I can take or leave John Green. I enjoy his books but they aren't my favorites. Of the three I've read, one has been a 3 (Looking for Alaska), one was...moreI can take or leave John Green. I enjoy his books but they aren't my favorites. Of the three I've read, one has been a 3 (Looking for Alaska), one was a four (this), and only one was a 5 (Will Grayson, Will Grayson). You won't find me amongst his nerdfighters, but nor does he irritate me as much as the small but vocal group of detractors he has amassed. Yes, he can be pretentious. Yes, a lot of his characters act the same, think the same, etc. But still, he can turn a phrase. He can make you care about his MPDGs.
I think the key to enjoying his books is to space them out. I read about one a year, and it keeps me from noticing (too much) the similarities between them all.
Another reason this is rated so highly is purely personal. I read it on the anniversary of the death of someone I loved immensely. Someone who died at 19 - way too young. Someone who was funny, handsome, and full of life. So I am not the be the most objective in how I feel about The Fault in Our Stars, but Green knows how to write grief. It got to me, it resonated with me, and this book will stick with me for all these reasons.(less)
Excuse me if I am extremely a little fangirly right now. I just finished this whirlwind novel of advent...moreRead 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.)(less)
India Black returns for a second outing - true to form, and full of the same humor and wit...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
4.25 out of 5
India Black returns for a second outing - true to form, and full of the same humor and wit that made her so memorable and damned fun in the first novel. While I found this second in the series to be just slightly below the level of the first, India Black and the Widow of Windsor is still a highly entertaining, genuinely fun, and interesting new historical mystery. Here in round number two as a madam of espionage, India must once again go under covers (but not under the covers!damn and blast) with the charming but mysterious French as her ally in a fight to save the English Queen from angry, violent Scottish nationals. Full of the same voice, tone, and adventure as the first book in the seriers, fans from the original novel will find more of the same to love in this romp from talented author Carol K. Carr.
A strong followup to a wonderful first escapade, India Black and the Widow of Windsor is more focused on the mystery aspect of the plot, rather than the sheer adventure that took over the latter part of the first novel. While not a detriment to the novel as a whole, as the mystery is strongly constructed, hard to suss out, and full of red herrings to keep readers guessing, I missed the sheer audacity of the turns of events from the first novel. India lost none of her charm in the journey from book one to two, and her attempts to ferret out a spy within the castle of Balmoral are just as fun and witty as I had come to expect from the madam of many talents. My friend Audra compares her to a Victorian Bond Girl, and that is so appropriate it's ridiculous. Just as suave, if not as subtle, India is a joy to read during her travails to save Queen, Country, but herself above all. The plot may edge on the goofy side of things occasionally, but India herself is again the star of the show and with help from her alluring foil French, keeps India Black and the Widow of Windsor from falling victim to uneven sequel syndrome.
New, laugh-out-loud characters, old familiar faces, new villains and motives help to round out the 300+ novel with ease. I obviously could always do with more French on the page, but the new additions melded well with the frame and plot created for this. Like the first, though this is obviously India's vehicle, the secondary and tertiary characters are more than able to hold their own. I found the antagonists harder to suss out than in the first; I loved the interactions between India and the Marchioness; I loved the mentions of Disreali, the Queen, John Brown, etc. Weaving factual figures with such vivacity is one of Carr's many adept turns as the author of this inimitable series. The characters were and continue to be one of the many standouts of these books, and I love that each new novel has revealed more (if not much!) about the principal players.
India Black and the Widow of Windsor is a fine follow-up to its predecessor, if not quiiiite as much of an off-the-walls madcap adventure. Like before, the characters, the mystery, the adventures are top notch and finely tuned making for a fast, breezy read full of wit and humor. The wait for the e-short and the third book will surely kill me. India Black is not a heroine to forget and her most recent adventure with companions French and Vincent left often much about each character, all the while teasing with ever more hints about the pasts/presents? of the two very compatible adults. Not one to dole out immediate answers, Carol K. Carr sure knows how to dangle a hook and catch readers in her vivid imaginations and nuanced characters. I for one can't wait to see what else we learn about this daring duo in the forthcoming India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy. I can only hope it's as excellent as the first two so wonderfully crafted by this lawyer-turned-author. (less)
This book. This book right here. This is really original and excellently executed epic fantasy. A step up from an already impressive first novel, Elli...moreThis book. This book right here. This is really original and excellently executed epic fantasy. A step up from an already impressive first novel, Elliott's second Spiritwalker book doesn't disappoint. (less)
Full disclosure: I am GoodReads/Twitter friends with Victoria and she sent me this novel in exchange fo...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Full disclosure: I am GoodReads/Twitter friends with Victoria and she sent me this novel in exchange for a review. However much I like her (and that is very much!), this did not affect my impression of the novel nor my review for it.
Witchstruck is the addicting and fast-paced tale of Meg Lytton, a burgeoning witch of substantial ability during one of the worst times and places to be such a one -- 1554 England, under the super Catholic reign of Queen Mary I. A lively jaunt into an alternate history of Old Blighty, complete with several famous historical characters and cameos (John Dee! Philip of Spain!), this first-in-a-series and detailed read is sure to sate the appetites of Tudorphiles of all ages. Fans looking for a new, fresh spin on a favorite era have no further to look than this "magick" infused offering from Victoria Lamb. Supernatural historical fiction is fast emerging as a favorite genre of mine, and this one particularly will be very memorable long after I've read more.
There's a lot to love in these nearly 370 pages of magick, witchfinders, *really* forbidden love, and betrayal. Protagonist and narrator Meg is one of those things. She is a great main character from the get-go; her presentation is nicely developed and well rounded throughout the duration of the novel. Meg grows, learns, and her characterization is deftly handled. This is a girl who manages to be smart, fallible, realistic, and proactive. Meg may stumble and make (big! calamitous!) mistakes, but one thing you cannot accuse this headstrong witch of being is passive. I love a heroine who can (and like here) does rescue herself, and Meg is frequently the hero of the novel.
I love when historical fiction authors aren't afraid to mix things up and bring new ideas to the fore. Count Victoria Lamb among those not afraid to veer off the beaten path. Not only is there a moderate magic aspect to Witchstruck, other areas are just as unique, and engaging, as well. I've read very few Tudor-set novels that have a non-English (Irish/Scottish don't count!) love interest, but this is one of them! While I do think that Alejandro (a Spanish priest-in-training no less!) and Meg's connection felt a bit premature and rushed the first quarter, each character grows quite naturally into their very forbidden and illicit attraction to one another. I appreciate how sparingly the romance aspect is used in the novel - it's clear plot point between Meg and Alejandro, but it doesn't choke or overwhelm up the real storyline of the novel in unwanted angst and melodrama.
Alejandro, Meg, and especially Elizabeth, the future Queen, in her not-often-enough appearances, all spring to life under Lamb's talented pen. These are well-rendered versions of historical and fictional characters, ones that made me care about them and invest in their story early on. A diverse and distinctive cast are one of the best things about Witchstruck, the fast pacing, the unforeseen twists and turns -- all add up to a very readable and very engrossing novel. I did feel that certain ideas and phrases were a bit repetitive, but Victoria Lamb moves her plot forward quickly, with a dab hand for evoking a realistic, easily-imagined setting for her characters to inhabit.
This was one novel that I wished was even longer! I could've happily kept reading Witchstruck for another 100, 150, 200 pages. It's just so readable - I was done with Meg and her story much faster than I was ready for. What is there is more than enough to satisfy readers - the ending shown felt entirely appropriate and concluded the main plotline of book one in the series, despite the open-ended nature of how things fell out. Cliffhanger or no, I would've NEED book two quite desperately now. The wait for the anticipated sequel is far too long - the touch of foreshadowing (the rat?! MD?!) just added more impetus to my need to see what happens next for Meg and Elizabeth at Court.
I read a lot of Tudor historical fiction - that era/family is one of my long-standing historical passions - and this is a neat and well-handled addition to my "best of" pile. While some books pick sides and favorites (Mary or Elizabeth), this one will continue to stand out among the others for its seamless incorporation of the supernatural, slight as though that may be, and for the strong, active, and well-rounded heroine. Witchstruck is undoubtedly a promising first addition to the series Victoria Lamb is cooking up and I'm eagerly awaiting the events of round two. (less)
All admissions forward: I was sent this book by the author, whom I consider a friend. This did not and does not affect my review.
It's been a real pleasure to watch Libby's growth as an author over the last two years. Having read and greatly enjoyed her short story collection back in 2011, I was anxious to see what she would come up with for her first her full-length novel. I can honestly say that I was not disappointed with the end result; Tough Girl is a clever, heart-wrenching novel with adult themes and ideas, but one that will hold appeal for a wide audience. If you enjoy honest, and occasionally harsh, views on struggles like mental illness, neglect and poverty, this is is your book. If you enjoy novels with strong and determined female protagonists, this is your book. If you enjoy unique fantasy and alternate worlds and places, this is your book.
This may get a bit spoilery, though I am going to try my best not to do. It's just hard to review a book with such a tricky plot without letting on about a few minor details. So: be warned.
Tough Girl is the story of Reggie, an eleven year old girl whom fate has not dealt the kindest of hands. From being bullied at school to neglected at home, Reggie's story is a sad, but not had to envision struggle every day. Thankfully for our heroine, Reggie is also smart, resourceful, resilient, and her own best friend. Escaping into various fantasy worlds with a tough-talking, militaristic alter-ego named Tough Girl, Reggie copes with her problems in a unique and compelling way. Like I said before, Reggie's mom, Mona, neglects her young daughter, leading to Reggie's disconnect from her real life in almost-slumlike building they live in, The Apartments. Reggie's story is a sobering one, and a lot of what she sees and goes through can be tough to read. Libby Heily is an author unafraid to examine the rougher side of life, and it's all to the benefit of the novel. For all its desperation, Reggie's story comes to life with ease.
Obviously in the grip of an unnamed and untreated mental illness, Mona forgets about her daughter for days on end, including the important task of feeding a growing girl. A lot of Reggie's narration and thoughts center around food - either getting it or eating it. I find it remarkably telling that even in Reggie's longest-running fantasy with TG, as she is called, is set on a planet named Girth. Bullied, hungry and alone, even in Reggie's dreams food is the most important part of her day. Her other struggles with classmates like Tara or even bratchild extraordinaire Jacob are painful and sadly quite real to life and carry additional weight to the storyline. There's a lot going on in Tough Girl, be it real or imaginary, and in the end, Heily manages to tie it all together with ease.
I did feel that the end was a bit abrupt. I would've like a little more time with the denoument - just to see it all play out visually. I liked the ending for what it was -it was fitting and believable, but just a very fast turnaround from the pacing of the first 240 pages. This is a shorter novel, but it still packs a punch. Another bonus is the price - it's only $2.99 to join Reggie and her alter-ego in the respective struggles. I was and still am very impressed with Libby Heily's imagination and am excited to see how she will grow and where she will go with her talent after this. (less)
Detailed, a bit too long and drawn out, but nails the atmosphere of Victorian England. I loved the unusual narrator (a woman who practice...more3.25 out of 5
Detailed, a bit too long and drawn out, but nails the atmosphere of Victorian England. I loved the unusual narrator (a woman who practices a trade! How gauche!) and her character, but this took a while to get going.
Venturing into the fertile field of medieval Italy, Tinney Sue Heath's novel is a careful a...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
3.5 out of 5
Venturing into the fertile field of medieval Italy, Tinney Sue Heath's novel is a careful and detailed look at one of the most famous feuds and vendettas, hailing from the city of Florence. For my taste, I thought A Thing Done could be a little too focused on minor details, like clothes or the set up of a nobleman's room, and occasionally came off a bit flat in the narration. However, overall, this was a solid historical fiction effort that kept my attention. It certainly doesn't hurt that the plot of the novel is fascinating, and based on historical fact, as are the majority of the characters. Focused on the beginnings of the infamous and long-lasting Guelph/Ghibelline struggle in Italy, A Thing Done is a novel about love, vendettas, and history.
I could tell from the great first line of the novel ("It was a fool that began it, but it took a woman to turn it murderous") that the narrator of the novel was going to be one I liked. Corrado is a fool, both for his profession and also in some of the things he does over the course of the novel. He was smart, likeable and forthright, all the while making being manipulated into tense situations and bad decisions. It's easy to root for the little guy, and in A Thing Done, it doesn't get smaller than Corrado. Heath does a good job of presenting a nicely flawed main character with the Fool; he may have to juggle the machinations of two great lords without the other knowing, but his personality was well-defined from the start. An unwilling participant in the feud between Great Families, this working-class peasant is in an untenable situation from the first page and his journey to be free of "the people with surnames" (as he calls the nobility) and their endless scheming is both tense and engaging.
The beginning was admittedly the toughest part for me to get involved in. There are a lot of families, names, factions and agendas flying around Corrado and his friends; sorting out who is who and who wants what can take some time. By about 75ish pages in, I had adjusted to Corrado's sometimes dry attention to detail and figured out the main plotlines and characters at play. For those reasons, it's a bit slow at the start, but the rest of the novel is more than worth the time it takes to get a grip on the various Donatis, Buondelmontis, Ubertis, Fifantis, and Amideis running rampant with plots and maneuvers. Corrado's role as unwilling accomplice to each (unknowing) party makes for an itneresting back and forth between the two major factions, and helps to illustrate how much this minor insult turned a city on its head and instigated a major feud.
Tinney Sue Heath has more than proven she knows her history very well with this novel. Replete with a large cast and detailed plot, A Thing Done goes to lengths to provide a fulfilling, if short, glimpse into Florentine life in 13th century Italy. It may not be the asiest novel to get into, but the journey and end payoff are more than worth the few hundred pages it takes to conclude. The denouement was a bit abrupt, but serves adequately to wrap up the lives and tales of the story's most prominent, surviving, characters.(less)
There's a lot to like about this - the world, the culture, the various aspects of magic - but there is also a lot that bothered me as I r...more3.75 out of 5
There's a lot to like about this - the world, the culture, the various aspects of magic - but there is also a lot that bothered me as I read. The characters are a mixed bag: some are wonderfully complex, and others had me considering renaming the Mary Sue trope after them specifically (credit: Lyn for the Karah Sue crack).
On the whole, this was far from what I had anticipated but I would, and plan to and may have already bought another YA fantasy from Neumeier. Not perfect, but still fun, House of Shadows was a worthwhile introduction to this author.
Similar to This Is Not a Test, but more focused on action than introspection. Still, a short, easy, delightfully gory novel. Can be brutal, and get...more3.5
Similar to This Is Not a Test, but more focused on action than introspection. Still, a short, easy, delightfully gory novel. Can be brutal, and gets stuck in the romance, but the good outweighs the bad.(less)
Did I like this? Yes. Did I love it? No, despite my immense respect and acknowledgment for Beukes' talent. It's a good book -- a strong, well-thought...moreDid I like this? Yes. Did I love it? No, despite my immense respect and acknowledgment for Beukes' talent. It's a good book -- a strong, well-thought out and realized, but some of the content was too much for me and the denouement too easy, too jumbled, and not satisfying enough. I could have done without the (view spoiler)[supernatural (hide spoiler)] bit entirely --- detracted from the strength and reality of the characters.
My third Morgan Matson book (fourth if you count Katie Finn) but very definitely her best and my favorite. So good -- character-wise, plot-wise, writi...moreMy third Morgan Matson book (fourth if you count Katie Finn) but very definitely her best and my favorite. So good -- character-wise, plot-wise, writing-wise... LOVE.