF! NO! What! Yass! p. 297: I want a Griggs. p. 304: This is heart-breaking, gut-wrenching and still so lovely. This book... "Who will be my memory" I can't.... this book... p. 315: Could he be any more adorable? p. 343: And THAT, ladies and gents, is how you write a credible, romantic teenage relationship. p. 371: oh no oh no oh no I think I know where this is headed oh no p. 394: damn right you better keep Raffy around - the rare female sidekick that is fully developed and awesome p. 399 and on: tears p. 407: Griggs. p. 416: I love the narrative structure, the symmetry. (view spoiler)["My father took a hundred and thirty-two minutes to die. I counted." "My mother took seventeen years to die. I counted." (hide spoiler)] "Wonder dies." "I wonder."
Excuse me if I am extremely a little fangirly right now. I just finished this whirlwind novel of adventRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Excuse me if I am extremely a little fangirly right now. I just finished this whirlwind novel of adventure, humor and mystery just minutes ago, and friends, I am impressed. And in dire need of a reread, just for fun. And, now, I am a stalwart fan of both India Black and the author behind this highly creative and immensely fun novel, Carol K. Carr. Reading this was easy, entertaining, and so very fun; this is one of those novels that grabs you from the very first page and never really lets go. Another of my done-in-one-sitting reads, India Black has set a high standard for the rest of the novels that will follow in this promising series from a talented author. I admit that I am not one for historical mysteries all that often - I usually stay more on the straight historical fiction side of the genre - but I will willingly make exceptions for any and all further India Black novels to come.
In such a fast-paced novel, with adventures and turnabouts and surprise revelations and secret pasts every other chapter, it is main character India that really makes the novel something really quite special. I truly enjoyed the fleshed-out secondary characters (French and Vincent are both, quite disparately charming fellows) and antagonists, but India is what makes this one of my best-of-2012 novels easily. India is a madam, among many, many other attributes (and vices). Skilled in multiple fields (I do enjoy a girl who can shoot a gun/defend herself/use her wits) and India does each and every one of those multiple times. She is the equal of her unofficial government counterpart, and her charm and humor had me laughing out loud on multiple occasions. Smart, cunning and opportunistic, India is a fully-formed, distinct character, and one I related to quite easily - despite our very different backgrounds and attitudes. She bursts forth from the page with her witty comebacks and her handy way around a weapon. She is resourceful and wonderfully three-dimensional with her frank honesty, forthright attitudes - a heroine to remember in a sea of forgettable leads.
India is nicely complemented by her comrades-in-arms, the mysterious and charming French and the street urchin of questionable but useful talents, Vincent. The verbal and occasional real sparring between India and French is another highlight to this well-rounded novel. So often during my experience, I was tempted to update my status on GoodReads with a bon mot or a choice comment from either droll character. Their chemistry is palpable, their interactions full of authenticity, and though this is far from a romance novel, the attraction between the opposites works really well to add an extra layer of tension to a novel already brimming with it. French is a charismatic character, and one that kept me intrigued and very attentive through this all-too-short read of just under 300 pages. Not as open as India about his life, or even his name! - which is to be expected as she narrates the novel, often breaking the fourth wall to address her readers - but is still one that manages to hold his own against the formidable and crafty madam. Vincent adds a certain charm, if his role as a street smart urchin in a Victorian novel is somewhat formulaic, he does add to the novel another easily likeable and distinct character.
This is a mystery, but midway through the novel, that premise is readily concluded and then it's a madcap race of adventure through England and various hostage situations in a race against the agents of the tsar of Russia. India Black is by turns amusing, exciting, hilarious, and always full of constant surprises and upheavals. It's light and fun read and I can't stress enough how good of a time I had with this novel, from start to end. India Black is well worth a try if a feisty protagonist with a brain is high and a unique way around a retort are on your list of favorites. All the rest is an added bonus to a convoluted plot, populated with such vibrant characters.
(A copy of the novel was generously sent to me by the author to review. This in no way influenced my opinion. Because seriously: THIS BOOK IS AWESOME.)...more
Though the blurb used most for this truly spine-chilling tale is the one above, all the publishers andRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Though the blurb used most for this truly spine-chilling tale is the one above, all the publishers and author really need to do in order to freak their audience out and interest them at the same time is is use the poem in the prologue:
"Said my lord to my lady, as he mounted his horse, Beware of Long Lankin that lives in the moss. Said my lord to my lady, as he rode away Beware of Long Lankin, that lives in the hay. Let the doors be all bolted and the windows all pinned, Except one little window, where Long Lankin crept in..."
Effective, yes? It continues in that same grisly, eerie tone and snared me without hesitation. I was both creeped out by the third stanza and interested before even starting the actual novel. There is a reason that I refused to read this book at night (and am writing the review in daylight) and that is because this book? Is effing creepy as fuck. And yes, expletives are needed because this book got under my skin in a way that few other suspense novels have, especially ones in the YA genre, geared at kids younger and supposedly less mature than me. Long Lankin is a deliciously creepy treat that perhaps persists just a bit long for the thrill to last entirely but one that exceeds at building tension and setting an excellent atmosphere and presence for such an intimidating but rarely-seen-on-the-page creature.
Cora and her sister Mimi are the girl leads of this venture and they are paralleled in their male counterparts, Roger and Pete. In each case, I found the elder to be the more interesting and worth attention. The POV shifts between Cora and Roger were hard to discern, but that can hopefully be laid at the feet of formatting for an ARC copy instead of the final product. So while it was distracting trying to constantly figure out the who's who of a dialogue, it was easy to like both inner monologues of the kids. Cora is what my mom would term "a handful." She's adventurous and interested in the world around her and is smart, if not exactly the most obedient of nieces. It's easy to root for her and her spirited nature when one realizes how alone and abandoned this child and her sister really are; Cora realizes that she is literally all Mimi has and is quite caring. Roger is like Cora in many ways; he's from a house that really can't keep him, he's open to adventures and exploring and he's always followed by his brother. Though this is YA, neither Cora nor Roger talk down to the audience or overact their fear; Long Lankin is largely so effective as a antagonist because of how sparsely and eerily he's presented to the quartet of kids.
Ida, the aunt of Cora and Mimi, and the owner of Guerdon Hall, is also a POV character. While I could understand the necessity of having the children as POV characters and they grew into the roles naturally as the book went on, I got the most from Ida's inner monologue. I have to admit that Lindsey Barraclough establishes herself early as a talented writer and storyteller, one that favors lots of creepy descriptions in very tactile narrations. Ida benefits the most from this as she's not innocent and eager; she knows only too well what happens when the tide goes out in her little haunted English village.
The first two hundred and thirty pages of this smashed me, absolutely knocked me back a step with its flair. I was in awe of how creeped out I was, how very much I loved how creeped out I was, and how effective the author was at setting such a tense atmosphere and then.. it died. There's a lull midway through the novel where there is too much rushing about and old letters and no one talking things with the other party and all that accomplished was a sharp decline in my overt interest. The incredible amounts of tension built up to that took a while to climb back to their previous heights (my shoulders were literally riiiight under my earlobes), but climb back they did. I may complain - slightly - about the extended lull midway but the ending was entirely satisfying. It was tension-wracked and emotion-filled and thoroughly engrossing. I am dutifully impressed by this book, even though I won't reread it. My nerves can't take it....more
Hype is a strange beast, and one that is certainly no stranger to this long-anticipated fantasy novel gRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Hype is a strange beast, and one that is certainly no stranger to this long-anticipated fantasy novel geared towards young-adults. It can prime the pump for a well-deserved novel, or it can drag down an otherwise entertaining but not very well executed novel with unfulfilled expectations, as is the case here for my read of Maas's Throne of Glass. Advertised as a "Game of Thrones" for teens meets an assassin version of The Hunger Games, the similarities and comparisons to other young-adult fantasy novels (particularly Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder -be sure to check out Amanda's great comparison review!) are unavoidable and lamentable. In addition to the misplaced hype and the whole "been-there-done-that feel", Throne of Glass suffers from a wide array of issues that kept me from loving this. I've had several days to digest and work out my-not-so-happy feelings towards this (and vacillate on my rating!), and while I will inevitably pick up the sequel, I do think Maas has a lot to learn about the fantasy genre, writing a credible romance, and crafting a better method of authorial sleight-of-hand.
Celaena Sardothien is a complex character, that is without a doubt, but one that is a little too enamored of her own looks, instead of worrying about, oh I don't know, LIVING. Even Katniss, for all her faults and flaws, doesn't worry about her good-looks when confronted by the people who ruined her life, and oppressed her people. I think Celaena will be divisive among readers: some will respond to her hard-edged confidence and others will be much less enthused with her inability to look at the bigger picture. There are many sides to her personality, and I will admit that she is admirably flawed and realistic for a YA protagonist. She's a strong, smart, capable, and decisive young woman, while only slightly suffering from Special Snowflake Syndrome. She's also arrogant beyond belief (though I didn't start to dislike that aspect until her arrogance about her skills was never backed up by her actions! One sparring match does not a Master Assassin make! And, after all, how many times, exactly, can Dorian sneak up on Celaena before she loses all credibility as The Greatest Assassin Ever?), cunning, deadly, and way, way, too invested in the superficial facets of Court life. The sheer amount of time clothing, especially Celaena's and Dorian's wardrobes, are described, lusted after, and compared is simply exhausting and dry.
Another main issue I had while reading this was the clear and present focus on romance, a love triangle and angst instead of THE ASSASSIN-TASTIC DEATH MATCH. It's supremely frustrating to be told that Celaena is an amazing assassin and then see no proof of it, outside very few isolated events. What is the point of a Hunger Games death match between assassins if it's all offsides and offscreen? For almost the entirety of reading about the tournament, I was thinking "KILL SOMEONE, DAMNIT. Prove you're what you've been so enthusiastically saying about yourself." It's too much telling about Celaena's prowess, and far too little actual "showing" on Maas's part. The Tests and trials are glossed over, or focus on the least-actiontastic events (a poison ranking? Really? Harry Potterish much?) to the overall detriment of what was actually the most compelling aspect of the whole novel. Instead, the author ignores the good stuff in favor of awkward flirting, and endless descriptions of what every character is reading. It's a shame and a glaring misstep for any novel that seeks to be compared for the bloody and dark Game of Thrones.
Maas is a capable author, but sadly not one readers will be able to call subtle after reading first-in-a-series Throne of Glass. Celaena's mysterious past and real identity are both easy to suss out, and it's remarkable that none of the other characters manage to do so in the 400+ pages of the final edition. The super-obvious plotting and writing, the easy-to-spot red herrings, and not to mention the heavy-handed approach to the love-triangle that takes up 75% of the novel, make for a very predictable novel. The "mystery" of who is behind the competitors death...isn't. It's both obvious from the start and then subsequently, hilariously frustrating how long it takes Celaena to cotton on to the real culprit. (view spoiler)[ Celaena's whole "Nehemia has a secret! Therefore, she must be the killer or maybe just politically savvy. Never mind that I've been lying the entire time we've known one another!!1!" subplot is particularly dumb. Be smarter than that, Celaena. Respect your readers more than that, Maas! (hide spoiler)]
Third-person omniscient makes it easy for the POV to rotate around Celaena, Dorian, the Crown Prince of Ardalan, and Chaol Westfall, the earnest and awesome Captain of the Guard, and show a wider view of the world. It also caused me to feel a bit distant from the characters and kept me from fully investing. (Exception: Chaol. MOAR PLEASE.) Were the other two perspectives really needed? No, but nor do they detract from the narration. The love triangle manage to do that allll on its own. You can see it forming from the first chapter, and Maas never makes it worth reading about. It's all overwrought glances and touching, with little real emotion to back up the overused trope. It's not used to illustrate that Celaena is torn between two men who genuinely appeal to vastly different sides of her character, but rather to show how beautiful and alluring she is. No, thank you. The writing itself can be bloated with over-description (the clothes! the glass castle! WE GET IT!), but Maas does reign it in occasionally to let a plot emerge.
Fun, but very flawed is my final verdict. Great ideas need great execution and that is not at all what happened here with Throne of Glass. Though Throne of Glass has been grossly overhyped and is quite often amateurish in its presentation, I can't deny that there are moments of great entertainment... but, sadly, they are not enough to earn this novel more than 3/5 stars. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
A thoroughly satisfying mix of history, the paranormal, with a dash of romance to flavor, The Shadowy Horses does not disappoint. A bit more romance-orientated than my previous read by this author (Mariana), I can still easily endorse Susanna Kearsley as fast becoming one of my favorite authors; one that is adept at creating a wide array of individual characters, as well as intricately setting up an atmospheric read. She delivers every time, and this is no exception. If I was impressed after reading Mariana, I am entering full-on fan mode after finishing this offering from Kearsley in less than a day. Taking on the well-known mystery and search for the Roman Ninth Legion in Scotland, I was hooked early on. I simply could not put The Shadowy Horses down, but was conversely reluctant to finish once I was firmly engrossed in the novel.
Kearlsey's descriptive (and it is very descriptive - from the countryside to the "not-posh" sitting room, Kearlsey crafts an easily imagined setting) and detailed style is present and used with a dab hand from the first chapter, to the benefit of both the locale and for the wide array of characters on the page. Both suspenseful and engrossing, each aspect of the novel, from the mystery to the romance to the supernatural, were all summarily well-handled and solid, with none detracting from the streamlined plot. These were characters who came alive for me as a reader, all with varying degress of characterization, as well as ones who made me care about each of them. This is a dynamic cast, with each character fully distinct, and, by and large, even with psychometric/psychic Robbie, one that doesn't strain credulity or irritate the reader. I do wish there had just slightly more of an antagonistic presence for most of the novel, but the minor conflicts and issues that were there, were enough to create increasing tension throughout the story.
The first person POV of protagonist Verity Grey makes it easy to root for her through her struggles to accept what is going on in Eyemouth; her inner monologue reinforces the first impression of an impulsive, smart, and very independent woman who can more than handle herself. The strength of the novel, much like with Mariana, lies with main character Verity. The other elements of the novel are well-done and unique, but it is Verity who takes the cake (with some help from an accent Scotsman with a love of history!), and who will stick out in my memory. I appreciated the restraint with which the author took to the romance - it's a large part of the novel, but it doesn't drown the plot in melodrama or too much of a love triangle.
The final conflict (and revelation of the antagonist) was a bit dry (ha!), but a nicely rounded denouement makes up for that slight misstep. Though Mariana will remain my favorite Kearsley (for now!), I loved The Shadowy Horses and think that this is an author that continues to impress and grow as a writer. This is an author who is very talented with crafting believable characters, with creating an atmospheric setting, and with making the past come to life. Well done and I can't wait for my next Kearsley read!...more
This is the type of book I am constantly looking for in the historical fiction genre, and rarely seem tRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
This is the type of book I am constantly looking for in the historical fiction genre, and rarely seem to stumble across; it's very engaging from the outset, it's lively to read with actualized characters in stead of cardboard historical cutouts, and it's mostly, somewhat accurate. Sophie Perinot may indeed be a first-time author, but you certainly wouldn't know that from reading her debut novel. The Sister Queens tells the captivating and contrasting stories of two proud sisters from Savoy and I was never bored reading about these two fascinating and strong women. This novel is an impressive and lengthy addition to the Tudor-heavy historical fiction genre, and miraculously, one that despite its nearly 530 page length, never bores. I personally read a lot of Tudor-era historical fiction, but this was just the right palate cleanser for all the Howards, Boleyns and Stuarts I usually see re-imagined. Thus, I may not have known as much about or been as familiar with the facts and history of the times the novel takes place during (1234-1255) going into this, but the characters were so vivid and alive that I felt compelled to research the actual personages upon finishing. Ms. Perinot's creation is indelibly her own, but I appreciate the factually-influenced way she presented both her story and her characters.
Marguerite and Eleanor are both sisters and, eventually, Queens, but it is the first bond more than anything that defines them the most. They are each others touchstone, especially once they are separated with Marguerite in France and Eleanor in England. Especially since each country viewed their foreign "Savoyard" Queens as less than appealing, their dependent relationship with the other is realistic and sympathetic. The Sister Queens interjects epistolary (fabricated) letters between the two before every chapter and each missive between the two reinforces just how close these women remained, though separated by years, wars, religion, distance. The POV shifts back and forth between the two, usually at the chapter breaks. While this could've been easily confusing, the "voices" of each respective Queen is very distinctive and identifiable. I didn't even really notice the use of present-tense for the first few chapters: I just felt that everything in the novel very immediate, in a good way. I could tell when I was reading Eleanor and when I was reading Marguerite before names/places popped up in their thoughts. The relationship between Marguerite and Eleanor, proud daughters of Savoy is the most compelling and emotional of the entire novel: unlike the relationships with their respective husbands, the relationship between the pair is as close to equals as the two can find in their lives. Their is an obvious amount of love between the two, but Perinot early on creatively slides in subtle hints of discord and strife that mar every sisterhood and that will eventually come to affect their bond.
Eleanor is the younger, covetous and more strident of the two, and my personal favorite of the novel. She is a woman very concerned with "fairness" and what's right, at least what's right according to her - character traits that will cause her unforeseen problems with both her husband and sister later in life. While I liked the personal evolution that both women undertake during the events of the book, I felt that Eleanor was more personally identifiable for me as a reader. Marguerite, especially as her marriage and happiness in that marriage, waned was more trouble for me to invest within. Perinot's deft foreshadowing on the troublesome piety of Louis IX sets the scene for Marguerite's woes early, but I only cared when she finally took some happiness for herself, rather than sit and pine and wait for her husband to extend some to her. Eleanor grows from an imperious, headstrong girl mostly concerned with what she possesses and controls into a gracious, intelligent queen that is both capable of reigning solely (unheard of at that time in history) and tampering her less-able King and husband's governing impulses. While neither husband-King of either sister could be rightly termed a "good" king (Henry is very ignorant of the feelings of the populace/Barons that control his country, Louis IX abandons his France for the Holy Land for SEVEN YEARS), both women show their ability to step up and make hard decisions when the menfolk can't seem to get the job done right.
While Eleanor was my self-professed favorite character, I do love a good villain. Blanche of Castile comprises that role for the bulk of the novel for Marguerite, and the "Dragon of Castile" made a malicious and well-mannered antagonist. The tête-à-têtes between Blanche and her daughter-in-law show a different side to the usually meek and accepting Marguerite; the first hints of future independence are shown clearly in her lack of deference to the dowager Queen. While later duties of antagonism were ably handled by her bumbling and ascetic son, Blanche commands attention even when not on the page. Her tussles with her daughter in love over her son/Marguerite's husband illustrate perfectly how alone and powerless Marguerite was in France. Not for her was her sister Eleanor's life of mutual love and respect, which itself was far from typical of the Royal couples of the day. Because of Blanche, Marguerite is a nonentity at the court of which she is Queen. This disparate use of power and control contrasts tidily with the life of Eleanor who schemes and manipulates her own court outright. The difference between the sisters is that Eleanor makes things happen, whereas (view spoiler)[until Jean (hide spoiler)] Marguerite is content to sit and wait for things to fall her way
One of the most enjoyable aspects of The Sister Queens is that no matter how convoluted the relationship, how twisted the tale, how unfamiliar the person at Court, Sophie Perinot never talks down to her readers. The tone of condescion from other historical fiction writers is absent entirely from these pages. Events are explained precisely and meticulously, nobles are referred to by their various names without reference to their every title or land (no "Lord Edward Sudbury, 2nd Earl of Westchester-on-the-Green, a Stuart and son of Lord......" type business before a character speaks/etc,) with a clear belief and respect that her readers can ably follow along.
I do wish that more had been shown of Eleanor's "toute seule" reign over England while her husband King Henry III was away. As Eleanor was my favorite and a very capable governor, a view of her directly in charge would've made a good contrast to the usual role she was forced to take. Elanor repeatedly maneuvers her husband into the Royal decisions and decrees which she deems correct before the regency, so a view into her own government would've been interesting to read. I'm also disappointed by the time that the novels ends at - 1255 - when both women have decades of still-tumultuous life ahead of them (Marguerite dies in 1295, Eleanor in 1291). I can't complain about the cut-off point too much or loudly because there is a lot of novel in what is provided (all 500 pages of Court intrigue, betrayals, war, love, uprisings) but I just want more. I want more about these two and their complicated, engrossing relationship from this author specifically.
With her debut novel, Sophie Perinot brings to life, once again, two fascinating woman about whom not much is concretely known. Perinot's Eleanor and Marguerite are not just historical figures reimagined and operating upon the page: they are vibrant, strong, flawed and above all: fascinating and refreshing to read for the entire 528 page length of the book. This is a book that makes me want to read more in the same vein: I've pre-ordered another novel just because it focuses on the four daughters of Savoy who would all marry Kings. This is a book that makes me want another from the author immediately. This is a book that I would love to see spun into a sequel completing the years of the lives of the two main characters. This was a wonderful read and one of my favorites so far this year. Move over Tudors, I think I have a new historical royal family obsession.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I loved this book from the start. It is good. No, it's great. It's Gothic and sassy and funRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
4.5 out of 5
I loved this book from the start. It is good. No, it's great. It's Gothic and sassy and funny and clever and thisclose to being perfect. I love it to pieces. I stayed up til nearly one in the morning to finish it, on a night where I had to get up at 4 the next morning. If that isn't a clear enough picture of how thoroughly entertaining and engrossing this gem of a book is, I don't know what to tell you. A surefire winner. Unspoken is unique, it's fun, it's populated with amazingly real, fleshed out characters operating with a strong plot about magic, and secrets, and history. It's a breath of fresh air in a genre that tends to stick to the same ideas and themes and plots. Even when Unspoken does veer into well-tread territory for YA, it ends up being the exception to the rule. The first novel I've ever read from Irish young-adult author Sarah Rees Brennan, it left me eager for more and unwilling to close the cover. The first in a new Gothic and paranormal series, despite a few flaws and missteps, the premier novel in the Lynburn Legacy sets a high bar for any of the other novels to live up to. It can be creepy, genuinely funny, and completely real - all often on the same page. A promising start to begin a new trilogy, I finished this impressed and anxious for more. This was my first Brennan, but it most definitely won't be my last.
It's always a pleasure when an author takes the time to create and develop a character with as much depth and personality as Kami Glass. It's easy to self-identify with can-do and hilarious Kami (even if I recognize I lack her original and hilarious way with words): she's a strong character with wants and desires all her own, she isn't defined by who she likes, but what she does, and she grows and learns as she works her way to the bottom of the twisty mystery and aura around the feared Lynburns. Diversity and wit are another two things sorely lacking in a lot of novels geared towards a young-adult audience, but that is not the case here. Kami's Japanese heritage is important to her, and the slight xenophobia shown towards her in her firmly English village help reinforce her uniqueness. I just loved Kami and reading about her. Even with the third person POV distancing her a bit from the audience, this is a perfect example of a well-written, realistic, concrete character. There were so many quotes from this girl that I either laughed at, or giggled at, or just plain amused me. Kami is one character that will stick out in my memory as wonderfully executed and developed.
Kami isn't the only standout character from Unspoken, amazingly enough. The secondary cast of characters are also distinct and well characterized. Kami's hilarious dad takes the award for second-funniest, but really, from sleepy, world-hating best friend Angela to creepy, remote Rosalind, this is a novel with a strong core of characters that all pop from the page. Even when I didn't like certain characters (Ash, etc.) I could appreciate the variety and originality they brought to the novel. Not just in tune with her friends, I loved the interactions of Kami's family - they aren't set pieces created for Kami to gloss over, but important and meaningful parts of her everyday life. Her mother is especially important to the plot of the novel, and the stumbles in the relationship between protective mom and curious Kami strike a delicate, but compelling, balance. Happily minus a lot of the tropes in YA used to get characters to operate autonomously, there are no Missing Parent Syndrome or abused/ignored/lonely kid ideas here; Brennan is too smart to fall for those overused plot devices.
The plot is strong, the dialogue pitch-perfect, and the mystery well-crafted, but there are certain sections of the novel where the tension seems to flag as the kids uncover more and more clues without any meaningful revelations. I didn't mind overmuch, because when the atmosphere matters, it's done well... and I always enjoyed the side trips and adventures Kami cooked up for her friends to get into. It cannot be denied that Unspoken is an entertaining and engrossing novel. The Lynburn family, once they come into play a bit more, supply a lot of the tension with the unexplained acrimonious interplay between the Lynburn cousins, Ash and Jared. I am most definitely not a fan of the love triangle, but as it is used here, I found it at least palatable. Kami doesn't fall into the trap of instalove - even though she's "known" and maybe loved Jared for years before meeting him, and she doesn't bounce back and forth between the cousins just to foment melodrama instead of plot momentum.
I did have a few problems with Unspoken as I progressed through its nearly 400 page length. Most notably: the end. A lot of reviewers have been disappointed with the way and place Brennan chose to end her story, and I am certainly one of them. It's a hell of a cliffhanger, and though I don't buy Jared's final words and attitude for a minute, Brennan certainly knows how to leave her readers wanting more. The plot extends eaily to book two, but it was an abrupt end to such a slow burn mystery. I also felt that the magic aspect could use some strengthening. What is explained is interesting, but I couldn't get a firm grasp a few parts of the mythology. A little more time and paragraphs to explore those elements would've been appreciated, but there at least will be two more novels to expand on what's been laid down here in the first novel.
From even pacing to creative plot to wonderful, zing-filled dialogue, Unspoken is a book I most definitely will be buying and rereading. Carried by a complex and brave protagonist, coupled with a thoroughly well-done Gothic vibe, there is much more to love about this novel than to lament. I for one, will be counting the months until the arrival in the next book of the series. Brennan has impressed me, and I can't wait to see what she does with the foundation she has laid down. ...more
"I wish I'd liked this more" were my first thoughts upon finishing, and being incredibly disappointed bRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
"I wish I'd liked this more" were my first thoughts upon finishing, and being incredibly disappointed by, this Tudor-era historical fiction. For all its attempts to do something new within the uber-popular Tudor-prevalent historical fiction genre, this is a totally unmemorable effort. Perhaps "I wish this had just been better" would be closer to the mark with how I feel regarding this novel. The dialogue, the characters, the historical anachronisms -- all were just too much to handle or were just handled wrong. This is the story of Madge Shelton narrating the final three years of her cousin Anne Boleyn's reign as Queen of England - an intriguing and fresh approach for such a popular time and people. The anticipation of reading from a usually ignored/unknown perspective (historians aren't even sure if Margaret Shelton was one person or an amalgam of two Tudor-era courtiers named Mary and Margaret Shelton) had me eager to get my hands on this, but the actual narration and novel itself had me itching for the final page long before I hit the halfway mark.
Madge is brought to Henry VIII's Court at the young age of 15. Madge, unlike her contemporary peers and compatriots, doesn't like the decadent Court of Henry and Anne or its frivolities. I can understand why the author chose to portray Madge so uniquely among her time and place: it's easier to root for Madge before she becomes entwined in the conspiracies and gossip of the court. Her innocence is distinct and causes Madge to have a bit of notoriety attached to her name. My problem was that I just, well, didn't buy into the earlier naivete of her character. For one thing: Madge was the daughter of Anne Shelton (née Anne Boleyn), which made her the Queen's first cousin - a position to be used for much power and influence by using many courtiers/controlling access to the Queen/etc. I simply didn't buy that anyone from the grasping, upward-climbing Boleyns could be that innocent at Court, especially once under the direct nefarious influence of Thomas Boleyn, Lord of Wiltshire and the Queen's father.
Madge herself is a decent sort of main character, my issues with her incongruent shyness/mousiness aside. She's a bit too wide-eyed and innocent to exist in such a time, but I had no major issues with her as a character. I do find her role as Anne's confidant to stretch believability: in the worst danger of her life, the Queen is going to confess her sex life to a teenaged cousin not known intimately to her before her precarious situation? It strains credulity that Anne and Madge would be so close when Anne was beset from all sides by Seymours, Dudleys, Catholics and their hidden eyes. I also had issues with the handling of the romance with Madge's "true love" at Court. A completely fictional character is created (Arthur Brandon, supposed bastard son of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk) in order to have an additional (compelling?) plotline of forbidden love... which doesn't really work OR do much to advance the plot. Not only is their romance totally unbelievable for the times, the two don't have much spark or chemistry between them, nor a solid foundation for their "love". They see each other once, he falls in love, she resists till she just can't fight it anymore! - it's as instalove as historical fiction gets. I also have to wonder just why Madge's historical husband(s) weren't used (Sir Anthony Heveningham, or her latter husband Philip Appleyard, Esq.) and one was invented for her in this book. It was just weird, and seemed like messing with facts for nothing but kicks.
So far, reading along, you're thinking: "This doesn't sound too bad; there's definitely a dearth of reasons why this is rated so low. What's with this chick?" Well, here's the stuff that really irked me during my two-day read.
1. The dialogue
Stilted, awkward and unrealistic, the dialogue weighed down the narrative, the flow, the pacing, everything of At the Mercy of the Queen. It was just bad; the rest if the novel flowed rather well but the speech was just off-putting. I have to give the author props for "trying" to make the characters speech authentic for 16th century English, but major demerits for how heavily it was employed. There's a fine line between a touch of authenticity and "Ye Olde Towne" cliches. Far too many "dost thou"'s and an egregious amount of "Think you this" had me playing Yoda from Star Wars every time a character had a question. I also found how the characters spoke to one another to be either too obvious or too transparent. "If I don't do what the King wants I shall be in danger with no allies and then I shall have to marry dreadful, oily Henry Norris!" is pretty much how Madge expresses herself. It comes off totally false - it's an obvious way to clue the reader into the perils of action/nonaction within the Tudor Court. Characters feelings are relayed by their speech, not by any action or "showing". At times, it's just irritating because no one talks like that, at other times it can be a bit condescending, as if the author doesn't think the readers intelligent enough to suss out the repercussion or who is who. Though the author falls short of Phillipa Gregory standards, it can feel a bit irritating to be constantly reminded of things I already know or have figured out already.
2. Word anachronisms
This ties in with my above complaint about dialogue, but it bothered me enough to merit its own shiny numeral. I'm a history major obsessed with 15/16/17th century England (and Europe), so I know many of the things I find bothersome and obvious won't be noticed by and large. Some might think me pedantic for not being able to just gloss over them and enjoy the other aspects of reading. But part in parcel of my love for historical fiction is the feel of history that is created by a good one - a feel easily ruined by missteps like in this one. Errors I caught? "Zounds" - a medieval curse formed from shortening "God's wounds", but one that didn't come into the language until 1592 not 1536. "Pimp" is also used in the novel, as in "Anne pimped out her cousin Madge to Henry VIII" - again a word first used in 1607, not 1536.
3. Historical inaccuracies
Along with diction and speech, actual historical fact goes a long way to establishing credibility within a historical fiction. For the most part, Barnhill does a good job with chronology, actual events and such for the duration of the book. Some parts, however, were just dead wrong. For one, the book implies that Sir Thomas Wyatt died/was executed in 1537 in the wake and as part of Anne's downfall - ignoring the actual fact that Wyatt was imprisoned, released and died in 1542 peacefully as a free, innocent man. Another error is the at-least-twice offering to "take tea" during this time mentioned in the book. Tea wasn't introduced into England until the mid-1600's - a full 120 years after Anne Boleyn's death. Thus Madge's offers of tea to settle Anne are just laughable. Lastly, Anne mentions the famous song "Greensleeves" as being written for her by King Henry VIII. This is just a myth - though a popular and prevalent one - and a little Googling research would've made that apparent to the author.
4. The title "At the Mercy of the Queen"
I think this title is just "off" - much as I found "The Winter Palace: a Novel of Catherine the Great" to be a misnomer for the contents within. The title "At the MERCY of the Queen" implies a power and influence that Anne just doesn't have in the last 3 years of her reign (aka the exact time the novel takes place during.) "Spy of the Queen" , "Envoy of the Queen" , "Sheltered Innocent Cousin of the Queen" or something along those lines would be much more indicative of the tone and events of the novel. For it is not Anne but Henry who sets the tone of everyone's actions within the novel - any power Anne accrued by his years-long pursuit has long waned before the beginning of the novel. Henry is the center of things in England, and Anne is at his mercy and whim long before her head is cleaved from her body. The only possible example of Madge being at Anne's discretion is when she is "pimped" out to service King Henry. However, had Anne said no to the scheme and been against the plan and had Henry desired Madge on his own (as is obvious and fact), the conclusion would've been same: Henry would've got his way and Madge would've been in his bed.
For all those gripes, At the Mercy of the Queen definitely - and easily - gets the fear and tension of this time down pat. Life, uncertainty and fear were the daily staples of life within Great Harry's Court, especially as he aged and was further disappointed. I wish Henry had more of a presence within the book - both him and his actions are usually removed from the forefront, with the focus of the novel on Anne and Madge reacting to whatever happened. If Madge had been more dynamic or Henry more involved, this might have been a mroe entertaining read. As it is, this is at times bland, at times frustrating and wholly unmemorable for fans of the genre. Anne Boleyn's story has been told much more intricately, much more historically correct and much more fun to read. Last word on this one: pass. ...more
Released in the centennial year for the publication of Tarzan of the ApesWant to win a copy of Jane?! Head over to my blog to enter (US/Canada only)!
Released in the centennial year for the publication of Tarzan of the Apes original publication and endorsed by Edgar Rice Burroughs' estate, Jane is an involving, detailed, engrossing, and yet, original retelling of a well-loved and widely known story. Robin Maxwell is my first exposure to actually reading the mythos of the Tarzan world (watching the 1999 Disney animated movie clearly does not count), and her updated version, while clearly paying homage to the source material, is indelibly her own. Jane is a novel rife with adventure, credible characters, excitement, betrayals, and revelations. An engaging read from the get-go, the spotlight on protagonist and narrator Jane makes for a fast but highly enjoyable read for those all too-short 320 pages. I had planned to read Burroughs' original version, but now I wonder if that one will hold up as well in my opinion as what Maxwell has recreated here.
As the title character and first-person narrator for the eponymous novel, Jane will either make or break this novel for readers. I, for one, unabashedly loved her. Her voice is strong and clear; I identified with and rooted for this intelligent and unique woman as she grapples with society's unforgiving attitudes, as she grows and learns about herself, Africa, and what she wants from her life. I loved Jane's strident attitudes, her analytical approach to any and all situations, her unflinching convictions and stalwart self-esteem. She's an unconventional woman for her time but not so much as to be entirely anachronistic for the era and setting the novel takes place during. She may eventually want a man, but unlike her society peers, she definitely doesn't need one. While her views and opinions can approach the unrealistic, the sincere motivations at the heart of Jane's actions ring true and keep her character from sticking out as improbable. An aspiring paleoanthropologist, the beginning flashbacks illustrate clearly how committed and devoted Jane is to her field and establish a more than credible reason for her journey to Africa and the events that transpire there.
The growing dynamic between Tarzan and his more "civilized" mate evolves maturely and with aplomb under less than ideal circumstances. Tarzan himself is a bit romanticized (both by Burroughs and by Maxwell here) - and the romance between him and Jane does provide a lot of internal debate for the title character - but he is realistic and engaging in his distant role. His relationship with Jane is complicated and hard-won, but it is a real partnership of equals, unlike what she could have expected back in her "civilized" home country. Theirs is a true give and take - each teaches the other essential skills for living in their respective worlds. Their interactions are a bit simpler and overcome more easily than I had expected (the language barrier most noticeably) but it doesn't jar too much. Under Maxwell's able hand as storyteller, the bits and pieces of Tarzan's tragic history and life are teased out into the more action packed events evenly and keep the sentimentality on par with the action and excitement of life as The Wild Ape Man.
The vibrant setting of Africa is one of the very best aspects of the novel. The place-as-character is superb here. It's really topnotch - from the port town of Libreville to the boat trip down the Mbele Ogowe River to the Great Bower, every scene and setting pops from the page with a burst of color. As one character so aptly said to Jane early on: "You do not live in Africa, my dear. Africa lives in you." Under Robin Maxwell's pen and talent, I certainly felt like I was seeing the jungles, forests, villages myself. This is a creative author with an obvious ability to set and describe a scene; her talent for place as character is one of the more prominent things I will take away from reading Jane. I haven't read many other historical novels set on this particular continent, but upon, reluctantly, concluding this one, I can't imagine I will wait long to search out another. Maxwell touches upon so many issues of that plagued continent - colonization by European powers, the deforestation of jungles for trade routes, King Leopold of Belgium's genocide of 10 million natives - that some areas do feel slightly shortchanged, but all serve to create an even bigger, more authentic view of Africa and its problems.
This is a book that started out good, one that easily progressed past my initial lukewarm feelings due a bit of an infodump and into "great" territory, and one that ends with a bang (and a hint at a possibility for more down the line?!). A clear departure both from its source material and the sanitized Disney version, Jane is no wilting violet but a strong protagonist with great depth and characterization, more than able to carry the weight of the novel on her own. A great read and reinvention of one of the most beloved stories, Jane is a credit to both Edgar Rice Burroughs' original tale and to Robin Maxwell's immense individual talent. With characters crafted so well, with vibrant settings and a plot that moves at a brisk and involving pace, this is a novel retelling that will stand out and stand the test of time equally well. Highly recommended and highly enjoyable -- those on the lookout for a new era/setting in historical fiction need look no further than Jane....more
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
The Lost Prince was exactly what I hoped it would be. I devoured it entirely in just one day, unable toRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
The Lost Prince was exactly what I hoped it would be. I devoured it entirely in just one day, unable to stop myself because I was having such a good time back in this unique world, filled with cait sith (and one of my favorite fictional felines of all time -- Grimalkin!), human struggle, humor, and magic. Another winner for this strong author, this series is off to a great start.
"I've also spoken with a talking cat, fought a dragon, and watched the Iron Kingdom light up at night. I've seen a faery queen, climbed the towers of a huge castle, flown on a giant metal insect, and made a deal with a legend." - The Lost Prince, p. 244 (ARC)
This book just seals it: I am a a Julie Kagawa fangirl. While I didn't loooove the first two Iron Fey books about Meghan, or her vampire post-apocalyptic dystopia The Immortal Rules, between reading The Iron Knight and now The Lost Prince, I find myself in firmly stuck fangirl territory. I am am totally okay with it -- this is an author that continues to grow, and improve, and one that can consistently entrench me in her vivid imagination, realistic characters, and fabulous worldbuilding. I will read anything this woman writes because she just does it so well across the board; her skills in action scenes, big reveals, and in conveying pure emotion are among the best of young-adult authors, and never fail to make me care intensely about her cast of fey, humans, and cats. It's a wonderful thing, to have a new Julie Kagawa novel, and I can only hope that The Traitor Son (ominous title is ominous), book two in this well-crafted spinoff series, isn't too long in the offing.
The Lost Prince is a thoroughly fun, consistently action-packed, and involving read - one that builds on the fey and mortal worlds established so well in the previous four novels about Kagawa's unique Iron Fey, but is ultimately also a novel that can stand firmly on its own two feet. Reading the first four would be helpful in understanding some of what goes on here (and with the reasons for Ethan's major 'tude problems) and the backstory, but is not really required to get the full picture of this first in a spinoff series. The protagonist of the novel, Ethan Chase, is very different type of person than his sister was in her arc of books. Whereas Meghan is nice, occasionally obsessive about boys, and outgoing, Ethan has a host of issues and has no problem being a bastard. While it took me a while to warm up to this bitter, self-loathing character, and eventually, charminly arrogant main character, the first person POV does a world of good in establishing who he is, how he thinks, and most importantly, why is the way he is. His inner monologue shows how well-rounded he is, his unresolved issues with his sister's abandonment leaves him alone, resentful, angry, scared, and he thinks, unsafe. His maturation and evolution as a person is subtle and well-handled; the Ethan Chase of the final pages is vastly different from the one in the first chapter.
Another thing I like immensely about this prolific author is how inventive she allows herself to be with her novels and creatures. She didn't just create the concept of a new kind of fey once before with the Iron fey (as opposed to the two traditional ones: Seelie and Unseelie), but does so again here with the idea of the Forgotten. New ideas are spun off of old ones, new plots, new dangers, new concrete characters -- all are covered ably and well by this seasoned author. From individual characterization to the Hit-People-With-Sticks action scenes, this is a woman who can write, and be starkly original while doing so. I've read a lot of fey/fae/fairy novels, and not once does the work of this author seem derivative, or really, anything but her own creation. The Forgotten fey, in all their creepy forms and facets (the cat-thing! The piranha goblins with mouths in their hands! The tall thin ones with knives for fingers!) are as creative and new as the Iron fey were back in the first series.
Fans of her first series Nevernever novels will find a lot more to enjoy in the new trio of Ethan, Kenzie, and Keirran. While they might not be quiiiite as charismatic as the first group of Ash, Puck, and Meghan, they have several more books and hundreds of pages to live up to that high standard. And I fully believe that they can and will, ominous promises and behaviors permitting. And an added bonus, there is no love-triangle between them to try and make me crazy detract from the story at the heart of the novel. These new characters aren't just Ash, and Puck, and Meghan recast as different people - besides Ethan's vast differences from his sister, both Kenzie and Keirran have their own histories, motivations, wants, and needs. I will be definitely counting down the days til tuning in to the next installment in the Call of the Forgotten to see where Kagawa will take her band of unique characters.
If I am going to complain about anything, it's that some ideas and sentences were used a bit repetitively throghout the nearly 400-page length, and that Ash/Puck/Meghan weren't nearly around enough to satisfy my need to read more about them. (Four books and several novellas will never sate my love for Ash.<3) I know this is Ethan's arc and not his sister's, but I can always use more time with Robin Goodfellow, the Winter Prince, and the Iron Queen.
Fans of Julie Kagawa will love this. Readers looking for strong characters and fun plots will find a lot to enjoy about The Lost Prince. All in all, this is one of the strongest spinoff novels I've ever had the pleasure to read, and excuse my fangirling, but I love it to pieces after just one read. If you love or even like any of Julie Kagawa's previous novels, do yourself a favor and pick this one up as soon as you can. It's a winner, and it's damn fun to read....more
The Queen's Vow is a great first introduction to a well-known and well-recommended historicRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
4.5 out of 5
The Queen's Vow is a great first introduction to a well-known and well-recommended historical fiction author. I've heard and seen C.W. Gortner's name bandied about frequently as one of the best for compelling, researched and still original novels and every claim is only reinforced by my reading experience with this novel about Castile's complicated and dramatic queen. Without condescension or annoying repetition, this mostly-factual story of 15th-century hotbed of war, religious strife and rebellion in what is now known as simply Spain, is riveting from start to finish - once The Queen's Vow, and the formidable Isabella, hit their stride, it is nearly impossible to put down. Told with an even pace and a clear voice, this four-hundred page, multi-part novel pretty much guaranteed that I will be reading more by this author, and soon. In a genre that can often seem quite overbloated with English and French-situated books, this exploration into the fertile and sunbaked lands of Spain is a welcome and exciting change.
The most remarkable aspect of the entire endeavor is the main character of Isabella herself. With the advantage of perspective and history on our side, it's clear that the infanta of Castile is a woman of complicated nature; someone that is sadly often naive in her religious judgments, but one who is conversely amazingly progressive in terms of women's education and rights (see her intransigence on the rights of her daughters/Castile's and her own sovereignty from Aragon/Ferdinand until an heir is born). C.W. Gortner is a skilled writer that somehow manages to paint a fully-realized and wholly fallible version of the renowned and reviled monarch while still rendering the final character likeable and authentic in her determined role and behaviors. Accepting both good and bad facets of her personality and her reign, The Queen's Vow offers up possible reasons for the cruel decisions Isabella made for her realm without diverging too far from the roadmap of history. It's easy to both root for Isabella in her desperate times and to curse at her when she is so easily manipulated (Carrillo, Enrique, Torquemada, even Ferdinand.) Throughout all her trials and even her mishaps, it cannot be denied that this Isabella has life and is never boring to read.
It's a credit to both the author and the novel itself that because Isabella is a historical figure largely ignored on her own noteworthy merits (maaaybe vaguely known to the general populace because of the connection Christopher Columbus) her story here is completely fresh and engaging. Unlike the Tudors/Borgias, who have been done over and over (with varying degrees of success), this view into the overlooked Trastamara royal family is happily unreminiscent of any other historical fiction I've read. The tertiary characters are a bit hard to keep track of initially due to my lack of experience with this setting, but the author eases the reader comfortably into the Castile he has reimagined. The endless wars and battles, the required Court intrigue, the drama - all were evenly and uniformly handled in The Queen's Vow. Despite the fact that war was pretty much the normal state of being for Isabella and her husband, the novel is careful to mix the battles between many other historical events so as not to sacrifice the principles' characterization or plot advancement. Time easily speeds by while turning the pages - for the real world as well as the pacing of the book. The novel can breeze over years at a time with a sentence, which didn't bother me so much as streamline the narrative of a real person.
The Queen's Vow is a going to a hit with historical fiction lovers. There's a lot to love - the sweet but imperfect marriage between the "Catholic Monarchs", the tried and true lure of Court intrigue and betrayal. The novel terminates before the end of Isabella's life, leaving it somewhat open-ended in regards to the main character, if not the final conflict. If you're looking for a well-written and engaging novel with a strong, fallible character, look no further. ...more
You may not know Matryona Grigorievna by her first two names, but you will recognize her last, infamousRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
You may not know Matryona Grigorievna by her first two names, but you will recognize her last, infamous name: Rasputina. The daughter of either Russia's most famous eccentric and healer or her most prolific sham, depending on who is asked, Masha's unique and by turns sad, very strange and moving story of life after her father's abrupt (and excessively violent) murder is a sure-to-please strong-female-character-powered novel. Enchantments was exactly what I wanted from another Russian historical fiction set about the same time (The Last Romanov) and didn't get: a fresh, compelling point of view, set during a popular and dangerous time period (the fall of the Romanov dynasty), a slight hint of romance that doesn't overpower character and/or plot development and (hopefully) amply furnished with enough accuracy to keep the tension high and the audiences interest consistently piqued. Veteran author Kathryn Harrison gracefully executes all these disparate parts to their utmost, with clear and tactile imagery and compelling prose. This is a darker novel in tone, for obvious and unavoidable reasons, but the intensity of the setting, the crackling tension and the characters desperation make for a moderately fast read.
I enjoyed almost everything there was to Enchantments. I did find the plot a bit lacking in some extended areas, but this is a novel that is carried by the strength of its cast. Harrison has a dab hand for foreshadowing ("There are those people who cannot be transplanted from one age to the next."), incrementally building up tension, and in setting up crucial, expected scenes without veering into predictability. Though the fate of the Romanov family is well known, Harrison makes their years-long journey to the House of Special Purpose compelling and touching. The unique POV perspective distinguishes this novel, as does the fact that Enchantments is more concerned about tsarevich Alexei's final days than either his brood of sisters or his parents. This is one of those historical fiction novels that makes a reader want to know more about the source material. As a ardent history major and freak, I was already well-versed in a lot of Romanov and Bolshevik Revolution lore, but Harrison's thoroughly developed and rounded versions of these real, flawed people reignited a previous cultural fascination with Russia and her Imperial family - I was Googling away on a vast array of subjects, people and events that had impact on this story.
As I intimated earlier, it really is the characters that make this particular so compulsively readable. While Harrison sticks to facts for the bulk of her work, Masha's romantic entanglement with young Alexei provides a light spot in an overwhelming sad life. I appreciate the light hand used for the relationship - it felt natural and right for both characters, while not overpowering the more dramatic and worldly plotlines of the novel. The author also avoids the issue of characterizing Rasputin outside of his role as a doting father - while his life obviously impacts his daughters, Harrison never takes a side in the debate about his role as healer or heretic. Masha, obviously, believes in the power of her mystic father, and her belief is compelling but not convincing. Worshiped by some, reviled by others, but only truly understood by his devoted eldest daughter, Rasputin's magnetic pull is in evidence largely in absentia and its continued affect on Masha's life after his death.
To get a bit less positive about the novel, I will say that I found the shifts between the past and the present to be a bit disorientating. The flashbacks themselves are well-timed and chock full of historical detail and data without weighing down the overall plot and increasing intensity. Even when the expected end comes for Alexei, OTMA and the Imperial pair, Masha's dispassionate voice manages to convey her deep sorrow while keeping her emotional distance. I found the last part of the novel — with Masha apart from the Romanovs — lacked the dynamic of the previous chapters. I struggled slightly through the later, introspection-heavy pages devoid of interaction with the other players. But despite those few issues, there isn't much to malign here in Enchantments.
The unique, fresh approach of Rasputin's daughter, the finely and intricately drawn backdrop of Imperialist Russia, the wonderfully realized characters all made for a great historical fiction novel. People now tend to view Rasputin with the benefit of hindsight, often confusing the man with whatever he did or did not to to aid the downfall of the Tsars. Kathryn Harrison's Enchantments, through the eyes and ideas of his tale-spinning daughter, is singular in that it shows Russia's Mad Monk as a person, as a dad even, to great effect. Every choice Masha makes is influenced by her father and his desires for her and reading her life story as imagined by this author is a nice piece of historical escapism.
Welcome to a London come alive with voice-eating spiders, mirror-dwelling aristocrats, and talking lighRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Welcome to a London come alive with voice-eating spiders, mirror-dwelling aristocrats, and talking lights that literally dance upon the streets. A London where Gods and Goddesses walk the roads unnoticed by the normal human population, and fight one another for preeminence and control over their decaying world. Welcome to Tom Pollock's The City's Son, a novel that redefines both the 'urban' and 'fantasy' in the urban fantasy genre; a novel that brings a whole new meaning to the idea of place-as-character. Though the beginning can be hard to understand and uneven, the reward is outstanding. A fast-paced and action-packed novel packed to the brim with unique, strange, and thoroughly charismatic characters, the first novel in the Skyscraper Throne series is a whole lot of win.
Beautifully written and extensively detailed, there is no area of London that Pollock has not re-envisioned and changed -- for the stranger. Through the eyes of the two main characters - human Beth and Son of the Streets Filius Viae, Pollock takes the reader on a thoroughly original and weird (the kind of weird I tend to expect from China Mieville) journey to self-realization, personal power, and more. Though I am not usually a fan of POV shifts from third-person limited to first person during narrator changes, it works here for Beth and the Urchin Prince. Beth is outside the city; Fil is literally part of it and how they spin their inner monologues help to illustrate that point. Both characters have their individual strengths and weaknesses, but it is the feisty, charismatic, damaged, and fully concrete character of Beth that is the strength of this novel.
The characters here are on par with the talent and time spent setting the scene and creating the original plot. Beth is a wholly rounded and concrete girl. She's realistically flawed, even in a book that suspends disbelief so well. She is feisty, and smart, and loyal, if not always right in her judgements. I have a lot of respect for Beth and the character evolution she goes through during this long but easily read novel. Filius is likeable if unknowable - he's as unique a character as this version of London. Part street rat, part teenage boy, and all heart - the relationship between the two matures organically and best of all, slowly. If I have one issue, I had hoped that Parva's storyline with the teacher would've had a more firm resolution, but she stands strong as a secondary character with motivations and aspirations all her own.
There is just so much creativity and imagination at work in The City's Son, and it can be a lot to take in, especially initially. The author drops the reader into his darkly, dirtily magical world without exposition or infodump.The sheer scope of the world that Pollock has created for his characters to operate in is expansive and all encompassing, from the made-of-trash Gutterglass who operates as a seneschal for the missing Lady of the Streets, to the war between the Sodiumite glass girls and the Blankleit clans, to the train battles between Bahngeists. Like I said, this is an author that brings the city of London to life - literally - it's place as character on a whole new level.
I loved this novel. Though it is one of the longer books I've read lately, it holds up admirably under the weight of all those pages, and plots, and schemes. With an imagination as big as London itself, Tom Pollock renders a finely-tuned and thoroughly evocative novel aimed for readers of all ages. Fans of urban fantasy should take note and give this weirdly awesome and awesomely weird novel a chance. You won't regret giving The City's Son a chance. I eagerly await he second novel, The Glass Republic -- it definitely can't come out soon enough....more