In alternate Britain, where paganism is rampant and the royal family is protected by druids, the country is in dire straits. Queen Victoria’s Rules ha...moreIn alternate Britain, where paganism is rampant and the royal family is protected by druids, the country is in dire straits. Queen Victoria’s Rules have been stolen and without them all Briton is in danger from foreign magic and other threats from beyond Bran’s Wall. Desperate, the queen seeks out two non-magical men whom she believes she can trust—Brihtric Donne and John Weston.
Donne, a renowned consulting detective, and his sidekick, Weston, agree to assist the queen in finding her Rules and protecting her from the evil Kitchener (who stole them from her). Things, however, do not go easy for the duo as bodies begin to pile up and the druids begin disappearing. Kitchener appears to be having help from foreign magics--beings much more powerful than our heroes have dealt with before. Will they succeed in rescuing the queen or will Briton fall into the hands of a mad man?
In Druid's Blood, Friesner blends fictional characters with historical throughout the novel. I’m not a huge history buff, but I was very pleased to see Ada Lovelace and the princes in the Tower make appearances. At times, though, the history did get a bit confusing since characters who would have been dead at the time the novel takes place are alive and kicking. That’s fine, but it did throw me off a bit until I got more used to the flow of the book.
Really, the more I think about it, the novel did have me waffling between confused and pleased quite a lot. There were occasionally jumps in the narrative that were a little jarring, and it took a long time to center myself in this alternate world because nothing was explained. Again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it took me a very long time to care about any of the characters or to know what the heck was going on. I think it might have taken a bit too long since it probably wasn’t until halfway through that I actually started getting caught up in things.
Still, I did enjoy the book. The ending was very satisfying and I did love seeing what Friesner did with her versions of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. I would recommend this book to people who like 19th century history and literature. It’s a treat to read so long as you stick it out. (less)
A man returns to his childhood home. While driving around, he finds himself drawn to a farm at the end of a lane. He can remember vaguely traveling th...moreA man returns to his childhood home. While driving around, he finds himself drawn to a farm at the end of a lane. He can remember vaguely traveling there as a child and visiting with it’s inhabitants, the Hempstocks. A girl lived there, several years older than himself, with her mother and grandmother. He remembers that Lettie, the girl, called their duck pond an ocean.
He goes up to the door and is greeted by a woman he presumes is Lettie’s mother. She offers him tea, and he accepts. First, however, he wants to pay a visit to Lettie’s ocean.
He goes back to the duck pond and sits down. Interestingly, all sorts of memories begin coming back to him. He remembers Lettie and their frightening adventure into another world.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is the sort of book I enjoy but don’t love. I experienced no fireworks, lightening, or other signs of love at first read when working my way through this book. The characters were pleasant but not especially interesting, the language was not as snappy as Neil Gaiman’s sometimes can be, and the story was just fine. There was nothing inherently wrong with The Ocean at the End of the Lane, but, for me, there just wasn’t that spark.
With Neil Gaiman’s books, I’ve come to realize that different people like different things. He is one of my favorite writers, but I couldn’t make it through American Gods and I was completely underwhelmed by The Graveyard Book (I know it won an award but I still think the plot kind of got away from itself at the end). Neverwhere and Anansi Boys, however, are two of my favorite books of all time. They are funny, insightful, and have amazing plots. They suit me. The Ocean at the End of the Lane does not suit me. It’s really too literary for my taste. I think people who love The Night Circus and The Golem and the Jinni and all sorts of books like that will love this one. If, like me, you love story more than language and insight, this book will probably just be so-so for you. (less)
I love the concept of Unwritten, but I'm finding myself sort of annoyed with how it's playing out. None of the characters feel really developed and SO...moreI love the concept of Unwritten, but I'm finding myself sort of annoyed with how it's playing out. None of the characters feel really developed and SOOOO much is happening that it's just chaotic. I really wanted to this series, but I'm beginning to think it just isn't my thing. (less)
A Golem, brought to America by her now-dead master, seeks to survive in a world where she is constantly bombarded with the desires and pain of all hum...moreA Golem, brought to America by her now-dead master, seeks to survive in a world where she is constantly bombarded with the desires and pain of all humans around her. A kind rabbi watches over her and attempts to keep her busy and in control. She works at a bakery, has her own apartment, and makes friends. She has every guise of being a normal human being, but it is all an act. She is a golem and must keep control of herself or risk her own destruction and the destruction of those around her.
A tinsmith is given a flask to repair. As he begins work, a Jinni appears. The Jinni, bound within the flask for centuries, is shocked to discover that an iron shackle keeps him in human form. Without his previous abilities, he is unable to return to his home. The tinsmith takes the Jinni under his wing , seeking to help him make a life in his new home town, New York City. But the Jinni is not interested in a new life. He wants only to be free.
In Helene Wecker’s The Golem and the Jinni, these two mythical creatures struggle to live in a world completely foreign to them. Dangers surround them, and it is not until they meet each other that they begin to feel as if they are truly living and not just surviving in this harsh and foreign landscape.
As I read The Golem and the Jinni, I was constantly reminded of last year’s The Night Circus. Obviously, storywise, they are completely different, but a similar tone and storytelling style is present. I enjoyed the otherworldly quality of both novels because, while the authors might bring the impossible into our world, they keep a sense of wonder and weirdness in their tales. Wecker’s novel presents two mythical creatures and gives them lives and life of their own. It is interesting to see the different viewpoints that develop based on each creature’s nature and how these views change over the course of the story. Wecker’s novel most succeeds when it focuses on these two characters and their development. Unfortunately, there are many other characters and happenings, and this causes Wecker’s novel to move slowly to its end.
At times, I felt as if I had reread passages because similar scenes and thoughts kept coming up again and again. There were many, many characters in the Jinni and Golem’s life, and it was often difficult to keep them straight. It didn’t help that I didn’t care about them the same way I did the main characters. There were just too many of them to be properly characterized. Wecker tried to tie all these little story ends and persons in at the conclusion, but it felt awkward and forced. Still, I did enjoy reading the novel, and I would recommend it to others—especially those who love magical realism and are fans of books like The Night Circus. (less)
I had never picked up a comic book/graphic novel until I discovered there was an eighth season (and now ninth) of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Unsurprisi...moreI had never picked up a comic book/graphic novel until I discovered there was an eighth season (and now ninth) of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Unsurprisingly, I discovered I loved this genre I that I had previously left unexplored. I’m still a comic newbie. I’ve read Buffy, some Wonder Woman, Tamara Drewe, and Castle Waiting. Buffy I love. Wonder Woman I like. And the others are okay. I hadn’t found something truly awesome and addicting until I picked up Sandman.
I know. Everyone loves Sandman. I’m not even surprised I love Sandman because I love Neil Gaiman’s other work. He’s one of my favorite authors and Neverwhere and Anansi Boys are two of my favorite books. Still, I was worried Sandman would be too dark and intense for me. (As was American Gods.) Not so. Apparently, I have a fairly high threshold for darkness. Who knew?
Let’s see…my favorite characters so far are Rose, Death, Fiddler’s Green, and the Sandman himself. I’m not really annoyed by anyone yet, but, of course, since I’m not well versed in comics, I’m often confused by the fact that I’m supposed to know who some of these characters are and yet have no clue. Still, at least, I get most of the literary references. Score one for the English Major!
My favorite issues were “Tales in the Sand,” “Men of Good Fortune,” and “Lost Hearts.” I particularly enjoyed the Rose-centric issues and Death’s excursions weren’t too bad either. There were no stories that I hated, but there were some I found less than enthralling. “A Dream of a Thousand Cats” some how managed to be both boring and amusing, and as much as I love William Shakespeare, I found “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” to be taxing. I hoping Dream will spend less time on earth in the next volume and more time in other realms. I’d like to see what else these strange worlds have to offer (and what other weird characters reside in them). Earth’s not bad. It’s just that there’s so much else I’d like to see.
I finished Volume One of The Absolute Sandman in a couple of days. It was like watching a highly addictive television show. I loved it and already have Volume Two out on standby. Oh dear, I guess I know what I’ll be doing this unseasonably cold Spring week. (less)
A gorgeously written story that was ruined for me by the ending. The Wild West was an interesting setting for Snow White and the different tweaks to t...moreA gorgeously written story that was ruined for me by the ending. The Wild West was an interesting setting for Snow White and the different tweaks to the story were fun. I liked presentations of the band of outlaw women and the very, very strange step-mother. The Deer Boy didn't really work and ALL the other men in the story were offputting. It would have been nice to have one relatively normal male character, but it was not to be. The ending was really rushed and clunky and indeciperable. It became weird and not in a good way. In general, I enjoy Valente's books, but this was not one of her finest.(less)
The Emperor's Soul, a novella by Brandon Sanderson, is a pleasant but ultimately forgettable fantasy about Shai, a Forger.
Forgers are capable of maki...moreThe Emperor's Soul, a novella by Brandon Sanderson, is a pleasant but ultimately forgettable fantasy about Shai, a Forger.
Forgers are capable of making copies of anything--art, rooms, and even souls. Souls, however, are difficult to create. A Forger must know and understand everything about the person's soul they are copying. This is difficult enough when one is copying their own soul. It is near impossible when copying the soul of another.
When the Emperor is seriously wounded, Shai is called in to heal his mind as the reSealers healed his body. Unfortunately, she has little choice but to attempt the impossible--she is a prisoner and will soon be executed for her crimes if she does not agree to save the Emperor. The Arbiters, or Imperial counselors, give her ninety days to finish the Emperor's soul. It is impossible, but Shai has been known to do the impossible before.
The Soulstamp concept is very interesting as is the idea of the Forger. These are both fairly original ideas that would make an excellent foundation for a full length novel. Here, however, they felt a bit underdeveloped and rushed. On a number of occasions, I was drawn out of the story thanks to unnecessary info dumping about the world and its people. The characters of Shai and Gaotona were not unlikable, but they weren't all that memorable. As I was reading, they blended together with any number of fantasy characters I have read about in the past. The book, in general, was just not a wower. Brandon Sanderson is a decent writer, but I don't think he's very original in tone, characters, or theme.
If you're looking for a quick, stand alone fantasy to read, The Emperor's Soul will keep you entertained. I don't regret I read it. I just regret that it couldn't have been a bit more memorable. (less)
Candy lives in Chickentown, Minnesota with her harried mother and drunken father. Like any good heroine, she doesn't feel like she fits in with her sm...moreCandy lives in Chickentown, Minnesota with her harried mother and drunken father. Like any good heroine, she doesn't feel like she fits in with her small, boring town. She doesn't have friends, her teachers dislike her, and her father's abusive. It's not until Candy learns about Henry Murkitt's suicide that things really begin getting interesting.
Candy decides to write about Henry Murkitt in her school report on Chickentown. She writes about the bloodstains on the hotel walls, the sextant in the drawer, and his death. Unfortunately, the teacher isn't amused by what she considers gossip and hearsay. The teacher berates Candy in front of the entire class and sends her to the principle's office. Candy doesn't go to the principal's office. Instead, she walks right out of school, right through the streets of Chickentown, and right out of the town.
She walks and walks until she comes to a curious place on the plains. There, she finds seashells and ship's wreckage and even a lighthouse. These things definitely do not belong in the middle of Minnesota. Her surprise at her discover is quickly eclispsed by the arrival of John Mischief, his eight brothers (all of whom are faces on the antlers on Mischief's head), and the creature that is hunting them. Candy gets caught up in the business between these strange creatures. To save John, she lights the lighthouse and brings the Izabella down on Minnesota. The Izabella sweeps her out to sea and into the otherworld of Abarat.
Somehow, Abarat manages to be weirder than both Alice in Wonderland and the Oz books. I don't know how Clive Barker came up with some of the creatures in this book, but they seem to be inspired by those incomprehensible pictures that preschoolers draw. There's people with roving features, heads on antlers, and strange mechanical additions. Some of it really creeped me out, and, normally, I don't even mind weird. This was a little too much for me. I probably wouldn't have even bothered finishing it if I had known that it wasn't a stand alone book. I mean, I knew it was one in a series, but I thought some of the plotlines might be wrapped up by the end. No such luck. Of course, I am in no way tempted to pick up the next in the series. The plot and the characters were just too overshadowed by all the oddness.
The plot, such as it was, was decent. It's nothing I haven't read before, but the strangeness, at least, made it somewhat original. (Of course, for me, this wasn't really a selling point.) I, however, was disappointed by the deus ex machina ending. I would have liked Candy to get herself out of trouble a bit more. She had to rely a bit too much on the acts of others. Also, I would have liked for the villains to have more face time towards the end. Carrion completely dropped off the scene about halfway through the book. I really wish Candy could have gotten a look at him. As it was, the bit between the other villain, Rojo, and Candy made Rojo seem almost completely harmless. He wasn't nearly the brilliant, psychopath I expected him to be. I think the plot might have been a bit more enthralling if either Rojo or Carrion had been better presented and better written. A good antagonist might have made the weirdness worth it.
If you don't mind your fantasy strange, you might enjoy Abarat. As for me, I'd prefer to forget a lot of what I read in this book and reread Harry Potter or something equally lucid. (Those head antler things gave me the willies.) (less)
A Monster Calls is the story of Connor, a thirteen year old boy who’s mother has cancer, and the monster who visits him.
Connor’s been having a nightma...moreA Monster Calls is the story of Connor, a thirteen year old boy who’s mother has cancer, and the monster who visits him.
Connor’s been having a nightmare. Night after night after night. This nightmare is the most terrifying thing he’s ever experienced, and so when the yew tree near his house comes to life, he isn’t scared a bit. The yew monster offers to tell Connor three true stories about the other times he has come walking if Connor will agree to tell him his true story. Connor knows that the monster wants the story of his nightmare, but in the end, he agrees. At 12:07, whether day or night, the monster comes and tells Connor the stories. Connor listens to the stories but grows annoyed. These are not traditional fairy tales where good conquers evil. In the monster’s stories, it is difficult to tell right from wrong, good from evil. While Connor is trying to work out the meaning of the stories, he is also dealing with his mother’s illness. She’s getting worse and worse, and soon his grandmother comes to stay with them. He can’t stand his grandmother and he hates her insinuations that he will come to live with her “after.” Deep down, Connor hopes that the monster has come to save his mother, but the monster keeps it’s purpose to itself until the very end.
A Monster Calls was a magnificent book, and I absolutely loved it. This sort of thing is my cup of tea. I love stories about stories, and it’s just great when an author realizes the power of telling tales. And that’s part of what this book is about—the healing power of stories. But it’s not only about stories. It’s also about a teenager dealing with the uncertainty of his mother’s illness. The mother/son story line is handled with great care and a heavy dose of reality. This is a great book for anyone going through an illness of a family member. It validates the feelings of the onlooker. It gives the non-sick partner the right to feel scared, angry, and confused. It doesn’t condemn any feeling. A Monster Calls successfully uses stories to teach truths that would be difficult to accept otherwise.
Patrick Ness’ book is a testament to the power of stories, and I would highly recommend it to anyone. It’s just that good. (less)
Imagine Heroes set during the Roaring Twenties, and you've got a fairly accurate idea of Libba Bray's new novel, Diviners.
Diviners follows the story o...moreImagine Heroes set during the Roaring Twenties, and you've got a fairly accurate idea of Libba Bray's new novel, Diviners.
Diviners follows the story of Evie, a seventeen year old who's been exiled to New York after she sullied the name of a prominent family in her hometown of Zenith, Ohio. She's living with her Uncle Will, the curator at the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult, when a ritualistic murder spree begins in the city. Evie, gifted with the ability to abstract memories from objects, decides that she can help catch the killer.
Evie's story is the main plotline in the novel, but there are plenty more characters and viewpoints. There's two brothers in Harlem with special abilities. A boy who can go invisible. A cyborg. A blind beggar who might not be as benign as he appears. Two strange sisters who keep saying "They are coming." A man in a top hat who might be the big bad. And Theta, a dancehall girl, and her gay BFF, Henry, who both have abilities. All these stories beef out the 550+ page and are far too much to cover in a book review.
Diviners is a fast paced, well-plotted novel. Thankfully, the story never seems to lag. If it did, the size of this book would seem far more daunting. There's a lot in here to keep your attention, and there's definitely plenty of characters for you to either love or hate. The Naughty John plotline is interesting, but it never gets too gory. I'm not sure if that's a good or a bad thing. The side plots never weigh down the story or break up the action. Everything is well situated, and no character is forgotten. (Again, I'm not entirely convinced that's a good thing.) There's definite character growth for Evie and some of the other characters. And finally, we have a love triangle that takes the back seat to the plot. The book is just a fun ride. I got caught up in it, and you probably will too. Libba Bray isn't a magnificent writer, but she certainly has improved since the Great and Terrible Beauty series. This book is far better than her others and is far better than most recent YA books. This is not some Twilight regurgitation or Hunger Games rip-off. This is a supernatural novel that can stand on it's own two feet. And it's very readable. Of course, there are caveats.
Reading Diviners is what I imagine reading the script bible of Lost would be like. The mythology is so overly complicated that it's nearly comical. We have young people with supernatural powers, cyborgs, secret government agencies, and all manner of creepy characters that could be anything from mythological creatures to certifiable loons. I certainly hope this is not a trilogy, because there is no way she could wind all this stuff together in the space of three books--even if they are astronomical in length. The mish mash of everything is just too much. There were many characters in this book that weren't even given a name. How am I supposed to still remember nameless characters by the time the next book comes out? I'll be luck if I remember half the subplots by next week. This book felt like a novelization of a first series of a television show. That isn't a good thing. I wish she had kept the first book simpler and shorter. Really, the main plotline is the only one that matters to the first book's plot. We didn't need introduced to everyone and everything at once. It's just too much. And as I have no intention of rereading this book again, I'll probably never finish the series because I'll just be confused when I read the second book. Wait, who's the Asian girl with green eyes? Was there a blind dude? What could those kids from Harlem do again? Thankfully, the plot of the first book is wound up--meaning that if you don't want to go further with the series, you'll still have the ending for the Naughty John story.
The book was well paced and exciting, but as the first book is a series, it's a bit daunting. I recommend you read it at your own risk. (less)