I had trouble concentrating on this one, & while that might be a statement on my interest in the book, it could be a statement on the distractions...moreI had trouble concentrating on this one, & while that might be a statement on my interest in the book, it could be a statement on the distractions around me at the time. Since I found myself scanning full pages with my mind elsewhere, I'm refraining from rating this book.(less)
This was an interesting, different book. The first two parts are full of fun plot twists that keep you guessing whether time travel is real in the boo...moreThis was an interesting, different book. The first two parts are full of fun plot twists that keep you guessing whether time travel is real in the book or not. The plots of the three parts are somewhat intertwined and somewhat separate. I must admit that the third part disappointed me. I felt that the time-travel-or-not question would be answered in the way it was, but the method of answering this question felt cheesy to me compared to the development of first two sections.
Recommended for fans of: time travel (or not?), plot twists, Victorian settings, HG Wells, books about authors, paradoxes, Cyrano-esque romantic plots, cheesy sci-fi(less)
Although I'm fondest of Witch Week and Charmed Life, having read them as a kid, I do think this might be the best written of the Chrestomanci series,...moreAlthough I'm fondest of Witch Week and Charmed Life, having read them as a kid, I do think this might be the best written of the Chrestomanci series, or at least of the original four (I've only read the newer two once). Christopher isn't always the most likable character, but he is always active, and you can understand where he's coming from, even when you think he's acting rashly. A big plus in this book compared to the other two is that it's third limited, sticking to Christopher's POV, as opposed to omniscient, which had us jumping POVs in WW and CL. I don't like MoC very much, so I don't remember what the POV is there. (I feel like the same could have been done in CL, at least, sticking solely to Cat's POV.) Following along with Christopher when he doesn't know exactly what's going or why he can't do magic and watching him grown into the Chrestomanci we know from other books makes the journey all the better.(less)
This is a very strange book that is hard to classify or review. I bought it in an airport because of the choices there (mostly the authors you expect...moreThis is a very strange book that is hard to classify or review. I bought it in an airport because of the choices there (mostly the authors you expect to always see in an airport bookshop) this seemed like the most interesting book. We're promised a mystery, a puzzle, deep emotions, and an imaginary cat.
Butterfly's first note to Ben was a little rambly, and I kept looking through it for hints to the mystery, but I must admit that it is not that kind of puzzle. The treasure hunt is for Ben, and we are simply along for the ride. There is nothing to figure out for us, no clues to point us to where the next treasure is.
Once I was past the letter, Ben managed to crack me up several times in the first few chapters. I think it was mostly the imaginary cats, but sometimes he would react to something exactly in the strange way I would, and I found that worthy of a laugh. The book does sober down, though, but by that time, we're involved in Ben's hunt. We too want to find out what message Butterfly was leaving for him.
The book lost me a little when we got to New York though. That's strange because I know more New York landmarks and, in theory, should have appreciated the hunt more, but I didn't. Here a potential romance seems to come up, and yet it is treated very strangely. The person doesn't react the way we expect her to. That might be refreshing for some, and it's explained later, but it still was odd to me while reading it.
Being promised a puzzle and a mystery, I was hoping for a certain plot-twist, based on information we were given right at the beginning. I feel like this info was sadly unused. (view spoiler)[Ben has prosopagnosia, which means that he can't recognize faces, and if a person is not in a situation he expects them to be in, he probably won't recognize them, even if he knows them well. Because of this, it seemed like a natural twist for the girl in New York (I've forgotten her name, maybe Beatrice) to be Butterfly, after reinventing herself, especially with a title like "Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa." After a while, things she said didn't match up with the assumption, but clues seemed to lead us there. (hide spoiler)]
In the files left for Ben, Butterfly has left a folder called "My Dead." Many treasures she leaves behind for Ben are stories (or truthful accounts?) of how she killed the people in the stories. Once I got over the initial shock of this--feeling like it was sort of out of place with the treasure hunt and playful hey-I-have-an-imaginary-cat beginning of the story--it became another source of intrigue. What's funny is that the introduction totally says that Ben was going to write her as a killer, yet these stories shocked me at first.
In the end, I felt disappointed by the last section of the novel. This is all spoiler, sorry. (view spoiler)[Butterfly was always alive, but she had been involved in the mystery of the treasure hunt in the most mundane way, just sneaking around asking questions and being in contact with Beatrice. When he finds her, hiding underground and having been found only because she changed her mind about whether to live or die, it seems to take away the sense of her that we've gotten through his description in the past. And perhaps that is on purpose. After all, Ben sees her through the light of one grieving a friend. We also have the unreliable account Butterfly gives of herself. However, I found it disappointing to see her in person, locking Ben up and indecisive even in the end about whether she'd kill him or kill herself. Even her file on him in the "My Dead" folder becomes a disappointment because she is not truly planning to kill him at any point. (hide spoiler)]
One interesting thing about my reading this book when I did was that there was quite a bit of talk about 9/11, and I read this from September 10-12 of this year.
Overall, this was kind of an uneven book. I feel like recommending it to friends because I want to discuss it with them, but I also feel like ultimately I was disappointed by it and I don't want my friends to be also disappointed.
Recommended for fans of: adult fiction, puzzles the MC solves but you don't, treasure hunts, unreliable narrators, and imaginary cats["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This is excellent as an audiobook. Full Cast Audio puts it on, and everyone has their own voice. I can't imagine reading all the songs, but listening...moreThis is excellent as an audiobook. Full Cast Audio puts it on, and everyone has their own voice. I can't imagine reading all the songs, but listening to them is perfect.(less)
(Audiobook version) At times Hounded is quite fun, especially if you're a fan of that wise-cracking fantasy male narrator. However, when you go into re...more(Audiobook version) At times Hounded is quite fun, especially if you're a fan of that wise-cracking fantasy male narrator. However, when you go into reading it, expect not to feel particularly challenged-- either you or Atticus. Sure, he's got gods and the police working against him, but you just never feel like he's really in trouble during these battles. So it's really Atticus's voice that draws you in to the story.
If you've been reading those urban fantasy books that are super dark and just get darker, where the MC is figuratively chased up a tree before the author throws some rocks at them (or sets the tree on fire, or chops it down over a hellmouth, whatever), Hounded is a great break that lets you romp through a not-so-urban fantasy just for fun.
But, for me, I prefer some genuine conflict.
Another problem with this lack of conflict is that the power that comes so easily to Atticus isn't earned as far as the readers are concerned. Sure, if Atticus is 2100 years old, he may feel that he earned the work and time he put into becoming so powerful, but we didn't get to see it. There are some great urban fantasies out there where the main characters are super powerful by, say, book 14, but if that power's been building since book 1, I'm going to feel like the main character earned it. If each step to become more powerful came with a huge consequence, especially those that the MC must deal with over multiple future books, all the better. But Atticus doesn't make it seem like there were any consequences except that it took a long time (before the book begins) to build his power.
Audiobook: The narrator was very pleasant to listen to. He definitely sounded like the right fit for Atticus's voice, and he did a pretty good job with the female characters' voices--always a challenge for male narrators.
However, he contributed to the feeling that no point of conflict was truly a danger. His reading was always calm and usually a bit smug when any danger came about. At some point Atticus gets shot, but the reading never has the reaction you would expect from someone getting shot, and perhaps in reading it on paper you can enter your own sense of concern to Atticus's voice, but with someone reading it for you, you have to stick to the emotion he puts into it.
Recommended for fans of: contemporary fantasy, druids, Celtic mythology, really powerful main characters, gods, fun voices, easy conflict(less)
After rereading the entire Harry Potter series this summer, I was looking for a continuation of the magic. I'm sorry to say that this book doesn't del...moreAfter rereading the entire Harry Potter series this summer, I was looking for a continuation of the magic. I'm sorry to say that this book doesn't deliver. If I wasn't expecting the Harry Potter series' style or storytelling or characterization or even set-up, I might have enjoyed the book more, but from most of the reviews, you would think that this book was close. It's not.
Let's start off by pointing out that this book is, in fact, fanfiction. It's set in the Harry Potter world, shares some characters with the original series, but was not written by J.K. Rowling. As with all slush, fanfiction consists of a lot of dreck and then occasional gems. When I read fanfiction before (at least 10 years ago), it was almost exclusively recommended to me by other people that I trusted, and that has always served me well. I forget where I first heard about James Potter, but so many reviews talked about being so close to HP that I wanted to give it a try. I wanted to continue the way I felt when I read HP.
The prologue starts well enough (although a character from HP didn't seem much like himself), but as soon as we're with James, I began finding little things that irked me. We start with him on the train heading to Hogwarts. Obviously, he's not Harry and his story isn't going to start out with finding out about the wizarding world the way Harry's did. But even past the first book, JKR always found ways to make Diagon Alley interesting (and how interesting would it be to see how it's changed in 17-18 years?) and no matter what setting Harry was in before Hogwarts, we were always intrigued. Why wouldn't we want to know what James's (and therefore Harry's) homelife was like before James went to Hogwarts? So right off the bat, the set-up seems off. We meet other kids on the train, both Muggle-born but neither quite as inquisitive as Hermoine, who came across as if she knew more about the wizarding world than the Muggle world actually. So instead we had a lot of introduction of James to Muggle stuff. It feels very fanfiction to do so. "Hee hee, let me insert stuff from my world into the author's world and have characters react to it." With the technomancy (actually less technological than it sounds) and technology suddenly able to work in Hogwarts, this is not just a cute exchange between the boys, but an initiation into what we can expect for the book.
As is Zane. I like Zane. But Zane introduces the American element. Remember when witches and wizards came to Hogwarts for the Triwizard Cup. It didn't suddenly change the atmosphere of the book to match with those countries (whatever they were). HP was very British. JP is very American. It's in the writing style, it's in the new American characters, it's in the way the classes are taught (kids of all grades in some classes), it's in the type of classes taught (let's explain the magic scientifically), it's in the type of pranks the kids play (Doctor Who aside, aliens are so American), and so on. I was unsurprised to look up the author and find out he was American.
Unlike most, I felt the book picked up a little after the first quarter. We actually visited a few classes (just a few) and all these strange things that we've been wondering why we got introduced to begin to make sense. The storytelling, otoh, is nowhere near as smooth as JKR's. The moment the staff is mentioned it's pretty obvious where it is. We're told a character has an "evil-looking" wand, and, lo and behold, that character is evil. James correctly jumps to conclusions about what was stolen in the prologue pretty much the second he starts wondering where the three relics are and then it's just taken as fact from then on out. When we get to the climax, I'm still not sure whether it was supposed to be the baddies trying to resurrect Merlin, because that felt like a climax but ended up rather anti-climatic, or when the Muggles visit the school, because that was just humorous. But everything we'd been worrying about for the entirety of the book was just sort of fixed with the, well, wave of a wand, figuratively-speaking. (view spoiler)[Seriously, we spend the whole book worrying that Merlin is going to come back and be the next Voldemort, and then he comes and is like, "Hey, I think I'm a good guy, and I totally want to be a good guy," and we make him the new Dumbledore. I also liked Merlin quite a lot, and I think he'd probably be a very fun character if I were to read the future books, but that's not how to end a conflict. (hide spoiler)] While fooling the Muggles was amusing, it still didn't feel like a Harry Potter ending. It was just fun.
Despite the fact that it seemed like the author was trying to avoid many constants from the original series, except in exposition form ("Let me tell you about Charms class"), there were times when we did see characters from the original series. It's always hard to age characters for the next generation, and so it's hard to say if Harry felt Harry enough, if Neville felt Neville enough. But the original adults are a different manner. After the very short Mundungus incident, where I didn't feel like it was him--but then again, how well do we know Dung?--I noticed in short order that McGonagall and Filch were a little off. The one character I think was nailed was Severus Snape's portrait, but all you need is Alan Rickman in your ear to pull him off ;)
So, you've had the long of it, here's the short of it: If you're looking for a story set in the HP world and you're not looking for JKR's storytelling and worldbuilding, and especially if you're a reader of fanfic who is used to these kind of detours from the original source, you'll probably enjoy this book. But if you want to feel the magic of the original series again, the only advice I have for you is to pick up Sorceror's/Philosopher's Stone and begin rereading once again.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
It's always hard to objectively review a long-running series that you love. The magic that drew you into the series in the first book must evolve over...moreIt's always hard to objectively review a long-running series that you love. The magic that drew you into the series in the first book must evolve over time, and sometimes the author hits and sometimes the author misses. Sometimes you love the series overall, but one book just didn't do it for you, though the next one might. And in the Dresden Files books, where each one focuses on a general creature-of-the-week, so to speak, and then those creatures fade to the background while the next focuses on something else, it's easy to prefer one over the other.
For me, Cold Days is a hit. Since Changes rid us of the war with the Red Court, which was getting tedious for me, it was time to find something newly epic to focus on, and Harry's position as Winter Knight, as well as Warden of Demonreach, has given us several new areas to focus on. He can see beyond the surface of the fairies' role on Earth and in the universe, and play a hand in deeper things than he knew were going on.
The stakes are high right off the bat, with Harry in rehabilitation from that pesky condition he was in from the last book; you know, being dead and all. But rehabilitation in Mab's court means a daily assault to make him stronger and prove himself worthy to be her Knight. But, while this could be quite deadly for Harry, I thought this part was fun. A little montage of quirky attacks from Mab and how he dealt with it. Then he "graduates" and has a birthday party thrown by the fae, where, naturally, everyone tries to get him killed. And that's just the first few chapters before Mab gives her first command to her new Winter Knight.
There are new developments for other characters in this book. We've seen quite a lot of changes in Molly over the last couple books, and this one continues developing her along a very interesting path. Harry and Murphy explore their potential romance in a way that both satisfies and frustrates, if you're a Harry/Murphy shipper. Toot, who I love mostly for his ability to take figurative sayings literally, is around a lot, and he gets to fall in love too. We meet some new characters that I also like: Cat Sith (may not be spelling any of these right because, hey, audiobook), Lacuna, Kris Kringle. Yeah.
There are some clever plot twists (I mean, what did you expect from this series?) and of course the big event leading into the climax and climax itself are pretty epic (repeats above parenthetical question).
Recommended for fans of: The Dresden Files, urban fantasy, James Marsters (audiobook version), fairies of all shapes and sizes, fairy court intrigue, huge character development, Demon Reach/genius loci, cat characters with the personalities of cats, The Wild Hunt/Elk King, and Santa Claus (I'm just sayin'...)(less)
This is one of those books that I can see other people enjoying immensely when I did not. Let's face it, of the kick-ass female heroes that have grace...moreThis is one of those books that I can see other people enjoying immensely when I did not. Let's face it, of the kick-ass female heroes that have graced (haha) YA fantasy in the past few years, Katsa is the one that doesn't disappoint in the kick-ass department. You never have reason to question how strong she is, whether she's going to be able to beat her foes, whether she really can survive the situation she's in barring some sort of mental confusion. Not too long ago I read of a female assassin, and I had trouble reconciling what we saw of her in action and in personality with what we knew she was supposed to be able to do. Not so for Katsa.
And yet, Katsa is where I had a lot of my problems with the book. I couldn't connect with her. I didn't love her voice, I didn't love her. When she was in action, such as in the first chapter, I found her engaging. Some of the conversations she had were fun. But in the narrative, which was third person but stuck to Katsa's POV, I often felt myself wishing we could just move things along. When she debated an issue with herself, I found it frustrating instead of debating it right along with her.
I see a lot of reviewers complaining about the section mid-book where Katsa debates whether or not she can be with Po because she does not want to marry. Many of these reviews had a problem with the argument against marriage. Not me. That was part of the character, and I accepted it without question. However, I had a problem with the section for another reason. Here was yet another YA book that seemed to hit pause for the MC to deal with romance issues. I did enjoy the chemistry between Katsa and Po as they fought against each other in the first section, but suddenly there was this one single chapter that was completely about, Oh, hey, maybe she likes Po and their romance must be established right here, right now, in this chapter. So she goes back and forth on it. But the pacing felt so unnatural.
Speaking of pacing, sigh. A lot of classic fantasy involves traveling. And I have recently discovered just how much the narrative surrounding traveling does not hook me at all. By all means, have your characters go on a quest and travel all over, but don't make me have to live with every animal you pass, every time the horse got tired, every time you weren't going as fast as you want. Some of it is important, but fill the traveling time with interesting conversations or action in between. The entire second section of this book is traveling and survival on the road, with a chapter for romance and a chapter of action. There are some plot development conversations, but for the most part, we're looking at traveling and survival. In the first section, Katsa believes her Grace is killing. To be honest, I was far more interested in a person who didn't want to kill being used for killing or torture and having to deal with that weighing on her conscience. Once she finds out her Grace is survival, that is quite a lot of focus of the book. Surviving in the wild. The pacing does not improve in the third section, where the climax happens way earlier than expected and then we spend maybe another 20% of the book on Po and Katsa's relationship again.
Despite the odd pacing, I think that if someone did connect to Katsa, they would probably enjoy this a lot more than I did.
Additional notes: I read the Kindle version of the book, and there were several missing quotation marks throughout the book. I assume the print version is not like that.
I found Bitterblue's speech patterns to be very strange. She spoke as if she was older than Katsa, even though she was six years younger. Although there are kids who do speak like this, I'd expect another character to comment on it or even think about it, assuming the author intended the child to have a strange speaking pattern and just didn't know how kids talk.
A lot of the names made me think of other words, such as Tealiff (tea leaf), Birn (burn), Thigpen (pigpen). And of course there's the oddly named Bitterblue, but I guess her family does match (Ashen, Skye, Greening (who is Po))
Also, I really kinda hover at 2.5 stars for the rating.
Recommended for fans of: YA fantasy, kick-ass heroines, stories about traveling and surviving in the woods and snow, quickly concluded climaxes, unorthodox pacing.(less)