I get so excited when my favorite authors break into hardcover. In fact, I'm pleased as punch to shell out the bigger bucks because it means that the...moreI get so excited when my favorite authors break into hardcover. In fact, I'm pleased as punch to shell out the bigger bucks because it means that the awesome I've been basking in for awhile now has finally caught on and is being recognized on a wider scale. So it was, in a word, thrilling to open up the package from Penguin and see the words "#1 New York Times Bestselling Author" atop Patricia Briggs' shiny new hardcover Bone Crossed.
Mercy Thompson starts her fourth adventure staring herself down in the mirror trying to decide where to go from here. The closing events of Iron Kissed left our favorite VW mechanic feeling, at best, very conflicted. She managed to make several key decisions, but can't quite seem to outrun her demons. Of course occupying the place of honor as lone walker, Alpha's declared mate, and vampire public enemy #1 doesn't help. She doesn't have long to fret, though, when an old acquaintance shows up on her doorstep convinced Mercy can banish a ghost for her. Meanwhile, a pair of crossed bones show up on the door of her shop branding her traitor, her place in the pack is still perilously unclear, and her mother drops in unannounced. On the positive side, Stefan plays a much larger role in this one. It was good to have him back after his rather conspicuous, though necessary, absence in Iron Kissed. His friendship with Mercy remains a highlight of the series for me.
If you haven't guessed by now, these books are hands down my favorite urban fantasy series out there. I am ridiculously fond of them. And a big reason why is the nimble way Ms. Briggs walks that infinitesimally fine line between keeping things interesting and staying true to her characters. Beset on all sides by the supernatural, the macabre, and the horrific, her characters continue to feel so real to me. Like I could step into their world and accept it lock, stock, and barrel because Mercy's there in her garage. And what could be more normal than that? Bone Crossed had the same gritty feel that Moon Called had, as well as the dry humor and breathtaking timing of Blood Bound. Being the fourth installment, these characters know each other pretty well by now and so the interpersonal issues swirl around the arc of the mystery, lending it a richness you'll want to sink your teeth into. This series has it all. Good guys worth fighting for. Bad guys worth having nightmares over. And a heroine who can handle them all. More. Please.(less)
Brittany Ellis and Alejandro Fuentes go to Fairfield High on the outskirts of Chicago. And that is the one and only thing they have in common. She is...moreBrittany Ellis and Alejandro Fuentes go to Fairfield High on the outskirts of Chicago. And that is the one and only thing they have in common. She is the captain of the pom squad. He is a member of a local gang. On the whole, they could be categorized as Less Than Thrilled to be made lab partners in chemistry for the entirety of their senior year. What follows is a fair bit of verbal sparring, a healthy dose of teenage angst, and a whole helluva lot of sexual tension. Forced to spend time together outside of school working on their final project, Alex and Brittany discover more about each other than they ever wanted to know. Soon they are forced to decide just what they will do with their newfound knowledge. I, for one, couldn't wait to find out. Okay, so I knew from the moment they met exactly what they would do with it. But, honestly, I was enjoying myself way too much to care. This book was referred to as The Cover in my house. Every time I sat down next to DH to read he'd say, "You still reading the The Cover?" And I'd smile like the cat who ate the canary and say, "Yeah." In my best what's it to ya voice.
So, yeah. This thing is the real deal. It's star crossed lovers against the world. It's passionate pleas and rising music. It's West Side Story sans the whole love at first sight bit. In fact, these two kids despise each other. They're both smart, sexy, and very very troubled. And they have several sizeable barriers to cross before they can even begin to take each other seriously. Is it sappy and predictable and overwrought? Yes. Did I love it? Oh, yeah. Why? Because, quite simply, Simone Elkeles made me believe in these two. I wanted so much for them. And, even though I knew it would, I could not stop reading until I was sure things came out all right for them in the end. Suddenly I was fourteen years old again and falling in love with Romeo Juliet for the first time. There's nothing like that feeling and it was nice to have it back for just a little while.(less)
"Are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme..."
Since reading this book I have not been able to get that song out of my hea...more"Are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme..."
Since reading this book I have not been able to get that song out of my head. It has been, you'll forgive the pun, Impossible. It's all good, of course, because I've always loved the Simon & Garfunkel version, as well as Dylan's quasi-adaptation of the ballad "Girl from the North Country." And it's good because Nancy Werlin does such interesting things developing a novel based on the lyrics. In a few words it is a contemporary suspenseful folk fantasy with some hereditary insanity, a sweet romance, and one extremely dubious (and dangerous) elven knight.
Lucy Scarborough has spent her life with her adoptive parents because her mother, Miranda, is insane. Lucy manages to lead an eminently normal life interspersed with occasional random visits from Miranda, who is never really lucid beyond mumbling strange lyrics to "Scarborough Fair." But when prom night turns disastrous for Lucy it sets into motion an unbelievable chain of events and they all lead back to Miranda and an awful curse the Scarborough women have suffered under for centuries. Soon Lucy is rushing to beat the devil and save herself from insanity and her unborn daughter from sharing her unbearable fate. She is accompanied on this endeavor by her childhood friend Zack and her adoptive parents Leo and Soledad.
Impossible reminded me of an end of high school version of Pamela Dean's Tam Lin. It had that same eerie, lyrical feel to it and I had similar responses to both books. I enjoyed them but felt that the characters remained somehow aloof from the reader to a certain degree, with the result that the stories as a whole felt cold. Part of this removed feeling comes, I think, from the nature of the tales themselves. They center on truly cruel supernatural beings playing wanton games with desperate, usually outnumbered humans. I've loved similar storylines, but if I can't get into the desperate humans and really root for them, it's hard to stay involved. Despite this, I did like the easy friendship Lucy and Zack shared and how their growing feelings for each other both surprised them and made them stronger. And I especially appreciated the emphasis Werlin put on humble human triumph over haughty supernatural manipulation and how true love does not cloud judgement but enables one to see clearly. (less)
First of all. How about those gold lips? Shimmery! The color of those lips does a good job of representing the glittery-but-dangerous magic in this bo...moreFirst of all. How about those gold lips? Shimmery! The color of those lips does a good job of representing the glittery-but-dangerous magic in this book. Just as the pale skin of their owner conveys the tone of the story quite well: pale, cold, and creepy. I'm pretty sure this is my first pixie urban fantasy and I wasn't sure what to expect. What I did not expect was feeling like I was back inside the world of Stephen King's It. But apparently if a book's got Maine, winter, and a town with a curse on it, it will always evoke the same prickly, back-of-the-neck feelings in me. And Need's heroine shares my sentiments.
Zara's stepdad is dead. After watching her waste away day by day, Zara's mother puts her on a plane and sends her to her de facto grandmother--her stepdad's mom Betty. Betty lives in Maine. Maine feels like another world to Zara. A world in which the every surface is blanketed in snow and the local teenagers are all track stars or football talent or some other sort of gifted. These things combined make Carrie real nervous. As a coping mechanism, she recites phobias in the hopes that naming her fear will help her face it. Yeah, she's brave and likeable that way. And she makes a trio of truly cool, hilarious friends. The adorably scattered Issie, the kind and quiet Devyn, and the dark and looming Nick. The three of them begin giving Zara a reason to get up again. There are, of course, some kids who don't like the new girl. And there is, of course, a bit of a love triangle (but not really). And it's all very high school. That is until gold dust starts showing up everywhere and her classmates start turning out to be Not Who She Thought They Were. And it becomes clear that something wicked is definitely this way coming.
Need is a good one to stay up late at night reading. Alone. That way you can take full advantage of the awful not-pretty pixies going to eat you factor. And, really, when was the last time you did that? What I liked about Ms. Jones' writing is the way she created a truly scary world and villain with very little overt description. I have no idea what he looks like. In my head he's this huge dark form without a face and he is the scarier for it. Part of this is accounted for by the fog Zara is in when she first arrives in Maine, and part by the fear that seems to grow no matter how many names she gives it. I liked that she had such good friends and that they were actually a part of the story, not just background music. Once I met Issie and Devyn, I wanted more and more of them. Nick is definitely a good guy and could probably have used a little more conflict for my taste. But I liked him well enough. His hero complex was indeed charming. I would be happy to read more in this world. Recommended for fans of Holly Black.(less)
I'm so glad I finally got around to this one. The laughs were much needed. Of course, there were bouts of tears to go along with those laughs, so it p...moreI'm so glad I finally got around to this one. The laughs were much needed. Of course, there were bouts of tears to go along with those laughs, so it probably evened out in the end. But that is the mark of the best kind of story. It made me feel genuine emotion, and not all one kind, so I feel fulfilled and stretched out, rather than left wondering if I'll ever be able to crawl my way up out of the hole.
Junior's life is unenviable. And that is putting it mildly. He lives on the Indian reservation in Wellpinit, Washington with his parents (part to full time alcoholics), his sister (a depressed basement dweller), and his grandmother (the one functional member of the family). He also has a best friend called Rowdy, a young man whose father beats him and who, in turn, beats up everyone in his path. Except Junior. When we first meet him, Junior is excited to begin his first day of high school. A self-proclaimed nerd of the highest order, Junior eagerly opens his geometry book only to find his mother's name inscribed inside the cover. That's right. This is the same geometry book his mother used when she was a freshman in high school. Junior is filled with such hopeless rage that he chucks the book at his teacher, earning himself a suspension. But after a conversation with his teacher, he sets out on a quest for hope, resolving to transfer to the local white school in Reardan.
I loved this book for so many reasons. I loved it for the humor, dialogue, and artwork. But also for the ache it gave me in the back of my throat when I imagined a life like Junior's. This is my second encounter with Sherman Alexie's work. Awhile back I watched and loved Smoke Signals and that came back to haunt me (in a good way) so many times that I was eager for more. This book is semi-autobiographical and that thought alone kept my emotions very close to the surface throughout the reading. The obvious and favorable comparisons to John Green and Chris Crutcher are certainly valid and definite indicators of whether or not you will like the book. But it's worth mentioning that The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian also reminded me of the tough, direct prose found in My Heartbeat and the throbbing longing of I am the Messenger. If any of this sounds like your cuppa, I'd add this one to your stack posthaste. (less)
Well, everyone's in love with the one person they can't have and no one seems to be able to communicate their woe to anyone who could help. Must be Tu...moreWell, everyone's in love with the one person they can't have and no one seems to be able to communicate their woe to anyone who could help. Must be Tuesday in Luxeland. Rumors is the second volume in the Luxe series and, as the deep red dress and haughty gaze of the cover model suggest, things are just getting worse and worse for our crew of Manhattan debutantes/bachelors/scheming underlings. I checked this copy out from the library and the girl at the checkout desk smiled knowingly and said, "I liked this one." I smiled and said, "I just finished The Luxe." Her grin got bigger. "I liked this one much better," she said. So. There you go. I was beginning to get the impression that lovers of The Luxe fell into two categories: even bigger lovers or big time haters of Rumors. I was interested to see which category I fell into (if any).
So everyone thinks Elizabeth Holland is dead. And pretty soon (oh, let's go ahead and say it) shockingly soon, everyone thinks Henry Schoonmaker should just say enough with the mourning and go ahead and marry Penelope Hayes since it is clear they were Meant To Be. What with the being rich and hot and whatnot. But then Elizabeth Holland is not actually dead, is she? And Henry is not actually in love with Penelope, is he? Meanwhile, Lina is masquerading about as a mining heiress from Utah (LOL), Penelope is advancing on Henry like a post-coital black widow, and the weight of the world rests squarely on Diana's little shoulders as she is the one who is now expected to make a most advantageous marriage to save the family name. Just not the advantageous marriage she'd like to make.
I liked this one. Liked it just as much as the first one, in fact. I continue to enjoy Diana and Henry and what's going on there. I continue to hate Penelope unreservedly and feel almost unbearably embarrassed for Lina around the clock. Although I do wonder about Tristan. As I was never a fan of the whole Elizabeth and Will thing, I was perfectly happy to have them off screen (for the most part). And I have to say, I really liked the ending. I mean it was exactly the awful thing you were expecting down to the last dewy glance. In slow motion. But then the last page was just so awesome and fierce in its way, that I'm really looking forward to reading Envy and consuming another volume of decadent treats on display. (less)
Another Christmas gift, and one I wanted to read very much when it first came out, but shied away from somewhat after reading several reviews comparin...moreAnother Christmas gift, and one I wanted to read very much when it first came out, but shied away from somewhat after reading several reviews comparing it to the Gossip Girl series and stating that the writing left rather a lot to be desired. Oh, I thought sadly. That's too bad. It looked better than that. So I just admired the cover from afar, and that of the sequel Rumors. I probably would have just gone on ignoring the series if my mom hadn't given me a copy of The Luxe. I'm glad she did.
The prologue begins with Elizabeth Holland's funeral. The darling of upper crust Manhattan society, her sudden and inexplicable drowning in the Hudson shocks everyone from her frozen fiance Henry Schoonmaker to her scornful maid Lina Broud. The story then immediately jumps back several weeks to show us how events came to such a strange state. You think Elizabeth is going to be the main character, but she's not. She's not even very likable. Quiet, passive, perfect. Perfectly boring. That's Elizabeth. And that's why her best friend Penelope Hayes hates her. Everyone assumes Henry and Elizabeth would be perfect together, while Penelope is determined to have him for herself. And if you're wondering right now if the whole thing is as Peyton Place as it sounds thus far, the answer is yes. Yes it is. It's a roiling sea of love, despair, social climbing, and backstabbing. In perfectly lovely period costumes. It's hypnotic.
The story spends time going back and forth between five Victorian teens: Elizabeth, Henry, Penelope, Lina, and Diana (Elizabeth's younger, much more likable sister). And for awhile I kept thinking, Why am I reading this? These characters are perfectly awful. But then Diana became cool. Or rather I could tell she was going to become someone who was going to be cool. So I was reading it for Diana. The others I could take or leave. But then Henry started showing some good sense and just the slightest hint of a backbone, despite his apalling sense of entitlement. So I was reading it for Diana and Henry. And the dresses. Oh, the dresses. And because I enjoyed seeing Penelope swallow her own tongue when she finds out a certain couple are engaged. And, in the end, it was like watching a train wreck. A beautiful, awful train wreck. And I couldn't tear my eyes away from it. I had to run to the library to get a copy of Rumors to see What Happens. That review to follow shortly. (less)
I read The Boyfriend List awhile back and enjoyed it but somehow didn't make it on to its sequel, The Boy Book, or any of E. Lockhart's other titles....moreI read The Boyfriend List awhile back and enjoyed it but somehow didn't make it on to its sequel, The Boy Book, or any of E. Lockhart's other titles. Then The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks came out and there was just so much buzz. And then it was named a finalist for the National Book Award. So I figured I'd better pick it up. Fortunately, Santa brought it to my home this year so I was able to jump right in.
Frankie is a sophomore at Alabaster Prep, super exclusive boarding school for the children of the elite. Ever since she was a kid, Frankie had heard her father and his cronies go on about a mysterious secret society known as the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds. Once she starts at Alabaster it becomes clear that the Order is alive and thriving and open only to males. When she suddenly gains a few curves in the right places and a snazzy new boyfriend to go with them, Frankie becomes aware in a way she hadn't been up to this point in her life. And when the darling boyfriend starts evading her all the time, haring off to locales unspecified with other guys she just knows are in the Order, she decides to follow him. What she discovers from following Matthew (and the subsequent actions she puts into motion) change Frankie (and the Order) permanently. For the better? That's up to the reader. I say yes, but the whole thing is still painful to watch.
I am a bit conflicted over this book. For a variety of reasons. I felt like it really wanted to be Secret Society Girl meets Looking for Alaska. Not the best combination, IMO. This wasn't helped by the fact that I kept picturing Alpha (my favorite character) as The Colonel in my head. I usually quite like third person present narration, but in this case it felt slightly contrived, particularly since Frankie never gelled into a tangible character for me. I laughed several times while reading and I liked Frankie but I didn't love her. I liked her for her dogged attempt to wade through the ever shifting waters of a rather assaultive adolescence and an unsympathetically exclusionary pack of boys who told her they liked her but clearly didn't know her at all, nor did they seem to care to. Despite these obstacles, or perhaps because of them, she managed to carve out a place where she could be herself, free from manipulation. I liked her combative and compelling relationship with Alpha. In fact, I wanted more of that and less mooning over lackluster Matthew. But the book ended just when things were getting interesting. I suspect I would really enjoy a sequel.(less)
First published in ebook format by Samhain Publishing, The Trouble with Kings was just recently released in print format. I read and loved Crown Duel...moreFirst published in ebook format by Samhain Publishing, The Trouble with Kings was just recently released in print format. I read and loved Crown Duel several years ago and this one caught my eye because it sounded similar in a delightfully swashbuckling sort of way. This book is also being billed as a fantasy romance--a genre I'm beginning to feel is a bit finicky (for me at least). It seems very difficult to strike just the right chord.
Flian is a princess. Though when we first meet her she does not recall that rather important fact about herself. She does not, in fact, recall anything about herself as she apparently took a fall off a horse, a bump on the head, and lost her memory. She awakes in an old woman's cabin and is soon whisked off to a castle by her "cousin" Garian. Garian seems very keen to let Flian know she was on her way to see him when she took the fall. Oh, and she was also on her way to her marriage to a dour king named Jason who is also in residence at the castle. Despite the fact that she feels nothing for Jason (and is pretty sure Garian is drugging her drinks) Flian goes along with the plan. That is until another overbearing prince crashes through the window on horseback and whisks her off to a cave in the back of beyond. This prince turns out to be Dour King Jason's brother who is very intent on selling his version of events. Naturally. Eventually Flian manages to remember herself and get home. She even has a loving father and pretty awesome brother waiting for her there. Not that she gets to enjoy them long. Dour King Jason swoops in in the middle of a poetry reading and carries her off once more.
Okay. Enough with the plotliness. I had a problem with this book. For one thing, it was very light on the fantasy and even lighter on the romance. I kept waiting for something magical to happen or for there to be some semblance of chemistry between characters (in any sense), but it never came. I really wanted to like it. And parts of it I liked very much. It has a great premise: the amnesiac princess who gets carried off not once but thrice (it's actually even more than that) and has to determine which prince/dour king is lying to her and who to trust, etc. The thing is the abductions got to be too much. And Flian wasn't compelling enough to carry the whole thing off. If she was just so freaking awesome that it was clear why these nutjobs wanted her and you wanted to stick with her and watch her be awesome and figure out which nutjob was actually a cool cat, then that would be one thing. But Flian is just. so. boring. And the princes three? Turns out they're just nutjobs. Pretty creepy ones, in fact. Nothing more. None of the characters get any decent development and when you do find out which one has been telling the truth the whole time (even though he SO has not) he doesn't get any cooler. He's just no longer the one who wants to marry her for her money then kill her. Hardly my idea of The One. Now it did keep me reading all the way through because I kept hoping at some point the story would delve beneath the surface and I'd get to know these perplexing characters in some more profound way. But satisfacton was not in the cards this time. (less)
Two Raine Benares books down and I can say three things: first--I am officially a Lisa Shearin fan, second--I liked Armed & Magical just as much...moreTwo Raine Benares books down and I can say three things: first--I am officially a Lisa Shearin fan, second--I liked Armed & Magical just as much as (if not more than) Magic Lost, Trouble Found, and third--it's going to be a long wait for book #3, The Trouble with Demons, to come out the end of April. Lisa has, however, assured me that my wait will not be in vain, as book #3 will have more than enough sizzle to satisfy any Team Tam girl's needs. To be fair, she said the same will be true for Team Mychael girls, but that's neither here nor there...
Armed & Magical begins immediately after the first book ends. Raine and Co. are on the Island of Mid, restlessly holed up in the finest suite the Conclave and its Guardians have to offer. The paladin has assured Raine that someone within the magical university hierarchy will be able to help rid her of her increasingly uncomfortable link to the Saghred--the ancient, malevolent stone intent on sucking her soul dry. Unfortunately, a notorious elven assassin seems to be targeting the paladin and the archmagus--Raine's two lone friends in this new, hostile environment. After singlehandedly foiling this attempt, Raine joins the hunt to unearth who is paying the assassin and why he seems to be amassing a group of hostage spellsingers. Never more than a step away from death, Raine finds herself embroiled in goblin/elf warfare as well as some nasty political power wrangling at the university. When Tam appears unexpectedly in the middle of a particularly harrowing encounter in a dark alley, their already hazy relationship quickly shifts to an even murkier shade of gray, and Raine struggles to figure out just which shady character is behind which threat and whether or not any of them can be trusted.
One of the best things about these books is the ripping good pace they keep. The first covers only the space of a week, and the second not much more. Yet they are filled to the brim with near constant action, infectious humor, and a wide range of intriguing characters. They are all fun and worth getting attached to, but the best interaction, IMO, is reserved for Raine's encounters with Tam (more than he appears shaman turned nightclub owner love interest) and Piaras (pseudo younger brother more powerful than you spellsinger). I like how saavy Raine is at handling the various male figures in her life. I like how she is exactly who she claims to be (and she never claims to be perfect). And I particularly like how fierce she is when it comes to protecting her family. Here is one of my favorite examples of Raine's lively sense of humor when dealing with said men:
I couldn't keep a little smile off my face. "Most girls get flowers or candy. I get a declaration of martial law."
Well, I can't keep a smile off my face when I read a Lisa Shearin book. So it's a match made in heaven.(less)
This series seems to be most often described as regular fantasy with a decidedly urban fantasy heroine, complete with charming (at times self deprecat...moreThis series seems to be most often described as regular fantasy with a decidedly urban fantasy heroine, complete with charming (at times self deprecating) sense of humor. I would agree with this assessment. Raine's internal dialogue is very much in keeping with urban fantasy trends. She'll be the first one to tell you, she's one part disreputable imp, two parts defender of all that is good. And she can handle anything that comes her way.
And the excellent part is--all kinds of heinousness comes her way and she handles it with aplomb (and the aforementioned sense of humor). Raine Benares is a seeker, finder of lost things and/or people. Raine's family name is a bit on the infamous side and, for the most part, Raine is just fine with that. In the opening scene of the book, she and her rake of a cousin Phaelan find themselves fighting off goblin shamans in an attempt to protect Raine's sometime partner and thief extraordinaire Quentin. Just what Quentin has stolen remains a mystery, but it soon becomes crystal clear every agent of evil in the vicinity would like to get their paws on it. Turns out the object is an ancient amulet which finds its way around Raine's neck and refuses (rather gruesomely) to be removed. Enter the Conclave Guardians, an elite force of healer-magicians whose job it is to retrieve the amulet and stash it back under lock and key. Stat. Dangerous and colorful characters abound, including the powerful Mychael Eilieson--Paladin of the Guardians--and Raine's friend Tamnais Nathrach--shady nightclub proprietor and former member of the goblin royal family. Oh and, by the way, these aren't your run-of-the-mill goblins. You want these goblins to sit down and stay awhile.
What a pleasant surprise this book was and how well-timed a read. A funny, delectable treat smack dab in the middle of winter. Raine is extremely likeable and I appreciated that she always seemed fully cognizant of her own motivations and never persisted in sugar-coating them or in being stubborn beyond all reason. In that way she reminded me of Kate Daniels from Ilona Andrews' Magic Bites. Like Kate, Raine appears to have a few secrets she's not interested in revealing, even to her closest confidantes. I have a few suspicions and look forward to finding out more as the series progresses. All of the side characters felt fully formed and like people/elves/goblins/what have you that I'd like to have around, and certainly want to read more about. And, while I would really rather the love triangle not drag out anywhere near as long as the whole Morelli-Stephanie-Ranger fiasco has, I have to say I am a hopeless Babe and am therefore (unsurprisingly) firmly in the Team Tam camp. Mychael is nice. Of this there is no doubt. But, aqua eyes aside, there's just no contest. This really is a delightful, addictive debut novel and I am very happy to have the sequel sitting on my nightstand. (less)
I do like these covers. The rich, sometimes earthy tones aptly reflect the individual themes of the books, in my opinion. Plus the style of artwork ke...moreI do like these covers. The rich, sometimes earthy tones aptly reflect the individual themes of the books, in my opinion. Plus the style of artwork keeps the characters sort of dreamy and vague and I am therefore free to go on picturing them however I please and that is always a good thing. In the Coils of the Snake continues the story of the goblin court and its longtime enemies the "we're one step ahead of extinction" elves. This third and final volume in the Hollow Kingdom trilogy takes place thirty years after Close Kin and begins with the unthinkable.
Marak is dead. *sob*
And as if that isn't enough, we find out that all these years he has been secretly grooming a young human girl to be his son Catspaw's bride when he passes the crown to him. The girl, Miranda, is now living in the hollow hill with them and is utterly bereft now that her one friend (and father-figure) is gone and she is expected to take up the mantle of queen to a young and inexperienced king. Her fragmented life becomes further complicated when, on the eve of their wedding, Catspaw puts her aside in favor of a young elf of impeccable pedigree. The move is without malice, as Catspaw faces a stalemate with the elf lord Nir. Nir offers the young Arianna as part of a peace treaty between his people and the goblins. When Miranda finds out her entire purpose in life no longer exists, she refuses Catspaw's offer of sanctuary and runs away. Right into the clutches of the elf lord, who finds her a very useful sort of hostage indeed.
This book held everything I hoped for the conclusion of the trilogy. The story splits its time between Miranda and the elves and Catspaw's difficulties wrangling his elf bride and his attempts to subvert Nir's plans. I wasn't as attached to Catspaw as I was his father (Marak was The Top), so I was not as invested in his story. But Miranda was a lovely, sympathetic character and it was a pleasure to watch her find a place where she felt at home at last. I was also glad to finally find a truly noble elf in Nir, after the painfully vicious and unhappy band in Close Kin. And I had to smile at how frivolous the goblins thought the elves and with what disgust and horror the elves, in turn, viewed the goblins. In the Coils of the Snake also, rather notably, has a proper ending, perfect for the book itself and for the trilogy as a whole.(less)
Close Kin is the second book in Clare B. Dunkle's Hollow Kingdom trilogy. It takes place around five years after The Hollow Kingdom and follows Kate...moreClose Kin is the second book in Clare B. Dunkle's Hollow Kingdom trilogy. It takes place around five years after The Hollow Kingdom and follows Kate's younger sister Emily. Or at least it seems to. Where The Hollow Kingdom stuck pretty closely to Kate's story, Close Kin jumps around a fair bit, splitting its time three different ways as it traces the paths of Emily, her friend and would-be suitor Seylin, and an extremely unhappy elf named Sable.
When Emily fails to take Seylin's romantic advances seriously, half goblin/half elf Seylin informs the Goblin King he is leaving to search out his other heritage and see if he can find any elves who managed to survive the last goblin harrowing. He does, in fact, come across a rather feral group of elves but, having suffered much in the name of mere survival, they are barely recognizable as the beautiful, carefree creatures Seylin dreamt of. Among this group is a young woman named Sable who, to avoid being forced into an unwanted marriage, sliced her perfect face to ribbons and who now occupies a position lower than slave. Meanwhile, once Emily finds out Seylin has gone for good she immediately sets out on a quest of her own to bring the poor boy back home and attempt to sort out her feelings for him. Most likely in that order. All of this is, naturally, being overseen by the affectionate, if somewhat insufferably know-it-all, Marak.
This book suffered from a fairly uneven approach to the telling of the story. The narrative jumped from Seylin, to Emily, to Sable sometimes within the space of a few sentences and it was a bit jarring to try to figure out whose perspective I was getting from moment to moment. I was also not as enamored of Emily as I was of her sister Kate in the first book, which made it a bit difficult to really care whether or not she set herself straight and found her way to happiness. Sable, on the other hand, I liked quite a bit and it was both painful and comforting to watch her learn to trust others for probably the first time in her dismal life, and to accept that some helping hands are extended in precisely the spirit of kindness they claim to be. My favorite scenes were any scenes Marak was in and he continues to be my favorite thing about these books. It was good to see that he and Kate were well and happy and as suited to each other as I thought they were. I look forward to the final volume in the Hollow Kingdom trilogy. (less)
I waited for this one to become available at the library for quite awhile. It was always checked out and that, coupled with the rather rave reviews I'...moreI waited for this one to become available at the library for quite awhile. It was always checked out and that, coupled with the rather rave reviews I'd read, made me excited to get my hands on it. The cover is decidedly hokey, but I've come to regret bouts of cover-snobbery many a time before. So I resolved not to let it get to me this time. Besides. I finished the book and still can't wrap my mind around what the tairen actually look like. So the creature on the cover is as good a rendering as any, I'm sure.
Essentially, it is a Cinderella story. One in which the prince is actually a king. A massively overbearing, centuries old king at that. Rain Tairen Soul is well-known throughout the world as the man who almost destroyed it all when his beloved was killed. His rage was of such a magnitude that it nearly scorched the world. Thousands upon thousands died as a result. This all took place nigh unto a thousand years ago and Rain has spent the intervening years basically trying to hang onto his sanity and not give into his anger and sorrow. Enter Ellie--found on the side of the road as a child and taken in by a woodcarver and his wife. In a moment of utter terror, her soul cries out and Rain's hears it. He comes immediately to her rescue and the two of them attempt to make sense of what has happened to them. And what has happened is that they are soul mates. That's right. Rain has love thrust upon him centuries after he thought he was through with it for good. And Ellie has it swoop down upon her for the first time in her life. It's all very anguished and touching.
Except it's not.
I don't know if it's just that the story's been done before and in more compelling ways. Or if it's the he's older than Methuselah and she's a spring chicken ick factor. But it didn't do it for me. It's like the whole time the story was telling me, I am So Epic. Bask in my epicness! And Rain was storming around yelling at me, I am So Tortured. Revel in my anguish! Meanwhile, Ellie was tip-toeing around in his wake whispering, I am fragile but with a Core Of Steel. Underestimate me at your peril! But none of it felt real. It just felt like the veneer of epicness and torture and steel cores. There was also a string of women drugged and manipulated against their will which really rubbed me wrong. And did anyone else think Ellie should totally be with Bel? Or was that just me? Now the story certainly had its sweet moments. How could it not? At just over 400 pages, it never gets beyond the courtship stage of Rain and Ellie's relationship. But even then, I didn't feel like they got to know each other well. But I didn't feel like I knew them either so it wasn't that great a loss. I do have to say that this book (and series) is dearly beloved by many so, clearly, your mileage may (and probably will) vary. It may very well fly for you. But, for me, it never got its feet off the ground. (less)
I am a huge Sharon Shinn fan. Archangel is one of my very favorite comfort reads and so is Mystic and Rider--the first in Shinn's Twelve Houses ser...moreI am a huge Sharon Shinn fan. Archangel is one of my very favorite comfort reads and so is Mystic and Rider--the first in Shinn's Twelve Houses series. Her characters become friends so quickly I forget what life was like before I read them. That's why the Twelve Houses series is so much fun. It follows a disparate group of six travelers who, despite differences of rank, temperament, and fundamental beliefs, become first allies and later friends. Shinn tracks this six of them through four books, eventually wrapping up each thread of the overarching story. Or so we thought. FORTUNE AND FATE is a companion novel to the Twelve Houses series. An unexpected and delightfully welcome fifth volume.
Wen was a King's Rider, one of fifty elite guards dedicated to protecting the king with their lives if necessary. Until the king died. On her watch. Shortly after, Wen resigned her post and rode out of the capital city forever. Two years later she is still roaming the countryside, searching for people to save in a futile attempt to atone for her sins. For failing to save her liege. Determined not to connect with anyone ever again, Wen finds herself reluctantly accepting a post as captain of the guard at House Fortunalt after saving the young serramarra's life. Answering to the serramarra's guardian, the bookish Jasper Palladar, Wen promises to stay for a month at most. Long enough to train a rough guard. Not long enough to form any attachments or find any reasons to stay. Meanwhile, the queen's consort wends his way through the southern Houses on a journey to sound out the new Thirteenth House nobles as well as the upcoming generation of marlords and marladies.
The story alternates chapters between Wen's sojourn at Fortune and Cammon's journey through Gisseltess, Rappengrass, and Fortunalt. But this is essentially Wen's own story. And I was pleased to find myself soon attached to this tough young woman so intently bent on self destruction. It was naturally extremely pleasant to spend time with Cammon, Senneth, and Justin again as well. But Ms. Shinn does a good job of extending her readers' affections to Wen and her particular set of troubles. The secondary characters are well-drawn and sympathetic, especially Jasper, Karryn, and Ryne--the young lordling from Coravann. This is a quieter, more self-contained novel than the previous Twelve Houses books. It unfolds slowly as Wen struggles to retire her ghosts and maintain some distance from those who would try to keep her. As Jasper quietly works to rebuild a house in disgrace and extend Wen's stay at Fortune. As Karryn learns who she can trust and how to differentiate herself from her parents' failures. A very fine coda to a simply wonderful series. (less)
I have had the entire Hollow Kingdom trilogy sitting in my TBR stack for awhile now and finally settled in with the first one and read it through. The...moreI have had the entire Hollow Kingdom trilogy sitting in my TBR stack for awhile now and finally settled in with the first one and read it through. The first thing to catch my eye was the dedication. This is often the case with me. I was wandering the bookstore with my cousin just other night, talking about what a sucker I am for a good dedication. I should probably be keeping some sort of top ten list or something. I've fallen in love with many a Lloyd Alexander dedication and that's why this one in The Hollow Kingdom stood out to me. Because it was dedicated to him.
Kate and her younger sister Emily arrive at Hallow Hill in search of a new home. Recently orphaned, the two sisters have inherited the estate and come to live with their two muzzle-headed great aunts and their one creeperiffic guardian. The girls take to the new surroundings immediately, but soon after moving in Kate starts to feel like she's being watched. One night while out walking she is actually followed home by a mysterious hooded stranger on horseback. The stranger turns out to be the goblin king Marak. Every goblin king must steal a human bride and bring her home to the kingdom under the hill to live forever, never to see the sun or stars again. Once he sets his sights on Kate, Marak assures her it is only a matter of time til she is his. Kate manages to keep an admirably stiff upper lip, under the circumstances, and resolves to outwit the goblin king and remain above ground. Unfortunately, she is forced to reconsider when her sister is kidnapped and she is sure the Marak is behind it. In a wonderful reversal of expectations, Kate (of her own free will and choice) gains entrance to the goblin court and agrees to marry the king if he will release her sister.
The Hollow Kingdom is completely enchanting. It was the characters that won me over. Kate is a strong, thoughtful heroine and her sister Emily provides a good bit of comic relief as she is interested in absolutely everything. The prospect of spending the rest of her life among goblins strikes terror in Kate's heart, but sends Emily into raptures. What an adventure! But then it's not Emily who has to marry one of the ugly creatures. Which brings us to Marak. And Marak is an enigma. Crafty and cunning, he delights in attempting to capture his chosen bride and force her to do his will. Yet he is not without sympathy. He rushes to his wife's defense at any slight and, even as he laughs at her discomfort, he tries to make her more at home in his underground world. It's a surprising and lovely story and I recommend it for an evening autumn read. (less)
Is it weird that I kind of got a kick out of the main character's name in this book being Allie? It's not my name. I do have a dear friend by that nam...moreIs it weird that I kind of got a kick out of the main character's name in this book being Allie? It's not my name. I do have a dear friend by that name. But I think the main reason was that I just haven't read a book in a long time that featured an Allie, and it seemed to lend the story a certain appealing freshness. The other names in the book are equally appealing. Zayvion Jones. Violet Beckstrom. And the idea for the story is undoubtedly intriguing.
MAGIC TO THE BONE is set in an alternate America in which magic "came out" to the world rather like vampires did in Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse books. Soon after people become users and consumers of magic, much like they use and consume alcohol. And just like a night of hard drinking, any use of magic leaves the user with a monster hangover. This "hangover" manifests itself in a variety of unsavory ways from intense bruising all over the body to a flu that will lay you low for a week. Allie Beckstrom is a Hound--a person with the ability to follow a cast spell back to the caster. Unlike other Hounds, though, Allie is able to house a small amount of magic within her own body. But this increased ability exacts a higher price. After working a particularly potent bit of magic, Allie frequently loses random portions of her memory. Estranged from her power-hungry father, she lives in a hole, barely scraping enough money together to feed herself with anything resembling regularity. When a small boy is almost killed by a spell that leads back to dear old Dad, Allie immediately goes on the offensive to bring her father to justice. She runs into trouble in the form of Zayvion Jones--a stalker/bodyguard who used to work for her father and seems intent on shadowing Allie's every move.
The whole layout of this story held a lot of promise and I willingly immersed myself in Allie's seamy world, eager to see how she handled her manipulative, possibly murderous father as well as the darkly enigmatic Zay. Allie herself is world-weary in a way that mirrors her world, a place ironically sapped of wonder and goodness by the largely unregulated abuse of "magic." I loved the little book she carries around, recording memories against the day they're stripped from her after overstepping herself magically. In fact, each and every character piqued my interest, from Allie's unusual stepmother to her salt of the earth best friend. However, I found that interest flagging fairly soon as the execution did not quite match up to the idea. Zay's and Allie's relationship seemed rather quickly formed. He felt too good to be true while she seemed to fall into a sort of stereotypical urban fantasy composite heroine. I started to lose my sense for what made her unique and felt that they were both smarter than their actions painted them. The tension between them resolved too abruptly for my taste. Throughout the story, a well-conceived idea here or a particularly cool plot development there managed to revive my flagging attention, but the follow-through lacked the level of tightness and cohesion that is a defining characteristic of my favorite urban fantasy series's.(less)
So I needed something sweet and scary, with a little humor and some faeries. I didn't really know much about LAMENT, so it was kind of surprising how...moreSo I needed something sweet and scary, with a little humor and some faeries. I didn't really know much about LAMENT, so it was kind of surprising how much I was looking forward to it. But I was just getting this vibe. Like good things would be inside. And these good things seemed to carry with them a hint of Melissa Marr goodness mixed with some Holly Black awesome. I got what I was looking for and more.
Deirdre plays the harp. Her best friend James is a piper. And hilarious with it. The two of them together are exceptionally cool John Green-esque geeks. Besides James, Deirdre's got an overbearing mother, an aunt from hell, and a very weak stomach. The story opens at one of her competitions. She is lurking about the girl's bathroom about to lose her lunch, as she always does before a performance, when the mysterious Luke Dillon (who Deirdre's never met before but seems to know somehow) wanders in and proceeds to hold her hair back for her. Clearly the mysterious Luke must stick around. And stick around he does. For reasons which remain a little murky and a lot enticing, and which Deirdre is determined to find out.
"Luke was at my elbow, saying, 'I think I'm going to have to leave early. I think I might have to go now.' I was about to protest or beg unabashedly for his number when I realized the clapping had gone quiet. The voice crackled on the speaker. 'Ladies and gentlemen, it's six o'clock, and as promised, we're going to announce the winners of the grand prize. Thank you everyone for competing and sharing your talent with us. The judges would like to congratulate the grand prize winners for this year's arts festival--Deirdre Monaghan and Luke Dilling.' Luke whispered into my ear, close enough that his lips brushed my hair. "Tell me you want to see me again." I smiled."
Sexy as sexy. That's Luke. Plus, he's got a deep dark secret he can't reveal. Literally can't. Very bad things happen to Luke when he tries to talk about where he came from, what brought him to Deirdre, and who's pulling his strings. So it's up to Deirdre to figure out who Luke is, why he seems to have brought a host of creatures out of myth and legend in his wake, and what her own role is to be in it all. As I used to live in Virginia, I thoroughly enjoyed the setting, particularly the descriptions of the weather and humidity. In LAMENT Maggie Stiefvater artfully weaves together a heady mix of music, humor, exhiliration, and desperate longing. I enjoyed this book so much it is physically painful to me that the sequel, BALLAD, isn't due out till next Fall. (less)
I couldn't believe it when I heard that Juliet Marillier was writing another Sevenwaters book. It's been eight years since Daughter of the Forest wa...moreI couldn't believe it when I heard that Juliet Marillier was writing another Sevenwaters book. It's been eight years since Daughter of the Forest was first published and six since Child of the Prophecy and I honestly thought that ship had sailed. I had accustomed myself to the notion that all I would ever have would be the original trilogy to keep me warm on those cold nights when only the Sevenwaters magic will do. And then the unbelievable happened and she announced a fourth volume. And instead of following its predecessors and taking place a generation after the previous book, Heir to Sevenwaters would be set just three years after the events of Child of the Prophecy.
The story follows Clodagh, the third of Sean and Aisling's six daughters, and the one the entire household looks to in times of strain and dissension. Known for her exceptional domestic skills and attention to detail, Clodagh is forced to take the reins as her mother approaches the delivery of her final child--the long-awaited son and possible heir. At the same time her father is preparing to host a council of warring chieftains and dealing with the possibility that his son-in-law is plotting against the alliance. When her new baby brother is stolen from his nursery while in Clodagh's care, everything changes, and Clodagh finds herself completely outside her realm of experience, on a journey to reclaim her kidnapped brother from the realm of the Fair Folk and prove not only her own innocence, but that of the unusual young warrior Cathal who is also under suspicion. Together, Clodagh and Cathal risk everything as they face the Lord of the Oak and bargain for their lives.
I don't know what it is about the world of Sevenwaters, but it has some kind of hold over me. And it was so good to be back. Clodagh is a different kind of heroine from her aunt Liadan and her grandmother Sorcha. Though, like those two women, she finds her life drifting radically from the path she was sure it would follow. She also displays a large quantity of courage when called for.
The book stands out to me because of the beautiful, even writing and because of the likability of its two main characters. Clodagh is an ordinary young woman who, when thrust into extraordinary circumstances, finds resources she didn't realize she had. The courage to risk her life for her brother, but also the courage to try to be friends with a lonely young man who is not interested in being her friend, who goes out of his way to be prickly and unpleasant, who fights himself at every turn, and who no one believes in. Including himself. I loved this story. I loved its glimpses of old friends and its hints of future possibilities. As only the best ones do, it surprised and delighted me and made me long for more.(less)
I've been hearing about Elizabeth Peters' Vicky Bliss and Amelia Peabody books for quite awhile now and for some reason just haven't found my way to...moreI've been hearing about Elizabeth Peters' Vicky Bliss and Amelia Peabody books for quite awhile now and for some reason just haven't found my way to reading any of them until now. I noticed these re-issues of the Vicky Bliss series and decided to pick up the first one and see.
Vicky is an art historian with a delightful sense of humor and a certain dry acceptance of her statuesque stature and tendency to intimidate those around her. When we first meet Vicky, she is teaching at a college in the Midwest and maintaining a sort of on-again off-again relationship with her colleague Tony Lawrence. Tony is a hapless, hopeless, skinny version of Vicky who, failing to get her to marry him, decides he'll settle for besting her professionally. Ha. The two soon find themselves racing each other to Germany in search of a medieval artifact presumed missing for centuries.
Here's the thing. I liked Vicky and Tony right off the bat. I liked the whole premise for the story. It seemed a recipe for mad medieval excitement. But once they got to Germany, things seemed to slow down for me. I'm not sure why. Blankenhagen was cool. Schmidt was intriguing. But Tony began to pall quickly and, after one too many of his petty outbursts, I just wanted Vicky to solve the dang mystery and leave these jokers in the dust. Which I'm assuming she does in the future. In fact, I'm kind of getting the feeling that I'll enjoy the rest of the books in the series more than this one. And I hear tell of someone named Smythe. He is someone I would enjoy meeting, no? So for all of you Vicky fans and afficionados out there, tell me what to do. Was my reaction to this one just a fluke? Should I get the next one and give it a try and see? I'm in need of your advice. Cause I really wanted to like this series.(less)
I first came across No Shame, No Fear in Adele Geras' review in The Guardian. I read and loved Troy and was interested in reading a book Geras said, "...moreI first came across No Shame, No Fear in Adele Geras' review in The Guardian. I read and loved Troy and was interested in reading a book Geras said, "Needs a trumpet to be blown for it." The narrative alternates between two points of view--that of Susanna, a young Quaker girl, and William, a young man just home from Oxford. Set in England in 1662 just as the Quaker Act is passed, Susanna takes a job as an apprentice in a print shop to help provide for her family since her father has been incarcerated. William is about to embark on a seven year apprenticship for a wealthy merchant in London. The two meet once on the road and again in the print shop and matters get thornier from there. William begins investigating the Quaker faith, expressly against his father's wishes, and the two find themselves drawn to each other at a time when such a connection could prove fatal to both.
This short, simple tale held my interest easily and I found myself learning quite a bit about a time in history and a subset of the English population I was fairly unfamiliar with. Naturally, I found myself rooting for the starcrossed kids and was impressed when they both unexpectedly ended up displaying a bit more maturity than they could have given their youth and infatuation. The bad news is the ending does not resolve Susanna and Will's numerous problems. The good news is there's another book which, hopefully, does.
This is a scene early on in the book told from Susanna's perspective. Will comes into the print shop and finds Susanna reading a book called The Pious Prentice.
"You should read poetry," he said, "not this stuff." "Poetry?" We stood, not touching now, but still breathless, aware of each other's bodies. "Poetry." He mimicked my suspicious tone. "Have you never read any? Is it frowned upon?" "I think my father would feel it might. . .lead to unsuitable thought. It's a thing for scholars and gentlemen, is it not?" "I'll lend you some," he said, "and you shall see for yourself. John Donne--no, George Herbert. Herbert was a godly man, a parish priest, much revered." A priest. I felt I was entering dangerous lands. And yet I had been taught that the light was within everyone, that I should seek it and respond to it. Perhaps I should hear what this priest had to say.
Turnbull's writing style is so unobtrusive, it matches the simple, clean lines of the story very well. The pages fly by quickly and, as I said, the end leaves a few rather important issues unresolved so I recommend you have the sequel in hand when you sit down to read No Shame, No Fear. Sadly, I did not. I'll be remedying the situation shortly.(less)
John Green knows how to end a book. You always hear about killer first lines and great beginnings, but it has got to be harder to end a story well. T...more John Green knows how to end a book. You always hear about killer first lines and great beginnings, but it has got to be harder to end a story well. To know what to do with and to the characters and story you've crafted. I thought Looking for Alaska had the most beautiful closing lines. The wrap up in An Abundance of Katherines was just right. And my favorite thing about Paper Towns is undoubtedly the ending. Kind of nice to hear going in, isn't it?
So the story follows Q (short for Quentin) in his life-long quest to love girl-next-door Margo Roth Spiegelman. The thing is, she's sort of too cool for school, let alone Q. But one night she climbs through his bedroom window and absconds with him on a night full of adventure, breaking, entering, and general tomfoolery. Next morning she's gone. Q, with the occasional help of his two band geek friends, Ben and Radar, embarks on a journey to find Margo. Little does he comprehend just what "finding" her will mean.
If it sounds like a combination of his two previous books, it sort of is but sort of not. Q engages in quite a bit of philosophical questioning and yet he is, in all respects, pleasantly without distinction as high school seniors go. This made him rather innocuous and a bit hard to like as much as I'd like to have. He exists on the fringes of every kind of stereotypical teen and seems to be perpetually surprised and amused by them all. It is a very calm, almost low-key book and it was over before I was ready. I wouldn't mind hearing more about Margo and Q (and Radar!) because I felt as though I was only beginning to get a handle on them when the whole thing came to a close. But, as I said, it was a perfect kind of ending. (less)
I'd heard so much positive feedback on this one, that I went in with fairly high expectations. Fortunately, I was uninformed as to any particulars, so...moreI'd heard so much positive feedback on this one, that I went in with fairly high expectations. Fortunately, I was uninformed as to any particulars, so the entire premise was a surprise. All I knew was that it was dystopian. And that I liked the cover.
Katniss Everdeen lives in District 12--the furthest flung of the twelve districts of Panem--in what's left of North America. Every year the Capitol (the governing city of Panem) puts on the Hunger Games. The Games are a brutal reminder of the districts' failed rebellion. Each district is forced to offer up two of their youth as a tribute. Chosen by lottery, the 24 tributes are then forced to engage in a free-for-all battle to the death on live television. The victor wins fame, glory, and food and supplies for his or her district. This bloodbath is considered the height of entertainment in the Capitol. So far, so horrifying.
Sixteen-year-old Katniss is the sole provider for her family. With a mother barely able to go through the motions after her father died, and a younger sister who looks to her for everything, Katniss's days are consumed by hunting, trading, and bartering for their lives. Her one friend, a young man named Gale, leads a similar life and the two work as a team, eking out the bare essentials of existence for themselves and their families. Until the 74th Hunger Games roll around and Katniss's little sister is chosen for the tribute. Without a second thought, Katniss immediately volunteers to take her place. And just like that, the games are on. What I loved about this book was the grim world of Panem. Katniss's unenviable life goes from bleak to awful in the blink of an eye and the horror is never cut with cream. In fact, the creep factor only escalates with time and the whole thing ratchets up to a terrifying ending that I, for one, did not anticipate. Brava, Ms. Collins! Katniss herself grew on me until, by the end, I cared very much what happened to her and no longer blamed her so much for being quite so cold. Her situation is not (and never has been) conducive to warmth.
On a side note, this book reminded me quite a bit of Graceling by Kristin Cashore. Both have heroines with Kat names. Katniss and Katsa. Both girls are forced to kill to stay alive. Both are manipulated and lied to on a regular basis and, unsurprisingly, have difficulty sorting out their emotions and figuring out who to trust. Both of them find the possibility of eventual happiness an unlikely prospect at best. Both books built up to rather killer endings and, most frustratingly of all, both are the first books in a trilogy. I'm seriously going to have to go find myself a series entirely in print to help pass the time. I am always waiting for sequels...(less)
I preface this review by stating (somewhat sheepishly) that this is my first horror novel. Honestly? I've always secretly longed to read a Stephen Ki...moreI preface this review by stating (somewhat sheepishly) that this is my first horror novel. Honestly? I've always secretly longed to read a Stephen King book, but I never knew where to jump in. So I contented myself with reading On Writing and his book reviews, admiring the talent from afar, so to speak. Then the other day DH announced the need for the King moratorium to end once and for all. After a brief but intense conference with a fellow connoisseur, he pronounced himself convinced that It was, without a doubt, the one for me. I took him at his word.
It begins with a great first line:
The terror, which would not end for another twenty-eight years--if it ever did end--began, so far as I know or can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.
We are soon introduced to a boy named Bill who stutters and his cute little brother Georgie who, even I can tell, doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of making it out of this chapter alive. A few pages later I feel certain I should never have opened this book. There's a freaking clown in the storm drain and I find myself truly creeped out and begging Georgie not to go near the storm drain. Just let the paper boat go and walk away, Georgie!
But he doesn't.
I won't go into the plot too deeply except to say that the story alternates between a series of seminal events in 1958 and again in 1985. The first half depicts the cosmic coming together of seven eleven-year-old kids. Six boys and one girl, self-proclaimed Losers all of them. A stutterer, a wisecracker, a hypochondriac, a fatboy, a birder, a black kid, and a tough girl. These seven form a united front against a trio of unusually vicious bullies. But slowly, and with an almost spine tingling sense of inevitability, they realize they've been brought together for a larger purpose than warding off Henry Bowers and his cronies. Soon they're all in and there's no turning back. Not that any one of them would be able to turn their backs on Stuttering Bill anyway. He is the real heart of the story. The one who never backs down. The one the others would gladly walk through fire for.
It's difficult for me to tell you how much I enjoyed this book. I was hoping I would like it, but, like a blind date, I was a little nervous. Merely crossing my fingers for a good time, you know? Out of nowhere, I fell in love. I mean these kids are So Cool. Work their way into your heart and break it sort of cool. They are outcasts struggling to avoid annihilation not only at the hands of their peers but at the clawlike hands of an apocalyptic evil that has held their town in its grasping grip since time immemorial. I didn't stand a chance. I fell in love with them, with their desperate jokes, with the summer of 1958, and with the interlocking charm and horror with which King shapes his tale. But most of all, I fell in love with Bill. Bill with his glorious silver bike and his burning determination to avenge his brother. I loved the quiet, unassuming way he gathered the other misfits together and made them a part of something important, something noble.
I can't believe I waited this long to read it. I stayed up nights reading, glancing over my shoulder every few seconds, looking for something orange and silver creeping up behind me, scared to the tips of my toes but unable to put it down. You were absolutely right, babe. It was the one for me.(less)
Grimspace was one of my favorite books of 2007. I loved it because it was nonstop excitement and action, with freaking awesome characters and witty,...more Grimspace was one of my favorite books of 2007. I loved it because it was nonstop excitement and action, with freaking awesome characters and witty, passionate dialogue. I loved how it ended and would have been happy with that. As I loved the characters so much, I was thrilled to find out Ann Aguirre had a contract for three more books in the series.
Wanderlust picks up shortly after the cataclysmic close to Grimspace. Sirantha Jax is at a bit of a loss. Having been declared legally dead puts a damper on your spirits, not to mention access to your bank accounts. Jax is in need of a job and so, against her better judgement, she accepts an offer to serve as, of all things, a diplomat on a suicide mission to a hostile planet in order to forge an alliance with the Conglomerate. Fortunately, March, Dina, and Vel are along for the trip to watch Jax's back. And she needs it as things go south rather quickly.
My heart was in my throat for the majority of this book. And even though it was painful to watch at times, everything played out as it should. The characters were their old selves and their new selves (in some cases) and, in the end, it was just a ripping good time being in their company. Particularly Vel. Man, I love that bounty hunter. His developing friendship with Jax was one of the highlights of the book. Wanderlust is a sadder but wiser sister to Grimspace for sure, but I was highly entertained by it and, until Doubleblind comes out in a year, I remain a faithful, slightly concerned (I heart you, March!) fan.(less)
Listening Valley takes place in Scotland just prior to World War II. Tonia and her sister Lou grow up thick as thieves in a world apart from their ext...moreListening Valley takes place in Scotland just prior to World War II. Tonia and her sister Lou grow up thick as thieves in a world apart from their extremely detached parents and the other kids in town. Tonia particularly is dreamier and more sensitive than the gregarious Lou. Whenever things become too much, she retreats to that quiet and calm place in her mind she dubs Listening Valley. There she can suss things out on her own time and make sense of them. When Lou runs off to get married at 18, Tonia is left alone, unhappy, and unsure of who she is and what she wants to be. When offered independence and the opportunity to leave her parents' home, she makes a difficult command decision and accepts an offer of marriage from a wealthy, but kindly older man. Soon Tonia finds herself in London amidst bombings and rationing and her life is suddenly filled with purpose as it had never been before. This time is not to last, however, and Tonia eventually finds herself back in Scotland attempting to refashion her life once more.
Above all, this is a sweet story about life and growing up, leaving home, and finding it again. I enjoyed watching Tonia become more at ease in her own skin over the years, so much so that she is able to not only take care of herself but others as well. These others include the funny and endearing inhabitants of Ryddelton as well as the boys of the RAF who congregate at Tonia's. Tonia herself is so very fragile in the beginning, but by the end I felt like she would be quite all right, come what may. That she was, indeed, someone who would "go out with you in any weather." That kind of transformation was gratifying to watch and the story as a whole both pleasant and touching. Thanks for the recommendation, Jen. This book is easy to love.(less)
Robin McKinley knows first lines. You read just the first sentence and immediately feel like you've entered a world entirely complete and utterly its...more Robin McKinley knows first lines. You read just the first sentence and immediately feel like you've entered a world entirely complete and utterly its own. And you want to sit down and stay awhile. Chalice is no exception to the rule. The world reminded me a bit of the kingdom in Spindle's End, both of them deeply entrenched in a sticky sort of magic with a heritage and weight to it. The characters reminded me a bit of those in Rose Daughter, purposefully a bit vague and left up to your imagination to carve out clearly. All of them living their lives as best they can with a sure but undefinable sense of doom hanging over their heads.
Mirasol occupies a position known simply as Chalice. She is the second-highest ranking individual in the Willowlands and it is her job to bind relationships and ties within her domain, between the people and the land they both live on and belong to. At the opening of the story, a new Master (the highest-ranking individual in the land) is coming home to take control of the Willowlands and try to restore some order and peace after the debaucheries and mistakes of his older brother, the previous Master. Mirasol and the new Master have their work cut out for them as she is brand new to the position with no idea how to do what she must, and he is a third-level priest of Fire who is no longer quite human and must tread with extreme care so as not to burn everything (and everyone) he touches to ash.
Sigh. Chalice is a bit of the loveliness, to be sure. It is short and as sweet as the honey that pervades the story's every pore. In fact, just as Sunshine left me with a killer craving for cinnamon rolls, Chalice made me wish I was five years old again and sitting in the kitchen with my Grandpa sucking fresh honey straight off the comb. There are only a few characters in this story and so it seemed that much more important that the ones I had make it through their challenges well and whole. I liked how they seemed to gain additional form and substance as they grew closer and closer to the final test. Until, at the end, they seemed like friends. Full of familiar light and color. (less)
This one came with such glowing recommendations that I was delighted to see it sitting there on the shelf all shiny and mysterious and earlier than ex...moreThis one came with such glowing recommendations that I was delighted to see it sitting there on the shelf all shiny and mysterious and earlier than expected on my last trip to the bookstore. Seriously, it seemed to glow at me from within. It could have just been the flourescent light glancing off the cover but, either way, it was a pretty promising start to a great read by debut author Kristin Cashore.
Graceling is the story of a young woman named Katsa. Katsa's life is made difficult by the fact that she is a member of an unwelcome minority known as the Graced. The Graced possess certain enhanced natural abilites such as the ability to swim like a fish or sing like a bird and no two Gracelings have the same ability. These almost superhuman traits set them apart from the whole of society and they are viewed in a highly negative light. Unknown quantities. Not to be trusted. Too make it worse, Katsa has a killing Grace. She can dispatch bad guys like nobody's business. Trouble is she's in servitude to her uncle, a rather nasty bit of work who trots her out to do his dirty work anytime he feels one of his underlings isn't performing up to snuff. Katsa hates her Grace, despises her uncle, and lives in fear of losing her temper one day and unleashing an absolute massacre.
Katsa is a steely young woman who has few friends and fewer joys in her life. Graceling follows her struggles to control her Grace, define its boundaries, and find purpose in a world that does not seem to want her in it. Kristin Cashore excels at the storytelling, wrapping her hardened heroine in a cloak of beautifully urgent language. She knows how to pace her plot and particularly how to end a chapter in just such a way so the reader is both satisfied and eager for more. No easy task, that. The climax of this book ran shivers down my spine and the choices the characters were forced to make both broke my heart and made me proud of them. If you are a fan of Tamora Pierce or Robin McKinley, this one is pretty much a guaranteed home run. Graceling is also the first in a trilogy, although it sounds like the second installment, Fire, is actually a prequel. (less)
Somewhere in between the release of Girl at Sea and Suite Scarlett, I'm embarrassed to admit that I think I may actually have forgotten, for just a se...moreSomewhere in between the release of Girl at Sea and Suite Scarlett, I'm embarrassed to admit that I think I may actually have forgotten, for just a second, how funny Maureen Johnson is. I mean the hunching your shoulders, tongue caught between your teeth, giggling kind of funny. I read her blog regularly, so I shouldn't be a bit surprised. But Suite Scarlett was even funnier than her previous books. It was like concentrated Essence of Johnson: charmingly and unrepentantly hilarious. They really should bottle it somehow. I also have to say how much I like the cover. This is just how I pictured Scarlett, right down to the platinum curls, red lipstick, and Lola's little black dress.
Scarlett Martin's life is slightly different from most 15-year-old New Yorkers' lives. She lives in the Hopewell--an old Art Deco hotel her family has run for generations. On the morning the book opens, Scarlett celebates her birthday and learns that they've had to let go the last employees they had and she, along with her three siblings and two parents, will now be expected to keep the mouldering old place running on their own. The Martins are good at keeping up appearances. Oldest daughter Lola works at the makeup counter at an upscale department store and maintains a relationship with boyfriend Chip, otherwise known to the family as "#98" for his inclusion at the bottom of the top 100 happening bachelors in the city. Grin. Brother Spencer is a desperately aspiring actor gifted in physical comedy. Spencer is always mock falling down stairs and into doors. He is on a deadline to acquire a "real" acting job within the next week or his parents are shipping him off to culinary school so he can be the hotel cook upon graduation. With Scarlett's help, however, Spencer is determined to avoid this fate worse than death.
The genius of this book is the Martin siblings. The four of them are utterly believable, sympathetic, and charming. And five pages in, it is absolutely impossible not to like them. Not to cross your fingers and hope for them. Not to wish they were yours. Add to this charming foursome an unadulterated dose of Johnson's sparkling humor and you've got a winner. One of my favorite lines early on in the book when Scarlett is looking out her window:
In a city with so many different types of people and so much competition, mornings were an even playing field where no one looked good or knew where anything was. There was the woman who changed her outfit four times each morning and practiced different poses in the mirror. Two windows over, the obsessive-compulsive guy was cleaning all the burners on his stove. A flight down, there was Anything for Breakfast guy who would (as his name implied) eat anything for breakfast. Today he was pouring melted ice cream over cereal. Another neighbor, a woman of about seventy, was completely nude on the rooftop patio of the adjacent apartment building. She was reading The New York Times and carefully balancing a cup of coffee by squeezing it between her thighs, which was a completely unacceptable sight at this time in the morning. Or really, any time.
Lol. So if you're a devoted follower or if you've never read a Maureen Johnson book before, this is definitely the one that you want.(less)