(Even watching that trailer now, after the fact, I am excited and impressed. And then I remember. And then woe.)
The book sadly doesn't live up to the awesomeness that advertised it. I'm not even a fan of book trailers, but the promotion department for this book deserves a big raise. The editing department might not. But, if you're just now hearing about this YA/MG fantasy about fairytales and witches and princesses, this might end up being the book for you. It's a tad long, a tad overwrought, but it's got a lot of heart and, at times, can be very entertaining. Soman Chainani creates a vibrant world with two interesting and diverse leads, and I can say they paths and plots he takes them through isn't predictable, though it can be a tad pedantic at times. The comparisons to Gregpry Maguire's work is apt and appropriate and I can see his fans enjoying this less adult look at magical children.
The School for Good and Evil reminded me of a younger Harry Potter at times. There's the obvious: magical children spirited away for their edification (for either good or ill), there's the obvious good guys, the obvious bad guys, magical beings like werewolves, fairies, and a multi-headed dog inside a mysterious, hidden castle(s). There are pranks, a ball, a love story that is not what you expect, and in the end, a grand battle for the school itself. That all sounds well and good and like fun, and it can be. The main problem is that The School for Good and Evil takes too long to get anywhere. It becomes too predictable to shock readers and the final conflict... well, veered on deus ex machina. That's never a good way to resolve a story readers have spent so much time investing in.
This is a looooong book for almost any genre (I'm looking at you, Epic Fantasy), but for a very young YA/verging on MG fairytale, 496 pages is just much too much. The pacing lags, events feel drawn out or stretched beyond feasibility, and the plot takes too much time to really form. There's a lack of tension and suspense before key events because the author takes too long to develop any sort of meaningful conflict. Outside of plotting and pacing, Chainani is an obviously talented, very visual, writer. Scenes pop and creatures both big and small, humor or non, all burst from the page. The School for Good and Evil can project an image, but fails to deliver real substance to go with how pretty/evil everything is on the surface.
The main characters are adaptable, and pretty well-rounded. There's more to both Sophie and Agatha than what meets the eye, and the author's switcheroo can be pretty clever. However, like most things in this novel, the realizations that come to both girls about their roles in future fairy tales takes far too long to foment into something meaningful. I could have done without the romances that pop up and complicate the girls' relationship and the plot, but Prince Charmings (and Not So Charmings) are to be expected in a novel so concerned with fairytales. The characters are another strong aspect of the novel, and I'm curious to see what will happen after the final events of book one.
The School for Good and Evil isn't a bad book by any means. It's just not as good as you, or I, or that book trailer want it to be. Those looking for a saccharine-ly sweet Disney tale should look elsewhere, and readers in search of a vibrant setting with complex and contradictory characters will find The School for Good and Evil a good fit, if not a particularly memorable one. There's some room for improvement, and editing, but Soman Chainani has a satisfactory beginning to his new series.(less)
The Fairest of Them All is a fairytale retelling that combines two well-known and often-told stories - that of Rapunzel and that of Snow White - and asks, "what if Rapunzel was Snow White's Evil Stepmother?" It's an intriguing idea and one that lends originality to such famous stories, but one that sadly lacks subtlety and pathos. Carolyn Turgeon does an able job of melding the two separate stories into one cohesive plot, but her characters lack agency and can come off as rather bland.
The premise is obviously one of the strongest aspects to the story of The Fairest of Them All. We've all seen the Disney and/or Pixar movies, we've read the Grimm versions, so a new idea on both Rapunzel and Snow White (don't even mention that Kristen Stewart failure) feels like a breath of fresh air for retellings. The way that Turgeon introduces both stories, both apart and together, feels organic. It's not hard to believe that these two women came to be directly involved with each other's lives. The story is told in pretty straightforward and nondescript prose, but the author isn't afraid to whip out some pretty big gamechangers before it's all said and done.
My main problem lies with characterization. Rapunzel was the best character -- she's desperately flawed, but she's more interesting and compelling for it. Both Josef, her King, and Snow White, his daughter by his first Queen, come off as blandly beautiful. The King is shown to be somewhat imperfect - his philandering, lack of attention for Rapunzel once he has her - but he has such little presence it makes almost no difference. Snow White is where I really struggled. She's too perfect here, as she is in almost every representation you find of her tale. I had hoped that The Fairest of Them All would do for her what it did to her counterpart - Rapunzel is unlike any other version before. But this Snow White is ripped right from Disney: she's beautiful and perfect and thus inspires jealousy easily. I was disappointed with her one-note personality, and never really grew to care about her the way I did for her "evil" Stepmother. (Yes, Rapunzel does horrible things. But she grows and learns and evolves before/after.)
Despite Snow White's perfection, Turgeon isn't afraid to go to dark places with her story. It's more along the lines of the Brothers Grimm than old Walt. Murder, enviousness, jealousy, betrayal, revenge, rape and more are all part and parcel to the plot. The author deviates from the norm several times - the apple appears but functions in a new way, the seven dwarfs are a group of bandits, Rapunzel's hair has powers besides being able to bear weight - and it works for the story. The infusions of originality keep these old stories feeling fresh and unique, rather than a retread of what has been done before.
The Fairest of Them All is an involving, interesting read. It has a few faults with characters, but overall, makes for an entertaining new take on some of the world's most popular fairytales. It's dark, it's full of surprise(view spoiler)[incest! (hide spoiler)] that will keep readers guessing. All in all, this was a promising introduction to this author and I would definitely read more from her. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Cheeky, clever, and just as charming as the first one. Author Shawn Thomas Odyssey certainly has a knack for crafting fun mysteries with great charact...moreCheeky, clever, and just as charming as the first one. Author Shawn Thomas Odyssey certainly has a knack for crafting fun mysteries with great characters, as he has ably shown over the course of both the Oona Crate/Wizard of Dark Street books. (less)
This is a review for the third and final novel in the series about Twelve Dancing Princesses, but what...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
This is a review for the third and final novel in the series about Twelve Dancing Princesses, but what I say here about Princess of the Silver Woods holds true for all of the books. I so wanted to love these - I had heard great things and excitedly requested this as an ARC, even without reading the first two. Sadly, I was confused, bored, uninvolved from the very start, so I DNF'd 50 pages in. A week or so later, the first two went on sale for ebooks for less than $2 each. I thought I would give it another try - this time with the benefit of reading the series in order. I read the first two... and it wasn't pretty. They aren't the worst books I've ever read, but I am hard-pressed to remember a series as lackluster and unengaging as this was for me.
Each novel tackles a different fairytale, and occasionally Day George would create a new twist or idea that worked well for her books. I liked the spin on Red Riding Hood meets Robin Hood, but it's hard to recall a lot about these novels. What didn't work well, ever, were her characters. Galen, Rose, Poppy, Christian, and here in book three, Petunia and Oliver all come across as wooden and flat for the duration. Their actions are contrived, their dialogue laughable or vague, their magic and abilities too convenient or too unexplained.I wanted to like them, but their trials, tribulations and eventual coupledom were all too expected and very predictable.
Also working against the books is the worldbuilding. Or rather, the lack of any substantial effort to create a real, vibrant setting for these characters to operate upon. The thinly veiled countries that represent a more magical Europe (Breton = Britain, Spania = Spain, Russaka = Russia, so on and so forth) left a lot to be desired in terms of backdrop. It's all too simple and easy across the board - the relationships, the magic, the world itself. I wanted more from Jessica Day George, and what is provided leaves a lot to be desired.At several points in each novel, I would think that these books and characters came across as much more MG than YA in tone and characterization.
This series is too simple and predictable to be memorable. I read all three in a four day span, and I doubt I will remember anything about any of them in a week's time. All in all: third verse, same as the first. Too simple, too easy, too predictable, too short to pack a punch. The magic is too vague, or too silly (the whole knitting aspect just makes me laugh, every time), and once again, none of the characters really stood out as remarkable, or even really three-dimensional. This series is just not for me, though I can see why others are drawn to it and enjoy it. (less)
Well, that's one way to end a book. I may go insane waiting for the third novel, but sure, we can go with that Julie Kagawa. no I am lying tell me wha...moreWell, that's one way to end a book. I may go insane waiting for the third novel, but sure, we can go with that Julie Kagawa. no I am lying tell me what happens because holy shit cliffhanger.(less)
#1. Do you like strong, flawed and inherent compelling female narrators?
#2. Do you enjoy reading new twists and interpretations of old fairytales?
#3. Does historical fiction with excellent place-as-character (for both Versailles and Venice) appeal to your reading tastes?
#4. Do you like a little magic subtly interwoven into your historical fiction?
#5. Have you read and enjoyed similar books like Kill Me Softly, Strands of Bronze and Gold, or The Brides of Rollrock Island?
#6. Are you attracted to novels with romance, but ones that don't focus solely on the love connections of the main characters?
#7. Are you constantly looking for a novel with length that will keep you engaged and curious from start to end?
#8. Has it been a while since you've had the chance to read a fresh and original story?
If you answered yes to the above questions - and really, I can't imagine why you would say no - then Bitter Greens is a book for you. An interesting and unique mashup of fairytale lore, court politics, and thwarted love, this captivating and darkly fascinating look at three intriguing and multi-faceted women is unlike any other book I've come across. I put it down when I reluctantly finished, and I immediately wanted to start it all over again; to spend more time in this world, and with these distinctive characters. This is an author with talent, and one that can clearly and easily spin an engrossing and compulsively readable story. This is my first Kate Forsyth novel, but you can bet it will not be my last.
Without hesitation, Kate Forsyth's newest novel is my favorite novel of 2013. It may be only March, but with 60 books under my belt, this was far and away the standout of the group. It's beautiful, sad, creative and compelling. Bitter Greens is so much more than just a simple, historical fiction retelling of Rapunzel's well-known and often-told fairytale. It's a story about love and power, about destiny and desire, and about what lengths a woman will go to to fight for her love, and to find her freedom. With her three capable main narrators, either in first person or third, Kate Forsyth brings this novel, these characters and the various locations to life. A vibrant read on all counts, Bitter Greens is sprawling, ambitious and impressive. It more than succeeds where it tries for something different and manages to breathe some fresh air into historical fiction.
All three women the novel focuses on in turn have passion, determination, and talent. Their lives are complex, and their characterization three-dimensional - not even neglecting the villain/anti-hero of the piece. Though their lives span different eras and troubles, there are parallels between the stories of all three. Each want something they cannot have; one thirsts for perfection and power, one for love and an independent life, and one for family and freedom. But despite their various wishes, each story meshes well with her compatriots. For each, life is full of unexpected twists and surprises - and those, usually out of their control. One is doomed by the choices of her parents; another by the capriciousness of a spoiled King; and another by the harsh retribution of a vicious nobleman. In each disparate arc, the loves and lives desired by Charlotte/Margherita/Selena are lost in favor of power, revenge, or dark magic. I couldn't pick a favorite from the three of them - all of them are compelling and interesting, and all of their stories demand attention.
The court of Versailles and the water-world of Venice are the most described locations (the homes of Charlotte and Margherita respectively), and they are exquisitely well-rendered. Set in the time of Louis XIV, the Sun King, for Charlotte's tale, Versailles, and occasionally Paris, create the perfect backdrops for her story of religious, romantic and independence struggles. Romantic, oppressive, and opulent, Charlotte's frustrated endeavors to control her own life in the time of a divine despot provide a nice dichotomy to the supreme will Louis exerted over his people, and his court in particular. Venice is another supremely romantic city, and one that lends itself well to the beautiful but deceptive stories of the other two characters. There is more than meets the eye to the tales of these characters, as the settings chosen more than illustrate.
Clocking in at a respectable five hundred pages, Bitter Greens has some heft to it. Thankfully, Forsyth has the capability to keep interest high and the pace moving along. I was never bored, and I never wanted to put the novel down once I had cracked the cover. This is a book I finished in one day, though I kept trying to extend the time I spent with it. I would put it down, only to mull over the plotlines in my head until I had to pick it back up again to see where Kate Forsyth was going to take her characters. There were a couple twists that came into play later in the story, and though I called one, the other was a genuine and believable surprise.
Sadly, this seems to be a rather hard novel to get a hold of. So far, I've only found available copies for sale on FishPond - no listings on Barnes and Noble or Amazon. However, if there was a book worth that steep $30 price, this is it. If more copies become available, I plan to do a giveaway. But you can rest assured my own copy is never leaving my house. I'll need it for the several rereads I plan to do in the near future.(less)
This is the second novel in Duvall's creative series centered around Chalice, a member of an order of knights (The Hatchet Knights) who have been around since the Crusades and mate with the Arelim, the lowest form of angel, to propagate their order. The same original and quirky ideas for magic present in the first are contained here in second, but I have to say that overall, Ms. Duvall definitely got off on a better foot with this second effort in her UF/PNR offering. While the plot I thought would be the center of Darkest Knight (restoring Aydin back to humanity from his cursed gargoyle form) wasn't at all what this novel was about, I wasn't disappointed. The antagonist created for the events of book two neatly tied in with the mythology and lore of the first and was on the same malevolence level as the previous antagonist, the evil sorcerer-kidnapper Gavin. And while I wasn't as surprised as I could've been at the "reveal" of the Big Bad of the book and the heart of the murders/mystery, I thought it left an interesting possibility for the plot of the sure-to-follow third installment.
I felt tepid and 'mehhh' about the first (Knight's Curse) when I read it last year and a large amount of my dissatisfaction had to do with and centered around the main character Chalice. I liked it well enough, was certainly entertained by it but the knight had a way of frustrating very simple situations, either by not listening or assuming she knew all the answers. Chalice in book two is a bit more aware, a bit more intelligent and a whole lot easier for me to like. I despise when heroines are convinced they shouldn't let allies into their plans because only they can do it, only they know the risk, etc and so on! And while Chalice was like that in the first, I found that her uneasy relationship with guardian-angel Rafe brought out a more mature side to her. While I still didn't wholly invest in Chalice or closely identify with her, I do like several aspects of her personality: her independence, her openness to magic finally, her fighting abilities; I love a heroine that can fight well and Chalice is one those few. Her martial skills complement her prickly personality quite well. One of the few major issues I had with Chalice here in this was her "instructing" the new squires of her order when Chalice has been a knight for less than three months, known of the order for only that long, has never had any formal training herself and there are older, more indoctrinated knights able to do the job....so why pick the newbie who is clueless to teach new members?
What also improved my experience the second time around is the romance of the novel. Or, to be perfectly clear, the lack of stressing the romance and love between Aydin and Chalice. I didn't buy their almost insta-love connection from book one and since they're separated more often in Darkest Knight, I actually got to see them on their own for extended periods of time. They both actually have to work for the relationship (and get over their dumb decisions, like Aydin's particularly stupid rejection in the beginning), and work together to fix Aydin's curse. It brought out another dynamic to their relationship and also helped to flesh out Aydin a bit more independently. I truly like that both people fight and struggle for the other: Aydin wants Chalice just as much as she wants him. Another bonus originality point for this series? Aydin is the swoon-worthy love interest and he is not a typical WASP. Diversity brings a lot to the table and for Aydin especially, it sets him apart from the thousands of UF/PNY love-interests out there. The whole 'gargoyle' thing doesn't hurt, either.
Back to the mythology of Darkest Knight: the world Duvall has created for her novels is a potent one. There are charms, magic, sorcerers, gargoyles, curses, guardian angels and Fallen angels - all with their own conduct, rules and uses. While the lore behind the angels can be confusing sometimes, it is unique and presents an interesting structure for the Hatchet Knights to find mates within. While the charms didn't impress me as much as the creativity shown in the first seems to have waned a tad (except for a pen with ink that makes the writer invisible - not the words being written. That's creative.) with a few exceptions: the "soul-stain" (which reminded me of Lord Denbury's condition in Darker Still), the non-dead non-living "life" of St. Geraldine, the half-sylph half-necromancer exorcist that I picture as an English man who says things like, "My dear chap, I daresay I couldn't possibly...." I also really liked that that the plot of the second book could be found mentioned/hidden within the first; there are references within Knight's Curse that, in hindsight, seem to set up the stage for book two perfectly.
The abrupt ending seemed slightly rushed to me, but definitely did not pull any punches. Characters die, lose their powers, fight and have an all-might brawl that made this quite hard to put down. This is action-packed and though some of the fights seemed redolent of earlier clashes (Evan and Zee, both specifically seemed to pop up for an altercation one too many times - especially Zee!) the pages turn quickly and Chalice's story is amusing for an hour or two. Though I found the uncovering of the Hatchet murderer to be too drawn out and arduous for how obvious it was (view spoiler)[(C'mon now guys: who has acted weird and sketchy and arrived just before the murders? Who repeatedly lies and sneaks around, getting into forbidden areas and trinkets? Come on now, it shouldn't take 300 pages!) (hide spoiler)]. Darkest Knight is a fun and enjoyable read. The ending leaves several key plotlines open for a continuing third volume and since this is one of the few series where I've liked the second more than the first, I can guarantee I'll be on the lookout for more from Chalice, Aydin, and my favorite: Ruby.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Short but very good. I love the very unique - and deadly - spin on the old tale of Beauty and the Beast. This is quite short, but still manages to be...moreShort but very good. I love the very unique - and deadly - spin on the old tale of Beauty and the Beast. This is quite short, but still manages to be both clever and fun. Best of all? It's online and it's absolutely FREE. Check it out - it's worth the ten minutes of uncomfortable computer reading.(less)
Though the blurb used most for this truly spine-chilling tale is the one above, all the publishers and...moreRead 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.(less)
One of the better novellas I've read set in between books of a series. I liked the closer glimpse into the time between the prologue and chapter one o...moreOne of the better novellas I've read set in between books of a series. I liked the closer glimpse into the time between the prologue and chapter one of Firelight. It just needs more Archer to be perfect. While I quite liked this, I can't rate it higher than a 3.5 out of 5 because it is quite short, if well developed. Longer review to come.(less)
Aaaand another one drowns in the water? one bites the dust. Yet another victim of the dreaded Sequel Sy...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Aaaand another one drowns in the water? one bites the dust. Yet another victim of the dreaded Sequel Syndrome, wherein a follow-up to well-loved first novel can't execute or maintain that level previous level of excellence, Deep Betrayal was a miss for me. My last read for the year of 2012, I was rather disappointed with how this anticipated novel turned out. I was a big fan of the eeeeevil mermaids from Lake Superior in the first book Lies Beneath, but that was far from the case with Deep Betrayal. I gave the first one 4 out of 5 stars; I hesitated to award this one even the grudging 2 I finally went with. I had high hopes and expectations for Anne Greenwood Brown's latest, and they came crashing down by page one hundred.
I can't deny that the same elements from the first are present here in the second: evil mermaids with vengeance, an often creepy and remote love interest, Lily's struggles with her parents. What was new was that it was all missing the spark, the fun that was so evident in the previous book. Yes, Calder's sisters are evil and revenge-driven, but damnit, they were so entertaining in Lies Beneath! I had fun reading about them and their plots and plans for vengeance on the hapless humans. For the majority of my two-day read of this book, I was flat-out bored....which was the least-expected reaction I'd have thought. I honestly could've finished this in one day, but I was put off by a lot of what doesn't happens over the course of the novel, I just had to take several breaks and watch Psych instead.
The murder mystery that is supposedly a big part of the novel's main plot takes a backseat to A LOT of angst. Especially for the begining over the novel: Lily's annoying angst over Calder's 31-day alienation from Lily (I'm sorry... you knew him for all of a month before and now you're miserable without him? Shades of Bella Swan don't look good on anyone trying to create a strong, likeable female protagonist). First-person does her no favors, either; every time she brought up Calder, I wished she was a real girl so I could smack some sense into her. The girl is separated from her family (with her father the target of a murderous plot) and who does she whine and miss? That's right, the murderous merman who lied and manipulated her for half the time she'd known him. I can forgive a lot if I like the characters, and while I admit that Lily wasn't my favorite from Lies Beneath, at least I didn't have to read her inner monologue. I missed Calder's self-deprecation and ambiguity. Lily, for me, is exactly what she reads as: a boy-crazy vapid girl.
Deep Betrayal could be summed up best for as easily as this: Lily whines about Calder. Lily whines about her dad. Someone dies mysteriously. Lily whines about her lack of mermaidness. Boy drama. Lily whines about Calder. Rinse, repeat for 330ish pages and voila! You just saved yourself from an exercise in boredom and frustration. These are, or were, interesting characters. The author just needs to do more with them than romantical bullshit to make this a good book. I can only take so from much love-triangles (it's hinted at enough to frustrate), miscommunications and pure angst.
I did give this book two stars for the only reasons that saved it from being a DNF: I honestly didn't know who the murderer was, and consequently, Brown's talent for writing a good mystery. Brown, technically, is a fairly decent author. It's just her characters and plot that I take major issues with. I was intrigued by the origin story revealed for the mermaid species, but as I feared, it was mostly glossed over to focus on Lily's issues with her maybe-boyfriend and her distant father. I had so much hope for this, but now I doubt I'll be continuing the series at all.
Deep Betrayal just wasn't the book for me. A lot of people, like me, loved the first and hopefully will have the same reaction for the sequel The weakness of the heroine and the insipid nature of her narrative were too hard for me to overcome, but at the heart of the book, I could see why/if others would find more fun in the pages. But for me personally, I have to say boredom is a killer when it comes to reading books, and boy did this one slay me. (less)