Really a 4.5, but my jaw dropped at least three times so it's a 5 for goodreads. I'm still not sure it was worth 6 years of waiting, but well done Mr....moreReally a 4.5, but my jaw dropped at least three times so it's a 5 for goodreads. I'm still not sure it was worth 6 years of waiting, but well done Mr. Martin.(less)
The heroine of this unbelievably rich and vivid series is ultra proper and beautifully mannered Lady Al...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
The heroine of this unbelievably rich and vivid series is ultra proper and beautifully mannered Lady Alexia Maccon (formerly Tarabotti), a preternatural of (gasp!) Italian descent in an alt-Victorian England. In this world that Carriger has so deftly crafted a 'preternatural' is a person without a soul, and thus the direct opposite of vampires/werewolves, as those were people who died and possessed excess soul enough to become either a vampire, werewolf or ghost. The idea of 'excess soul' being the catalyst and determining factor of supernaturality is ingenious and intriguing. The mythology and world-building of this series are incredibly well-thought-out and unique in structure. Alexia's physiology makes her completely unique in nature, but she has all too-human problems, as exhibited in each book. In a genre populated with stereotypes and cliches, this was a breath of fresh air. It is a clever book in a clever series by a very smart woman. Between the dirigibles, octomatons (dangerous octopus weapons), mysterious secret societies (Hypocras Club, Order of the Brass Octopus, Alexia's own Parasol Protectorate), sexy werewolves, ultra-mannered and fashionable vampires (Victorian collars -- invented to hide the fang marks!) and sheer originality (a fang lisp for new vampires! Werewolves have packs with Alphas, but vampires have hives with Queens), and tea --- what more could you want?
There are plenty of books with worlds/universes I love and enjoy reading about; this is one of the very few I would like to live in. I'd also love to be Alexia's best friend (take that Ivy/Genevieve!) and help her with her zany, diverting and dangerous schemes. Another reason this book is so hard to put down (if you need more besides the awesome characters, witty dialogue, ingenious steam machines, werewolves/vampires, tea, more witty dialogue...) is that from page one, the atmosphere is enveloping. Well-researched in all aspects, without being overbearing on extraneous details, from clothing trends (do you know how to tie a cravat? or even what one is?) to correct phrasing and speech ("notoriety mongers" instead of "fame whores"), not one word feels out of place. It is certainly important to me to know what Alexia is wearing, but not at the expense of the plotting and development. A perfect balance of the frivolous and the necessary keep the tone light and the amusement nonstop, while continually building the mystery and tension.
Set in a steampunk version of Victorian England in the 19th century, Alexia is not your typical apathetic/passive Victorian woman. She's brash, abrasive, intelligent and above all, curious. Far from conforming to her society's ideals of women at the time, Alexia largely acts the part of a man in that point in history: she makes the important decisions, she rules her husband completely, she's on a secret council with the Queen of England: in short, she's an independent woman in a time of harsh repression for her sex. Interestingly, Carriger has some of the men in Alexia's life assume the roles and positions thought acceptable for women instead forced upon the males (Biffy as a lady's maid, Lyall organizing the house while Alexia does more 'mannish' activities, Floote running her life, etc.) This dichotomy is just another reminder of how very different Alexia is from the rest of humankind (and supernaturalkind) in her views, actions and day-to-day life.
Continuing in the same cheeky, smart tone as the amazing first three in the series, Heartless does not miss a beat. Characters beloved and loathed (ahem, Felicity) from Alexia's adventures before are all present, with new aspects or facets to their well-known personalities. Another reason I enjoy Alexia so much as a heroine is that she knows she has a large cast to back her up and she is not afraid to call on them. Not for her to decide it's all down to her and her alone: she might make all the decisions but when she needs help she is not too proud to ask. This large (mostly) amiable group of Floote, Lord Akeldama, Ivy & Tunny, Genevieve, Lyall, Conall, Biffy have a nice chemistry and camaraderie among them, though be it may that of those browbeaten into submission by a determined woman. Ivy even grows a bit as a character: she's shown to possess hidden facets of intelligence and observance heretofore believed outside her mental capacity. Genevieve, the alluring and shady French inventor gets more on-screen time than the last novel, eliciting much interest from me because she is such a morally grey character. Sadly, I did not get as much time with Alexia's sexy husband Conall as I'd have liked but in the face of all the awesome femaleness all up in this book, I think I can deal. As long as he's more involved in the last in the series, Timeless.
Can we talk about how fun it is to read these characters? Not only their inner monologue and thoughts, but conversations sparkle with wit and humor. Oh, I am so sorry. Humour. I look forward to reading any exchange involving Lord Akeldama especially: his flair and fashion are some of my favorite bits of each book. The question of the status of his star-crossed love with Biffy is finally answered in a way that surprised me with its simplicity. I do have to say the romance angle was much more played down than before (practically nonexistent), however as Alexia is supposed to be nine months pregnant during the events of the novel, it is understandable but much lamented. Ms. Carriger managed to drop quite a few bombs on me, about some of my most beloved characters! Incorporating events from past books in the series, a new spin was put on much of what I had thought I knew about these familiar characters. Speaking of spinning things in unexpected ways: the ending. While I predicted many of the outcomes (I don't mind because it was so fun getting there) the author still managed to pull the rug out from under me, even as I correctly anticipated many turns and twists.
This is an excellent, excellent series. I thoroughly enjoyed this fourth foray into the steam-powered world of Alexia Maccon, and I am only sorry that there remains only one more book left in this series. I highly, highly recommend reading all of them. Even if you've never read steampunk (I've heard this called steampunk, which I think is perfect) try with this series. It doesn't get caught up in the machinery aspect and lose the characters, nor does it ignore the technology as unimportant until the end. Excellent novel, one of my favorites of 2011. (less)
Patrick Rothfuss continues a high standard with his second published novel in the Kingkiller Chronicle, The Wise Man's Fear. I highly enjoyed this boo...morePatrick Rothfuss continues a high standard with his second published novel in the Kingkiller Chronicle, The Wise Man's Fear. I highly enjoyed this book, just as much as I did the previous installment The Name of the Wind. As in the first book, the transitions can be a bit jerky and rough, but that is hardly noticeable as you are irresistibly caught up the story Rothfuss Kvothe is weaving. Sadly, the plot was not moved forward too much in the second book. As much as I am dying to know what has happened and all the details, I did not mind too much as the stories that Kvothe tells are vivid, entertaining, and kept my attention rapt. It wasn't until after finishing, I even though back to analyze how little had actually happened in the book. Even so, it was well worth reading. The author makes up for lack of plot advancement by compensating with rich, genuinely mysterious, original and humorous characters. Denna, Auri, Elodin, Devi.... the list of mysterious characters with mysterious motives and pasts is large but is exactly the mystery and cloak-and-dagger sleight-of-hand that works excellently for The Wise Man's Fear. Rothfuss can spin words in an elegant, delicious way that makes reading his books surprisingly easy and delightful. I look forward to the third part of the story and just hope it does a little more for the plot than this. More of my reviews here: http://bibliophileanonymous.blogspot....(less)
I usually immediately launch myself into a Dunant novel and am immersed until I have finished. This book was the first one to break the pattern. Unlik...moreI usually immediately launch myself into a Dunant novel and am immersed until I have finished. This book was the first one to break the pattern. Unlike The Birth of Venus or In the Company of the Courtesan, Sacred Hearts started out fairly slow and fairly boring, sad as it is to say. However, I stuck it out because even when the subject wasn't my favorite, I cannot help but enjoy the way she writes. So the writing, if not the plot itself kept my interest just long enough for me to be completely enthralled by the story. Building slowly, the reader finds themself in a colorful world, awash with political maneuvering, young love, and defiance and independence on different and individual terms. Yes, it's a slow starter, but after a while I found the pages flying by and me desperate to know how everything was going to end. Dunant's strengths are her writing, and her descriptions of Renaissance Italy. Her protagonists were different and intriguing women, that despite initial antipathy quickly grew into well-developed, intelligent, fun to read characters. I am very happy I read the entire novel and realized how lovely it was. More of my reviews here: http://bibliophileanonymous.blogspot....(less)
Both surprisingly enjoyable and unsettlingly creepy, Maybe This Time is one of the most intelligently told and enjoyable ghost stories I've come acros...moreBoth surprisingly enjoyable and unsettlingly creepy, Maybe This Time is one of the most intelligently told and enjoyable ghost stories I've come across. Set in the nineties, Andromeda "Andie" Archer does a favor for her ex-husband, to go to "the wilds of southern Ohio" to a haunted house and domesticate the two children living there. Of course there's old history ("ghosts" if you'll excuse the horrible pun) from her past relationship with North complicating an already entangled mess. Andie is likable, capable and above all, warm. She's funny, with a dry wit and little to no tolerance for bullshit. She changes from a very independent woman who is constantly looking for something/somewhere new into a devoted and loving mother-figure for the two tormented children. Alice, the younger child, is the more obviously affected by the ghosts. One in particular is possessive of her and violent towards any interference. Alice was, either intentionally or unintentionally, the funniest person in the novel. She's often "outraged" in the way only a child can be when they realize they don't always get what they want. She's a very emotional and vulnerable little girl, so it makes sense that she's very attached to her brother Carter, and eventually Andie. Carter himself is a cipher most of the novel. He's been through so much anguish and internal pain since the death of his mother, then his father, his aunt and a nanny that he has almost completely withdrawn from verbal communication besides Alice. He's utterly devoted and protective towards her, and I was always curious to know more about the hidden undercurrents going on around him. The pacing is wonderful and builds like a ghost story should be retold. At first there's hints and vague movements but as it get creepier and the multiple ghosts more malevolent, the pages fly by and the plot races on to a very riveting conclusion. Highly enjoyable. (less)
Just amazing. This delivered on all counts, on so many layers. Intricate, heartbreaking, darkly humorou...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Just amazing. This delivered on all counts, on so many layers. Intricate, heartbreaking, darkly humorous, The Book Thief is not a novel to be missed.
There are books that you read, that sink tendrils into your heart and never leave. These are almost the very best kind of books, books like: The Hunger Games, The Onion Girl, The Dogs of Babel or The Alchemist. Then there are those books that you feel, down to your very soul and in your bones. Books in which almost every word resonates perfectly within the reader, creating an enveloping, complete and often heart-wrenching story. Markus Zusak's alternately heart-warming and heart-breaking The Book Thief is one of those latter type of books: completely affecting, gorgeously written and endlessly readable. The Book Thief is not just a book of deeply affecting and believable characters: this is a book with living, breathing people upon its pages. Even Death, that fearful and unknowable force, is shown as compassionate and caring while watching the story of Liesel Meminger's life unfold. It's rare enough for me to add a new author to my favorites list, but Markus Zusak has done so with one novel, and one read of that novel, alone.
This is going to a different kind of review than my normal ones. It's very hard for me to articulate any kind of coherent thoughts about this book, even weeks after reading it. The Book Thief is impressive in scope, in character, in its vast, tangible emotions. Liesel Meminger is a burst of life and color from the page: real in all her imagined flaws, pains and triumphs. Spending over 500 pages with this determined foster child is revelatory and profound. It is best and most easily said succinctly: read this book. You will not be sorry you did. Yes, you will cry. Probably more than once (I definitely did at least three times), but The Book Thief is a novel deserving of your emotion and constant attention. Reading The Book Thief is an experience: draining but oh so worthwhile and rewarding. Encompassing love, war, hatred, fear, anger, infatuation and grief, this is a novel that is utterly unafraid to explore human emotion and human nature across the board.
Though this is by nature a more serious, emotional read, Zusak can come through quite unexpectedly with a sly or subtle humor that keeps the reader from veering into moroseness. I heartily appreciated the smattering of light-heartedness when they came about because this is a sad book, make no mistake. It's ultimately about the triumph of human will, of love and hope, but this is a sad novel to read.What I like best is that even when humor makes an appearance in the novel, it is used to prove or illustrate a point being made. I'm not going to go into detail about how vibrant and real I found Liesel Meminger, or her clinging to the written word in a world of uncertainty and denial. I won't go on about how a simple sentence like, "You never told me you had a son" would make several tears fall from my eyes.
The Book Thief may not be a "life-changer" for me as a reader (I don't know if any book is a life-changer), but it is definitely one I will take with me everywhere I go. And one I will recommend and throw at you until you give in and love read it. With a lyrical and mellifluous style for the chilling (and often heart-rending) events in The Book Thief, it is immensely readable despite the hard subject matter. This is a work of art in novel form, moving and poignant from its start in 1939 to its all-too-soon finish. Zusak's portrayal of these stand-out characters (Liesel, Hans, RUDY) will linger long in your memory. Don't dismiss this novel out of hand as just "another YA", especially if you are an adult. This book will resonate with and affect you even if you're long gone from the dreaded teenage years.
"Many jocular comments followed, as did another onslaught of 'heil Hitlering.' You know, it actually makes me wonder if anyone ever lost an eye or injured a hand or wrist with all of that. You'd only need to be facing the wrong way at the wrong time or stand marginally too close to another person. Perhaps people did get injured. Personally, I can tell you that no one died from it, or at least, not physically. There was, of course, the matter of forty million people I picked up by the time the whole thing was finished, but that's getting metaphoric..."
Lastly, a final quote from Death that I found particularly apt and poignant:
" *** A SMALL BUT NOTEWORTHY NOTE *** I've seen so many young men over the years who think they're running at other young men. They are not. They're running at me. "
BUY THIS BOOK.
You won't just passively read it: you'll experience Liesel Meminger's world in all its horror and beauty. I can't recommend The Book Thief enough. If you take one recommendation from this blog at all this year, let it be this one.
I was pleasantly surprised by winning Hulick's Among Thieves in the Good Reads First Reads giveaway. I was told by a friend it reminded her of Scott Ly...moreI was pleasantly surprised by winning Hulick's Among Thieves in the Good Reads First Reads giveaway. I was told by a friend it reminded her of Scott Lynch and I can clearly see why. There are shades of Locke Lamora in Drothe, but only that, shades. I was reminded of Joe Abercrombie's Logen Ninefingers, perhaps. Either way, Drothe is a singular character, one that you're never sure what he's going to do or how you will feel about it. He is clever, he is desperate and he is amusing. He's also a dangerous, murderous member of the underground. He's not snow-white as a protagonist and that makes him a more interesting and thus more fun to read about for 400 pages. Hulick's writing is clever, descriptive and best of all, very engaging. He has created a thriving world, a unique Empire, an interesting theology, different magic system, culture and history. The book was exciting, interesting and wasn't too predictable for fantasy fare. There's very little reliance on magic to solve all Drothe's problems, and I was reluctant to finish as fast as I did. The magic system is fairly straightforward, but is unlike others in fantasy I've read and it was a pleasure to read a new idea on glimmer, as it's called. I highly enjoyed this first novel in his work, and I look forward to picking up the rest of them as he publishes (which I hope is soon!) More of my reviews here: http://bibliophileanonymous.blogspot....(less)
Still a five-star read the second time through, though I wasn't as blinded to the faults of the novel. Love it, hate it, ignore it or not, The Hunger...moreStill a five-star read the second time through, though I wasn't as blinded to the faults of the novel. Love it, hate it, ignore it or not, The Hunger Games is a juggernaut in the publishing/movie world and will continue to be for at least the next 3 years. Katniss may not be my favorite YA heroine, but she is up there among the best. (less)
While not perfect, Catching Fire is just as enjoyable and engrossing as The Hunger Games. No, it is not without flaws. What it is, though, is a book t...moreWhile not perfect, Catching Fire is just as enjoyable and engrossing as The Hunger Games. No, it is not without flaws. What it is, though, is a book that is captivating, horrifying and one you can't put down or stop thinking about, until you've finished.
There are problems in the novel, most of them stemming from the fact that Collins did not initially plan to write any sequels to The Hunger Games, so the beginning of the book foundered a bit and searched for connecting plotlines and overall themes to extend to all three novels.
I will start Mockingjay momentarily, because I actually care about her characters. They're more than cliches, and they are interesting people. For instance, who knew Haymitch had it in him? I absolutely have to know what happens to everyone in the books that's lasted so far.
Overall, a great book, and definitely one of the best I will read this year. (less)
A satisfying conclusion to the outstanding series. None of the problems I had with Catching Fire are present in Mockingjay. The end was more than sati...moreA satisfying conclusion to the outstanding series. None of the problems I had with Catching Fire are present in Mockingjay. The end was more than satisfactory, it was moving and appropriate. It is hard to end a well-loved series in a way that all fans will be happy (J.K. Rowling did an amazing job on her final novel, whereas Stephenie Meyer's Breaking Dawn was painful to read), but I think Collins' Hunger Game series ended on a very very high note. I am sad to leave this world, this character behind. Collins created a world that people connected to, loved, hated and ultimately couldn't get enough of. I hope she continues to write in the same vein as this series (dystopian/sci-fi), so I will have something quality to read in the future. More of my reviews here: http://bibliophileanonymous.blogspot....(less)
Really more of a 4.5 but benefit of the goodreads system = 5. Deeper thoughts later. Now: In a setting worthy of Zelazny with its intricate and deadly f...moreReally more of a 4.5 but benefit of the goodreads system = 5. Deeper thoughts later. Now: In a setting worthy of Zelazny with its intricate and deadly familial intrigue, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms was a more than pleasant surprise. I expected a typical high fantasy novel: full of magic, scheming, unwitting heroines, dastardly but lovable rogues, you know, the whole usual bit. I think Patrick Rothfuss said it best about this novel when he said, "I have a great love of fantasy that does something a little different, and this book is a little different in a whole lot of ways." I got all that I expected and more, with twists and surprises I never saw coming. The entire novel, from the innovative world/political system to the mythological aspects of the Gods, was a well thought-out, superbly-executed, hugely entertaining-to-read first novel.
The story jumps right off from the first paragraph; we meet Yeine, our Darre protagonist immediately. This novel is much more about her inner struggle, or with her relations, than an epic war or battle; it's more personal and close. The first-person perspective is used very effectively with Yeine: I constantly felt like I was reading/speaking with her the entire time. The narrative is scattered and hesitant; a clever device as she's slowly remembering, constantly re-fitting this story as she's imparting it to the readers (Yeine even occasionally breaks the third wall and addresses the readers directly, but it's appropriate and works for the novel). Her style is very informal and as a "barbarian" of the High North, it fits. The first of many intriguing twists on fantasy cliches: Yeine is not white, nor of the ruling caste, and is from a barbaric matriarchal society. Instead she's described as "darkling" and is constantly reminded of her low status among her pale, cruel Amn relatives.
A lot of themes are touches on throughout the novel. Race (and racism), gender, slavery and even religion are not shied away from. In a world where the ruling race is the pale-skinned Amn, who in turn are truly controlled by a single large, monstrously cruel family (the Arameri, to which Yeine reluctantly belongs) who are regarded as the height of civilization while being the depth of depravity, the "barbarian" Yeine is actually the most humane. The Arameri do not allow slaves on their lands, yet they house four of the most enslaved creatures in existence. This was yet another twist of Jemisin's; this time on the fantasy cliche of a God's War or the Fall of Gods. Enslaved former Gods after the war among the The Three in which the Itempas won. For millennia, the Arameri have caged these expunged-from-history Gods as weapons to ensure their power and a gift from the winning side. There was Nahadoth, the Nightlord and his three surviving godling children Sieh, Kurue, and Zhakkarn. The mythology and origins of the Gods from the Maelstrom was creative and well-planned.
There was almost an East-Asian feel to the atmosphere of the story. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms certainly did not feel Eurocentric or written with the Western world in mind, though Yeine's homeland felt almost Amazonian in its ferocity and independence. This individuality in a time of many medieval-type fantasy novels was a another nice touch I appreciated: these creative ideas can make or break a novel. The novel felt fresh and new, unlike a familiar retread of a much-used storyline. There is no over-reliance on magic to solve the world's or even Yeine's problems; it's more cerebral than that. When the magic does come into play, it's restrained or deftly applied to the characters. (view spoiler)[ I thought that unwittingly possessing a part of a fallen Goddess's fractured soul was uniquely witty way to reinvent the young girl with immense but hidden power stereotype. (hide spoiler)]
The only complaints I had were these: the love scenes between Yeine and Nahadoth. They were a little cringe-worthy and cliche; I think for the next book I'd like to see a little more finesse, perhaps more belief in a relationship before two people (Gods? Swirling masses?) hop into bed. I'd also like to see a wider view of these Hundred Thousand Kingdoms that the Arameri control. Only Sky, center of the Amn, is described at length, though even then only the nobles or privileged Amn are shown with any details. Yeine's homeland Darr warranted an occasional mention and one visit, but that was nowhere near enough to sate my curiosity about the warrior-women society.
The ending, though it what was expected even foretold throughout the novel, had quite the surprise attached to it. While completely concluding and resolving the stories and plots within this first novel, it managed to be the perfect cliffhanger for the next in the series, The Broken Kingdoms. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Without a doubt my absolute favorite of these four books, The Iron Knight was a fantastic finale to a s...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Without a doubt my absolute favorite of these four books, The Iron Knight was a fantastic finale to a series I've come to love. Though it was strange initially for me to not read Meghan's internal thoughts and concerns, the switch to Ash's POV for the final volume was a brilliant decision; one that allows the reader to once again see the Nevernever in a completely different light. It's a bold, fresh take on a well-loved and familiar world. It certainly helps that Ash was my favorite character (with the possible exception of Grimalkin), but the transition between the two differing viewpoints/characters was smooth and handled well. In this fourth novel, Ash is faced with the impossibility of being with his love in a realm poisonous to his very being. Determined fey that he is, Ash sets out in The Iron Knight to find a way to his love.
I have stated in previous reviews that I was tremendously impressed with the character arc Meghan had over the three books centering on her. I have to admit I was even more impressed with the depth, and care with which Ash has emerged from a shallow, silent killer into a real, conscientious being. Ash's own personal evolution takes place over a much shorter time than Meghan's (though he started to defrost in The Iron Queen) but it is rich, believably filled with pain and hope. Through Ash and his struggles, Julie Kagawa openly explores what it means to be human. Is it loving another beyond caring for oneself? Is it expressing regret and atoning for the wrongs committed? Ash must face questions unknowable with hard answers and repercussions if he is to be with his Queen in the Iron Realm. The once unassailable Winter Prince is revealed as human after all (forgive the saying). His moments of weakness, remorse, sorrow and joy are all spelled out in ways unseen in previous novels. This lowering of the wall of Ash's solitude makes him a far more real character.
This is a series that has improved with each successive novel. Each time the plot grew more complete, the atmosphere more enveloping and compelling, the characters more vivid. This is no exception: even the dialogue between frenemies Ash and Puck is at the best its been. There's a perfect balance of humor to level out the emotional and platonic tension. The interplay between both, without Meghan referring, is also an exposition minefield. Finally, more details on life before Meghan emerge: the reader can see the former closeness between the two fey, as well as the latent hostility. Even the mysterious figure of Ariella does not remain nearly as much of a cypher as she was before this book. The pacing was also top-notch, with a firm nod to a more creepy feel than the previous books; the numerous, varied adventures the band stumbles through were diverting and kept the pages moving at a steady pace. Kagawa's great talent for storytelling, along with the easy, smooth flow of the novel creates a story and world the reader is reluctant to put down.
Though missing several players from earlier stories, and adding a few completely (read: JAW-DROPPING) additions, the Iron Knight is not to be missed. Ending a well-loved story/series with delicacy and care is a hard accomplishment. Thankfully, Julie Kagawa can be grouped with J.K. Rowling as authors who were true to their characters, their world, and their fans. This book gets a very well done from me, along with the melancholy knowledge that I will never again have an Iron Fey novel before me. I highly recommend this series.(less)
In this, the second of her planned Inheritance trilogy, Jemisin once again delivers another captivating and wonderfully different fantasy story. The i...moreIn this, the second of her planned Inheritance trilogy, Jemisin once again delivers another captivating and wonderfully different fantasy story. The introduction takes place at the time of the Gray Lady's birth at the end of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and then abruptly the narrative skips forward ten years. The perfect world, the structured monotheistic religion and city of Sky that the Amn, and the Arameri have crafted and perfected over millennia, all have changed drastically. As evidenced by the World Tree entwined completely around the city and even palace of Sky, the symbolic power of Bright Itempas and His chief devouts the Arameri, there is no longer one supreme God. The other Gods and godlings, held back from the world for centuries by the Inderdict of Itempas, now dwell among their human kin in Shadow-under-Sky. Ten years have passed since the events in book one, but now someone in that sheltered city has figured out how to assassinate the immortals.
Instead of fierce, fighting-for-her-life-and-country Yeine, this time around the female main character is more docile and unassuming; seeking only to survive on her own independence in a fierce city. A blind artist named Oree Shoth, she has the astounding ability to "see" magic. A city full of magical godlings lured her from her mother and home of Nimaro in Maroneh after the ascension of the Gray Lady and the Lord of Dark Shadows. Once again, Jemisin stands fantasy stereotypes on their heads: Oree is a dark-skinned character from an Amn/Arameri-vanquished culture. She's a strongly sympathetic character, warm and obviously kind-hearted. Oree might be blind (most of the time) but she sees the world for how it is in a city of people who'd rather lie and deceive themselves. She's rather more proactive than reactive, a fact that is easy to appreciate in a genre populated with more than enough Damsels in Distress. Her rapidly expanding magical repertoire over the events of the novel seem a bit like a deux ex machina until the BIG reveal towards the end of the novel. I will say that Oree had all the elements and knowledge long before she put them together, which seemed out of character for such an intelligent and capable woman. But my minor grumbles aside, Oree was another well-written, likable, strong female character.
Once again, this novel told in the first person perspective, that of Oree dictating, remembering her story. The question obviously then is: who is the intended reader? From the diction, and the smooth, conversational flow, it is not the reader. Unlike the previous protagonist Yeine, Oree does not break the third wall: her message and story is for another. There is a more relaxed, easy going tone in this book than the first. Perhaps this is simply because Yeine struggled openly and interpersonally and so much of Oree's fight is within herself, or Shiny. Oree has to deal with less pressure than Yeine, who knew she was going to die and tried to protect an entire country, whereas Oree fights for herself and just those few she loves.
Another grumble I had from the first novel The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms was that hardly any of those Kingdoms were shown, described or even named. Many more details about this innovative world emerge in book two. We learn that there were originally three continents (High North, Senm, and the Maroland). The Maroland (ancient home of the Maroneh and thus Oree's people's native land) was destroyed by Nahadoth at the behest of an Arameri during a rebellion. Details, such as those mentioned above, about this rich, diverse history of the many peoples in this world have allowed Jemisin to create a layered, intricate world, with unique and vivid customs ("triples" are slyly mentioned instead of couples, the Maroneh people "name their daughters for sorrow and their sons for rage"). Originality and innovative are the key words I would use to describe this book, series and author.
Just like the first one, there was no over-reliance on the magic of the world to move the plot forward or to solve all the problems faced. The magic, though different types are introduced than the magic described in Yeine's story, is more of an accent to the story than the main point. In addition to Oree's "Sight", there is mention of "bone-bending" and "shadow-sending", among the displays of magic that other characters possess. The many and varying types of magic within this story are intriguing and creative, showcasing Jemisin's unique type of fantasy.
High marks across the board. A few things might need to tweaked, but Jemisin has clearly grown as an author. The Broken Kingdoms continues the tradition proved in book one: these are excellent, entertaining and fresh fantasy novels from a vividly imaginative creator.(less)
Lively and absorbing, brimming with imagination and an utterly engaging plot. Suspense, sheer curiosity, genuine creepiness, unsettling creatures, alo...moreLively and absorbing, brimming with imagination and an utterly engaging plot. Suspense, sheer curiosity, genuine creepiness, unsettling creatures, along with unseen twists and turns make this a hard-to-put-down book. One of the best young-adult fantasy books I have ever read; better, even, than its predecessor Sabriel. I preferred Lirael as a protagonist compared to Sameth AND to Sabriel from the first book. Both Lirael and Sabriel were orphaned without really having known parents, have help from magical creatures that mix Charter and Free Magic and both are very magically talented themselves. However, Sabriel always felt slightly removed and distant, hardly showing emotions, a very self-contained character that was hard for me to connect with; Lirael, in the beginning seems like an improved Sabriel with more personality and personal problems. Like Sabriel, Lirael is a strong, determined, inquisitive female character; one that pushes herself ever further to learn magic, to explore and grow. She is a very engaging and sympathetic main character. The time the book spends with Lirael in the Library is the best, most compelling part of the novel. Sameth felt a bit two-dimensional as the token Prince with magical ability. His interactions with Lirael were lively and fun to read. He seems slightly unreliable and constantly teetering from scared to terrified. He is realistic and believable, just really annoying as well. It was nice to see the girl being the brave, resourceful hero instead of the typical prince. The magic system that depends on the bandolier that was introduced in the first book is, once again, an important part of the story, however, much more insight is given in regard to the gifts of the Clayr than the passing mentions from book one. Though Sight is a common magical element in many fantasy stories and novels, Nix's is unique with the formation of the Nine Day Watch and how the female-dominated Clayr view their precognitions. The ending is abrupt. It slightly weakens the narrative, and makes Lirael more of a bridge between the first and last than an independent book. Read this series. More of my reviews here: http://bibliophileanonymous.blogspot....(less)
Fast-paced and a wild ride all the way until the very end, Abhorsen was a brilliant, satisfying and ultimately very enjoyable and fulfilling end to a...moreFast-paced and a wild ride all the way until the very end, Abhorsen was a brilliant, satisfying and ultimately very enjoyable and fulfilling end to a riveting and vivid series. The narrative seems a bit more rushed than previous books, but there is a lot going on in the last sequel. Multiple POVs, crises on both sides of the Wall, a new Abhorsen-in-Waiting, the mystery of Mogget and the Disreputable Dog, Lirael's heritage, etc. Nix manages to wrap up his story lines and characters with grace and aplomb. The final revelation about Mogget and the Disreputable Dog, as well as clearing up a lot of mystery over Free Magic versus Charter Magic, was clever and unique; I genuinely did not see that twist coming, though it was ingenious. One of the best parts of all these books is that they are not predictable or cliched fantasy tropes. Originality, creativeness and genuine creepiness are what defines this series as a whole. Sam has improved drastically as a character since finding out he is not the real Abhorsen-in-Waiting. Much less whiny and craven, Sam exhibits courage and fortitude I would have assumed beyond him based on the events of Lirael. I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed him much more than I otherwise would have. Lirael retained all of the things I liked about her from the previous novel, and also grew while facing Hedge and Orannis and became a very strong, likeable female protagonist. The Dog and Mogget, like before, bring both comedy and uncertainty with them as they appear through the story. This is a marvelous adventure. A great series with strong characters, a compelling plot and unique magic and creatures. Brilliant in all senses of the word. It is superb; it deserves to be read. More of my reviews here: http://bibliophileanonymous.blogspot....(less)
It's a rather large understatement to say I had high expectations for Daughter of Smoke and Bone. It was - and still is - pretty ubiquitous and lauded everywhere you find it mentioned. I was so keen on reading this novel I preordered it. I rarely preorder anything; bookbuying before seeing/touching the actual novel is one of the few area I can exercise some patience in. For example, the last book I preordered was George R. R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons after nearly six years of anticipation. But, lo and behold, even before the promised release date of September 27, a beautiful copy of Daughter of Smoke and Bone appeared on my doorstep. I devoured it in two days, only stopping because of a headache so bad I literally couldn't see straight. Laini Taylor's amazing novel more than met my high hopes: she exceeded them in every way. It's a novel that delights and entertains, neither stinting on the drama and humor nor on acutely attractive brooding male characters.
It's hard to review something you love - I've had trouble reviewing this as well as The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman and Kate Morton's epic The Distant Hours. I sat on this particular review for over a week trying to analyze how I felt about it and how to express my opinions other than just fangirl squeeling ("Oh my god, I wish I was Karou. Oh, My. GOD. Akiva.<33," etc). When you love a book, it's personal in a way few things are: you want everyone else to love it unconditionally, too, and hiss at any detractors. While Daughter is not the end-all be-all my review might sound like, it is one of my top favorite reads of the year/all-time. From the tagline "Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well," alone I knew I was in for an epic star-crossed love affair and had faith that Laini Taylor would handle it with aplomb and not melodrama. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a fresh read with unique elements, and note as well this is a young-adult novel that is certainly not just for young-adults.
Daughter is not a paranormal romance. Daughter is not an urban fantasy. Daughter is not a fantasy. Daughter is not a coming-of-age young adult novel with significant supernatural elements. Or rather - it is not just one of those genres individually. It is a marvelous and utterly unique mix of all four. It's the story of Karou, a blue haired, tattooed, lonely artist in Prague. A girl that "moved like a poem and smiled like a sphinx," and an utterly striking protagonist. Though clearly 'special' Karou is a magnetic character and one I like immediately without reserve. She's funny, human in the most defining sense of the word and not above a little petty revenge against those who need it. Surrounded by a cheeky best friend, the "master of the eyebrow arch" Zuzanna and her strange (more on that later) family, Karou manages to come across as a lonely and very alone young woman trying to balance a hidden demanding supernatural life with human problems like exyboyfriends, though without straying into self-pity. As the mysteries pile up around the young artist, I felt questions piling up in my head, wondering if the author would pull of answering all of them to my satisfaction: who is Karou? What is Karou? Where did she come from, and where/who are her parents? And like most reviews note: what exactly is up with the creepyass teeth?! While I thought the mystery went on too long at the time, the pacing and reveal feel absolutely perfect when they are - finally - uncovered. I should never have doubted.
The secondary characters are also mysterious, powerful... and above all, different. Hinted at in the tagline, Karou's adopted family is firmly in the "devil" camp - though the correct name is chimaera and one and all, from the snakelike Issa to the giraffe-necked Twiga, are never anything less than kind to the bluehaired waif they raised. I enjoyed the "humanness" Laini Taylor brought for her monsters. No side is black and white in this eternal way between angels and devils, and I thoroughly appreciate the 'human' monsters/crazed angels over a more black/white/ absolute scenario. Karou runs messages for Brimstone, a mysterious chimaera collector of teeth and granter of wishes - which allows her to eventually run into the angel foretold: the sexy and dangerous Akiva. A beautiful and forbidding seraphim sworn to fight the chimaera, Akiva sells his brooding mysteriousness and past pain without overplaying it. It took me a while to buy into more than his obvious superficial appeal, but the haunting backstory added a layer of depth to his personality. His looong life is a nice foil for Karou's shorter mostly conflict free existence of whim.Their chemistry is palpable and sizzling: one of the more exciting YA romances I can think of, honestly. (Wow, this is still waaaay fangirlly. It's just that good.)
More love: Laini's writing. Not only is it lyrical and poetic, but she manages to personalize everyone and everything - often with a dab hand at humor or image. Like Zuzanna'a master eyebrow mastery perfectly creates a sardonic, but caring face. Zuzana bursts with flair and personality: all the fun isn't reserved for lead role Karou. And the sparkle is not just reserved for the people: the setting benefits from the author's talent as well. Prague. Oh my godPrague. Between this and Wasserman's addicting The Book of Blood and Shadow I'd say this has rocketed to the top of my "Cities I MUST Visit in Europe" list. From poetic and vibrant passages like this,
"The streets of Prague were a fantasia scarcely touched by the twenty-first century - or the twentieth or nineteenth, for that matter. It was a city of alchemists and dreams, its medieval cobbles once trod by golems, mystics, invading armies."
to the day-to-day life of Karou, I was struck again and again by Ms. Taylor's narrative, consistently in love with the vibrant prose and the very-much-alive city it gave birth to. I loved the beautiful, not purple, prose, which consistently evoked colorful imagery of the setting, the characters, and the amazing world (in, within, around Prague) that wordsmith Laini Taylor has crafted. In a vibrant city of such history - and supernatural myths too of foundation by a witch - Laini Taylor breathes fresh life into old themes of forbidden love, fallen angels, and even the battle between good/evil/Heaven/Hell.
My few, teensy complaints: the "big reveal" to Zuzanna wasn't. It was offscreen and almost hastily brushed aside with a demonstration - and I wished for more time with the diminutive Czech scenestealer. I also felt that Karou and Akiva had a teensy bit of an instalove situation a la Twilight, but that fear was happily quashed. SPOILER AHEAD, please do not read if you've yet to get your hands on a copy. Seriously it's the next sentence. I also worry that the Karou I liked so much, identified with so closely - might "disappear" due tothe big twist/revelation near the end. I worry that the essential "Karouness" will be lost and I'll feel different about her in the second book. I hope not and have almost every faith Laini Taylor will not steer me wrong.
The story is striking and imaginative and unforgettable. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a genre-blending exercise of win, unlike anything I have read. It's a new, charismatic spin on the angel/devil/seraphim/nephilim/chimaera theme, populated with real characters with actual personalities - relayed by dialogue and deed rather than an infodump. I loved the nicely tuned balance of action and wit, drama with imagination and wordbuilding on a grand-scale. When's book two out? I cannot and hope not to wait long for another installment in this spellbinding world.(less)
This uniquely imaginative and intelligent novel was a terrifically melded blend of mystery, science fic...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
This uniquely imaginative and intelligent novel was a terrifically melded blend of mystery, science fiction, fantasy and young-adult genres. Told through the eyes and life of Alison Jeffries, a seventeen year old girl, Alison is both a very unreliable narrator and a hugely sympathetic character. R.J. Anderson truly achieved the voice, and attitude of a sullen, hurting young woman. Alison is a living, breathing, three-dimensional character filled with flaws, virtues and humanity. As Alison, the narrative is filled with passion and viable emotions and thoughts. Her wry (and often self-deprecating) humor were dead on the mark for a teenager who has been taught to be ashamed of all she is and can do.
This is a novel that was crafted with delicacy and much planning. It is laden with clues, subtle hints, and hidden meanings deep in the imagery-heavy, sensory-rich prose. I do not feel that revealing Alison has synesthesia as a spoiler -- it's out mentioned in the in the ads. Words, numbers, sounds all have personalities, colors, smells thanks to her possessing five different kinds of the phenomenon. Alison, while driving in a car states, "[...]I wanted to hear the landscape, taste its contours, and smell its hues," as only she can. Her amazingly vivid condition fits the lush style of the writing well: it's as close as the reader will ever get to experience life the way Alison does. I was so interested in this very real condition that I researched it online and I am beyond impressed with the depth of research and history Anderson went to in order for this story to work on the levels it does.
I enjoyed the fresh scenery: I've not read any hardly any novels set in Canada and the change of scene was a nice harbinger of the individuality to follow. The atmosphere of the story was completely enveloping. Even necessary the parts of the novel (for example Part One was The Scent of Yesterday, chapters are titled Zero(Is Translucent), One (Is Gray), Ten (Is Vulernable), etc.) are subtle reminders that hearken back to the most fascinating aspect of the novel: Alison's abilities. The first part of the novel focuses much more on the mystery aspect of Alison's story: what exactly did happen to Tori, and was Alison in any way responsible for Tori's death/disappearance. Part one was intense and impossible to extract myself from as the pieces were slowly revealed. The more Alison pulls herself and her memory together, details about the mysterious event are doled out like nuggets of gold. The true events of the mystery are parceled out so stingily, for the first hundred pages I genuinely could not decide if I believed Alison was sane or not. Now that's an unreliable narrator: one who does not even trust herself or her recollections. Part two (Present Sense) suffers just a bit from a rushed, slightly uneven tempo, but happily the problem was short-lived: part three (Touching Tomorrow) managed to be well-rounded, nicely executed and soulful conclusion to a delightfully surprising novel. The ending is more bitter than sweet, but is entirely appropriate and fitting for Alison's journey. There are a few opportunities and plot-lines left open for exploration in a possible sequel, one I can only hope is written soon.
his is definitely more of a plot-driven novel. The rush to figure out what happened to Alison, to Tori, to be placed under her own cognizance, moves the characters more than romance or friendship. There was a deft touch with the tension in the novel: it builds slowly, marginally and then ratchets up to 11 in the final scenes. I hardly minded the plot-focus because I was entirely caught up in the uniquely creative language and prose. Descriptions like "his hair was the color of a thunderstorm reflected in a mud puddle" will win me over any day of the week., especially if interpersonal interaction is not a strong point of the author's. And, to be honest, some of the love/emotional scenes were a bit too saccharinely sweet for my taste. However, I do love creative, innovative writers than can make their words and ideas pop: R.J. Anderson is definitely one such author.
This is a novel that more than lives up to its advertising byline: Everything You Know Is Wrong. But you'll only know why if you read this novel. Its unique premise, gorgeous prose, full of quotes to love, and more than helluva twist more than recommend it.
"I heard the universe as an oratorio sung by a master choir accompanied by the orchestra of the planets and the percussion of satellites and moons. The aria they performed was a song to break the heart, full of tragic dissonance and deferred hope, and yet somewhere beneath it all was a piercing refrain of glory, glory, glory. And I sensed that not only the grand movements of the cosmos, but everything that had happened in my life, was a part of that song. Even the hurts that seemed most senseless, the mistakes I would have done anything to erase--nothing could make those things good, but good could still come out of them all the same, and in the end the oratorio would be no less beautiful for it."
"[...] I scrambled for the words to explain to him the contract between reader and writer, the dangers of narrative greed. The sacrilege of just blurting out what had taken chapters to build, secrets hidden carefully by the author behind countless sleights of hand."
I didn't just read Aussie author Cath Crowley's novel - I inhaled it. I read the entire two hundred six...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
I didn't just read Aussie author Cath Crowley's novel - I inhaled it. I read the entire two hundred sixty seven page novel in just under a three hour period; I couldn't put it down to eat, play with the dogs or even move from my desk to the reading chair. It's gripping, consuming and alive in a way very few stories are - and more should be. I want to pull huge sections from the narrative to quote - my whole review would be quotes if I were clever enough. This is, simply put, a beautiful book - beautifully written, carried, developed and ended. Graffiti Moon is a young-adult novel that transcends the genre of its origin; all ages of readers who appreciate a deftly woven, compelling read would treasure this book. It's brilliantly descriptive and full of evocative and moving imagery. This book moved me.
The story begins and ends with Lucy, a teenage girl who just wants to find something real; a boy that she can understand, one that likes what moves her in her core: art. Out of a graffiti artist known only as 'Shadow', Lucy creates her dream guy - one that is perfect for her and utterly unlike the fellow from the one date she's ever had ("I spent the weekend after our date wishing I could stab him with my Fluffy Duck pen and staring at the phone hoping he'd call. Dating is a very tricky business.") Lucy is distinctive and an incredibly relatable character; almost every part of her narrative sent a wave of remembrance or nostalgia for my own teenage years into my head. Crowley captures the feel, the urgency and frailty of teens perfectly - Lucy is vibrant, delightfully individualistic (one character asks her, "Are you doing that thing where you stare at the stars until your problems seem insignificant?"), but also vulnerable. Also, she is hilarious and just different ("'I sit down next to him and concentrate really hard. 'What are you doing?' he says. 'Trying to bend the laws of time so I can get here five minutes earlier.'") See - told you I want to quote the whole book at you. Every line is perfect, every chapter moves at just the right pace, every character nuanced and interesting.
Ed, both the unbeknownst-to-Lucy Shadow and the one she would desire to stab with a pen for the bad date, was my absolute favorite character. I loved Lucy, but Ed came alive for me as a reader. He's the secretly creative, artsy guy, hiding behind the stereotypical 'tough guy/hard case', when he's truly something much more. Being a typical teenage girl, Lucy does not see the wonderful, deep man in front of her, only seeing the hard edges and the wall around his heart. The only way Ed can express himself is through his painting ("See this, see this, see this. See me emptied onto a wall."), and boy does he. The descriptions of Ed's art were animated and alive. It's almost a compulsion Ed cannot stop; after losing Lucy, his father-figure Bert, and his mom-supporting job, Ed has only painting as an outlet for his pain. He sees himself as a "painted ghost trapped in a jar," one of the more revealing self-portraits Ed paints. Ed's quiet but intensely personal heartbreak and desperation are in sharp contrast to Lucy's more stable life, though her need to belong draws her to Shadow.
The two main background characters, that of Lucy's best friend Jazz and Ed's cohort in crime/best friend Leo were also pleasant, if not as fully developed. Jazz was a splash of whimsy and crazy, and Leo was a more romantic exploration of the same problems as Ed. I appreciated the functional, healthy friendship depicted between the two girls (and another, Daisy). I grow very tired of the catty teen girl in fiction, and this kind of believable and genuine bond is a nice change of pace. As for Ed's best friend/occasional roommate Leo, I liked him well enough, but I must admit his (admittedly rare) poem POV's were the weakest parts of the novel. I had a favorite poem of "Poet"'s (Here, p. 242) but on the whole, I wished the POV had been limited to just Ed and Lucy. The "villain" of the novel is much reduced and serves as a mere plot point for the real story: that of looking beyond the exterior and seeing the beauty within. Since the novel takes place over a single night, the book moves at a brisk pace, but one that is extremely easy to fall into.
The final chapter is moving and beautiful - happily, without veering into saccharine territory or overt teenage melodrama. It's hopeful, without being absolutely definite and final. Lucy and Ed will go on - maybe with each other, maybe not, but hopefully together. While the pairing off of three couples might strain my credulity, one minor gripe against the face of all the awesome --- this is a book not to be missed. Major kudos from me to Ms. Crowley - this is something special, this is a novel I'm going to love forever. I received the NetGalley eBook, but when this is republished in February I will be buying my own copy to treasure and love.(less)
More than warrants all the hype. I LOVED this; easily in my top ten books for the year. Full review if when I can consolidate my thoughts about all th...moreMore than warrants all the hype. I LOVED this; easily in my top ten books for the year. Full review if when I can consolidate my thoughts about all the awesome.(less)
I loved this. I need want a sequel(s?) now. Just amazing. Seraphina is a delightful mix of awesome and charm, wrapped in win. I will be buying my own...moreI loved this. I need want a sequel(s?) now. Just amazing. Seraphina is a delightful mix of awesome and charm, wrapped in win. I will be buying my own copy as soon as this is published.
Actual review, with real thoughts to follow.(less)