I was so happily surprised to find that The Power of Six was just as enjoyable as I Am Number Fo...more**spoiler alert** (Originally posted @ CSI:Librarian.)
I was so happily surprised to find that The Power of Six was just as enjoyable as I Am Number Four. More so in a lot of ways since this book moved away from Four stagnating in a small town to dealing with larger, more pressing matters. Plus he continued working with Sam and Six who, along with Henri, were the best parts of the first book in this series. Four's point of view chapters were also broken up by the point of view of yet another Lorien, Number Seven who is struggling to reconnect to her Cêpan, Adelina, while working to find herself and aiding a young girl named Ella, a new edition to the orphanage/nunnery she's been living in.
I really liked the differences between Seven and Four as well as their similar struggle to become young adults as well as develop their own powers. The way they are pitted against adults, both in terms of their guardians and the Mogadorians was really fascinating. I think it also worked out much better here than it did in I Am Number Four because Four has to grow up and learn from Henri now that he's gone and Seven has to grow up and find herself in spite of her Cêpan's focus and faith in an Earth-based religion. I do sort of wish that some sort of heading or even their name had been given to their alternating chapters, but for the most part it was very easy to figure out who was narrating when. Either way, neither of them could possibly distract me from how awesome Six remained. I was so glad to see her maintaining a pivotal role and continuing to kick butt even if none of the sections were from her specific point of view.
I am so excited to see what happens next! I don't want to give too much away in terms of the actual plot developments for those who prefer to know very little before going into the book. But there is plenty of action here, a lot of revelations, and very little in terms of a strong romantic vibe. The love that was focused on with much more regularity and emphasis seemed to involve friendships, team-building, sacrifice, and makeshift families, which I think is always a really great choice for an author or authors to make. Particularly when writing a series about alien teenagers charged with saving not only their homeworld but Earth as well.
On the presumption that the decision to not focus as hard on romantic love continues and winds up meaning what I want it to means for Four in regards to Sarah, I would like to be among the first to applaud both authors for allowing their teenage protagonists to learn that romantic love happens all the time and does not cease to matter simply because it doesn't always last forever. Or that often what adults pass on to teens is their own personal truth, which is not always the same thing as an universal truth or even a truth that may play out properly in the life of said teen. I don't feel that the authors do not rely this in a heavy-handed way and this might not matter much to all readers, but it really mattered to me. The fact that any teen book is transmitting a message like this at all, provides me with no end of relief or happiness. Regardless of the target audience or genre, I would love to continue to read books that do not pass along harmful messages that love is a one time forever thing and that, if you loose it, your life will be over.
In conclusion, a great, solid sequel to I Am Number Four. And in of itself, The Power of Six was well worth my while and I feel that it will make a lot of readers --teen or otherwise-- very happy. (less)
I think what I like best about Historical Fiction is that it is usually the most daydream-y and dark chocolate-y o...more(Originally posted @ CSI:Librarian.)
I think what I like best about Historical Fiction is that it is usually the most daydream-y and dark chocolate-y of genres for me. I seek these books out regularly more for a source of indulgent fun than anything else, but even then I require the details, descriptions, and attitudes to be done right. So as you can imagine, I really love everything and anything by Anna Godbersen. I enjoy the melodramatic flair given in ample amounts to both storyline just as much as I do her rich, historical detail which always reads as virtually effortless but clearly involved a lot of work. Godbersen's characters always make no small amount of bad decisions (oftentimes sans apologies). They are always careless with their hearts as well as that of others, but it always makes for a marvelous read.
Beautiful Days was no exception and I fell even more in love with all three leading ladies. My favorite remains Cordelia, who struggles with being true to herself and finding love with an aviator who seems to be her polar opposite. I cannot remember the last time I was filled with nail-biting concern for two teenagers with feelings for one another, but oh my goodness was I worried about Cordelia and Max. I also liked Astrid's struggles with rather silly nonsense relating to Charlie both before and after things took a turn for the serious. She always teeters on the edge of being annoying, but remains so earnest in spite of her dopeiness that she's impossible not to like. Letty was often upstaged, but her drive become a star instead of her best friend's shadow was very endearing. The way her spirits get crushed and dashed so often broke my heart. Thankfully the book ends at just the right place for all three girls.
Overall, Godbersen continues to strike just the right balance of immature uncertainty and independent determination in all of her characters as they figure out who they want to be as adults and parents provide little outside of money and half-hearted support. In that respect, she really used the time period to her advantage and I love that in addition to their own nonsense, all of the girls and the people in their lives are grappling with issues of some substance.
In conclusion, throughly captivating and terrific. If you love Historical Fiction, you owe it to yourself to lounge about and read some Anna Godbersen ASAP.(less)
Wow. Just wow. I don’t have much to say here because Hexed was a perfect sequel and basically just plain perfect. The only reason it took me so long to get through it was that I didn’t want the book to ever end.
Atticus remained just as competent, caring, clever, funny, and cool as ever but in this book I felt more interested and engaged by the minor characters as a whole. I really liked the relationships (or in some cases alliances) developing between him, the coven, his supernatural lawyers, and his druid apprentice. Oberon was a bit more endearing this time around, Leif was really, really hilarious, and Hal was awesome. And there’s something really neat about Atticus being such a part of the modern world, but all the while being ancient. Hearne combines a wealth of legends and myths together and it’s really cool that Atticus has been there to see most of them begin as well as some of them end.
The world-building and plots in this book were also terrific. I also loved that while there was an overall goal in mind for Atticus and the witches, he also did plenty of other things that weren’t entirely related like slaying a demon with Coyote, dealing with petty jealousies arising between Morrigan and Brighid, and having no choice but to take on addition tasks to be dealt with in other books. There’s still plenty of humor in this book too including even a scene where Atticus tells a story and Hal and some witches eat popcorn.
The best part is that the moments of seriousness and the moments of silliness never seem out of place or jarring. Whether Atticus was working to stop evil German witches or teaching Oberon about the Sixties, the scenes blended together beautifully and ultimately every scene complimented everything else. I cannot wait to see what happens in Hammered and then I expect that I will be miserable for awhile when I’m out of books because I absolutely love the Iron Druid Chronicles.
In conclusion, Hexed was awesome and even better than Hounded! If you’re an Urban Fantasy fan who wants something without just romance but with a lot of action, humor, really unique friendships, and even a cool vampire? Read this series. Now. (less)
For me, A Soldier's Duty was like a much needed breath of fresh air. Not only because it was a fun, character-drive...more(Originally posted @ CSI:Librarian)
For me, A Soldier's Duty was like a much needed breath of fresh air. Not only because it was a fun, character-driven series opener with a strong, vivid female lead, but because it lacked romance of any kind. Romance is fine and good, of course, but sometimes I just want to read about someone saving their world and/or universe.
The best parts of the book were the details and the way the future was set up as a far more open-minded, complex place, which I appreciated. Too often Science Fiction becomes preachy or dated because it tries to so closely mimic or parallel current events. A Soldier's Duty does its own thing, not bothering to hone in on Earth in terms of politics or culture, but to expand beyond that. This feat is easily accomplished because although Ia is human, she is not from Earth and hails instead on a world called Sanctuary. She is also a second generation first-worlder as well as a heavyworlder which means she's capable of more than most when on planets, stations, etc. with lighter gravity. She also has mothers, so basically Ia is pretty awesome.
While training and at her first few assignments, Ia is surrounded, for the most part, by other humans hailing from Terran United Planets, but there are plenty of aliens around as well. I am especially intrigued by the Feyori who are responsible for creating humans with precognitive abilities and who view everyone as part of an elaborate game of Chess crossed with Risk that they're playing against one another. I cannot wait to learn more about them or to see how Ia continues to prove herself worthy of having her own faction.
Following Ia's career as she moved from soldier all the way to officer was a pleasure although some sections worked better for me than others and the first half of the book was a bit more enjoyable for me. The second half covered a larger span of time though so a lot had to be packed into not necessarily enough pages. And even when I wasn't sure I agreed with her approach to superior officers or crisis situations, I never stopped liking Ia though or caring about what would happen to her. The journey she's taking is certainly an interesting one. and the way Ia's own precognitive abilities played out was really intriguing as well as her other physical attributes. She definitely teeters on the edge of being overwhelmingly, blindingly special, but Johnson never quite throws her over it.
Johnson also does a great job of sharing Ia's motivations as well as actual reasons for why Ia does certain things the way she does them, which I thought was fascinating. She has to keep quiet because the events she sees playing out can change based on the slightest alteration and she doesn't exactly know all the points she has to hit along the way to get to her main objective. She doesn't always feel the need to explain herself the few times she does share her visions or her abilities, which is a bit annoying, but she also lives in a universe where people can have precognitive abilities, telekinetic powers, and telepathy so the skepticism is not as hard to overcome as it might be in a different setting. I think what also helps balance things out is Johnson's approach to Ia's abilities. Yes, she can see the future, but time is constantly changing and evolving. She's definitely not the most gifted precious precog snowflake out there either, and even when she's certain of how to get from Point A to Point B, Ia still has to do whatever it takes to get there. That journey isn't always pleasant and often requires a lot of fortitude, conviction, and inner strength.
Due to being a precog and aware of future events, it does make sense for Ia to shy away from people, especially in the instances where she can get a good, solid sense of what will happen to them further down the road. Or what might happen if she interferes and/or they live long enough. Since A Soldier's Duty acts as Ia's origin story, I think that loner vibe worked for the most part because all heroes tend to start off on their own and some even stay that way. Moving forward though, this might become problematic. I'm glad that, based on the excerpt for An Officer's Duty in the back of my ARC, it does look like she will go home to at least talk with her family and that will probably help. But at some point it gets ridiculous for Ia to do everything on her own. I would certainly not object to her getting someone to be the Samwise Gamgee to her Frodo Baggins or I guess maybe something more along the lines of the sensible William Bush to her precognitive Horatio Hornblower, but I digress.
Only two aspects of the book really irked me and both of these are pretty minor things. The first was Ia's singing at various intervals and even making up a song about herself on the spot in a bar after one battle. I imagine it will work for other readers, but for me it came across as sort of awkward particularly in the middle of her trying to torture information out of someone. I was also really disappointed by the way Ia earned her nickname, not just because it was so easy but because it wasn't for doing anything really chilling that a moniker like Bloody Mary would suggest. Similarly, the more I think about it, the weirder it is to me that she would even get a nickname like that because I have a hard time believing anyone would remember Bloody Mary in 2491. Unless they were naming her about the alcoholic beverage, which would just be sad.
In conclusion, really, really good and definitely the start of something awesome! If you've tried other Science Fiction series with female leads only to find them to be dated or not be very progressive in one way or another, I would suggest moving on to the Theirs Not to Reason Why series. Or if you simply want a book where a female character sinks and swims based on her own insights and courage as well as precognitive powers all the while knowing that the fate of a galaxy will be determined by her actions, this is the book for you. And now I'm off to pine for the sequel. (less)
I was not expecting to enjoy this book as much as I did simply based on the fact that this is not really the sort...more(Originally posted @ CSI:Librarian.)
I was not expecting to enjoy this book as much as I did simply based on the fact that this is not really the sort of book I go out of my way to find, but I didn't want to miss out on a promising debut. I will admit that the first few pages had me worried and some of the stylistic devices Mafi used were a bit unnecessary. And distracting since there were also a lot of strikethroughs. But once I got to know Juliette, I could not put this book down.
The plot, the emotions, the romance, and the two main characters were pretty terrific. Juliette's world is a dark place for normal people and even worse for her as she grew up with the ability to kill with so much as a touch. I felt really involved and invested in her story. I really wanted her to overcome her own dark thoughts in regards to her horrific powers and the influence of a severely deranged teenager named Warner who wants her to join his side.
Thankfully she has Adam to help her remember that the sort of person she has always been in spite of her powers and everyone else. While their romance is helped out by several convenient factors not to mention proximity and loneliness, there was a real rich and empathetic understanding between Adam and Juliette. That aspect of their relationship was so important to me as a reader and yet is so overlooked in Young Adult fiction, but I digress. I strongly believed in their feelings for one another and, more importantly, Mafi continuously gave me reasons to do so. I also loved that Adam didn't really save her from anything but helped Juliette find the strength and desire to save herself.
If I squint hard enough, I can see the Hunger Games and X-men comparison being promoted by HarperTeen, but it is sort of like comparing oranges to pumpkins. There's similarities to Hunger Games but not enough to call them the same thing. Juliette was definitely more Rogue than she is Jean Grey too, which was a major relief. And there's a bit of the comic book to the dialogue, action, and plot. Unfortunately I think the more comic book aspects of the book came out of left field at the very end, but I won't say much about that since I don't want to spoil the read for others. I also wasn't overly pleased by how things were handled in terms of Adam's younger brother and I wasn't blown away by the bad guy either, but the worst of the character in my opinion was Adam's not-much-of-a-friend Kenji who was too hyper and obnoxious for words. He also seemed completely out of place like a really annoying character from a Shonen Jump Manga who went left when he should have gone right and ended up in a Young Adult Dystopian novel.
The strikethroughs and line breaks appeared less and less as the book went on, but even now that I've finished Shatter Me, I find myself questioning their use at all. They really bogged down the first few chapters to the point where I almost abandoned the book altogether. I'm sure part of it is my bad since I came close to assuming that too much style would mean less substance, but honestly I don't know if these aspects of the book going to appeal to all readers or not. Since most of the strikethroughs were for thoughts that Juliette didn't share, I also think italics would have been a lot easier on the eyes. And Mafi's writing was really strong and engaging enough on its own.
In conclusion, a great debut. Shatter Me is a book that you won't want to miss in November if you're a fan of Dystopias, Romance, or Teens with dysfunctional mutant-like powers. I'm absolutely delighted to have read a Young Adult title where the romance made me want to continue reading rather than want to hurl said book at a wall. I can't wait to see what happens next for Juliette or Adam. Or to read about what they do to the world they live in.(less)
I wanted to love this book. At first, I was positive that I would. The pace was quick, the writing was fine, and t...more(Originally posted @ CSI:Librarian.)
I wanted to love this book. At first, I was positive that I would. The pace was quick, the writing was fine, and there were parts of it that I still really like. There were a lot of clever references throughout the text and exchanges of dialogue that modernized scenes from the play that were very well-done. I felt that the characters were updated in a very cool way, and I liked the idea of Ophelia being the one to dish on what had happened.
However, I feel like Falling for Hamlet sort of maybe missed the point of Hamlet because this was absolutely the most light-hearted re-telling of a tragedy I've ever come across and not in a good way. I understand that teens enjoy fun books. Most people do, but I don't know if a revenge story featuring a series of murders is really the best thing to turn into some sort of teen scandal. I didn't mind Falling for Hamlet being clever and funny,* but I didn't feel like madness, revenge, grief, or even the gravitas of the situation was given close to enough page time.
I think that by trying to modernize and change so much of the play's ending and events, the book never managed to have any real kind of emotional weight for me as a reader. I guess it was neat to make Ophelia something other than a sad, droopy, delicate flower and that she lived, there just wasn't much left for Ophelia to be. She didn't even seem to be very much in love with Hamlet, which seemed sort of bizarre to me, really. I wanted to at least be pleased that the person she wound up saving was herself, but I didn't like her enough for that to matter. I would have much preferred to see her struggling with maybe a modernized version of the original Ophelia's issues. It would have been more interesting, given her some actual emotional range, and made her more sympathetic/believable as a main character.
I also felt that Falling for Hamlet used italics, transcriptions, fonts, flashbacks, and time jumps over and over again in a really distracting way and one that ultimately didn't do anything. I still can't figure out why all these techniques were used when none of them shed any light on the situation or granted me new insight as a reader. At first, I thought having a talk show at the beginning and a police interrogation at the end of each chapter was a nifty concept. But that too became just one more way of rehashing very straightforward events and saying the same thing without actually saying much at all.
In conclusion, Falling for Hamlet is a quick read with a lot of potential that has a lot of style but not enough substance. I don't really know who to suggest this book to, but, if you're a fan of the original play, it's probably worth taking a peek at.
* I loved the little details like Ophelia's ringtone for Polonius being "Papa Don't Preach."(less)
4.5 Stars - By rights, I ought to have finished this book ages ago. It wasn't very long and it was positively mesm...more(Originally posted @ CSI:Librarian.)
4.5 Stars - By rights, I ought to have finished this book ages ago. It wasn't very long and it was positively mesmerizing, but I just knew I'd be beyond sad when I was done and had to leave it behind. Night Circus has a fantastic concept, boundless visual stimulation, beautiful details, and haunting turn of phrase that made for really enjoyable reading. I never felt like Morgenstern was trying to be clever for the sake of being clever. Nor did I think she was trying to make her story overly complicated, which is something that tends to happen a lot in fiction with fantastical elements.
Initially, I was a slightly disappointed by the lack of dark weirdness, overwhelming suspense, or really action-packed conflict. Once I pushed past my expectations, I was really, really fascinated by Morgenstern's vision. Her creativity, writing, and descriptions were really exquisite so even if the book wasn't always what I expected, I loved what I was given from start to finish. More importantly and much like the Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab scents that inspired her, Morgenstern created her own unique blend of Night Circus. There were flashes of the sinister, a liberal sprinkling of mystery, a bit of intrigue and a lot of magical wonder.
I liked all of the characters particularly Tsukiko, Poppet, Widget, and Bailey. The twins and Bailey sort of stole the book out from under Celia and Marco in my opinion. Some of that I suspect has to do with the Marco's and Celia's challenge, the way they're both being used by two outside, uninvolved players, and again the distracting aspect of the circus setting. Knowing that the circus and what they created for it was meant to reflect them definitely helped me to connect to them better during the second half of the book. Besides, it was impossible not to care about them given their back stories and the way events unfolded. So I was happy with how they found one another and that they found someone to understand them properly.
In conclusion, an excellent, thought-provoking, and elegantly crafted debut of a novel. I still maintain that the best part of the circus is the freak show as well as the weirdness that can be assigned to its attractions though so if that's what you're after I would suggest taking at least a peek at Geek Love by Katherine Dunn and Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury but only before or after reading Night Circus. Because Night Circus is worth checking out, deserving of the praise it has been recieving, and a book that I would heartily recommend to people wishing they too could visit or live at a magical circus. It might not have been flawless and I wish there had been more risk-taking, but Morgenstern told a dazzling, memorable, and marvelous story. And really that's all that matters.(less)
The writing was great but after 100 or so pages, I could just tell I wasn't going to like where this story was ultimately headed. Particularly in rega...moreThe writing was great but after 100 or so pages, I could just tell I wasn't going to like where this story was ultimately headed. Particularly in regards to the two brothers and their estranged relationship.(less)
3.5 Stars - What both authors gave me was well worth reading and waiting for and everything about the book was sol...more(Originally posted @ CSI:Librarian.)
3.5 Stars - What both authors gave me was well worth reading and waiting for and everything about the book was solid and well-executed. And yet while virtually every page had something for me to highlight, applaud, commend, and/or appreciate in terms of writing or world-building skills... There just wasn't a lot that I could just flat-out love, gush, and/or rant about in a happy, gleeful way.
For example, I appreciated the importance of the wolves as well as the men as individuals because I feel like that definitely made them all vivid and believeable. But I didn't love --or even like-- being relentlessly teased over and over again with the promise of the possibility of something happening between the male human characters gaining more forward momentum or at least a focus.
Since finishing A Companion to Wolves over a year ago I had been very eager to learn what had happened with Isoflr, Skjaldwulf, and Vethulf. The results were certainly interesting and very well done over all, but I found a lot of the side effects to be quite an unwelcome, disappointing surprise. For one thing, Isolfr was even less likable here in the second book than he ever was in A Companion to Wolves and nothing was really even from his point of view. Even when I got over the fact that the three of them were never going to have a very worthwhile relationship all together, Skjaldwulf was constantly very far away somewhere and had maybe two scenes total with Vethulf. Two great scenes, mind you, but I wouldn't have minded more of them.
Similarly, I wanted to see more of whatever was going on between Brokklfr and Kari at the beginning but that too went in a very different direction than I'd hoped. which isn't the same thing as not liking what the authors did, but I find it extremely tragic that the one book where I would have liked something romantic to be allowed to flourish was the one book where it was never allowed to really do so. I know there were hints of that or even the occasional interlude, but I didn't find that to be particularly satisfying.
I also have to note that the original terms which, while interesting, were sort of jarring as they were used rather relentlessly throughout the length of this fairly short novel. I already know beyond a shadow of a doubt that both authors are accomplished and skilled. I already know that the world they're writing about is, quite literally, made of awesome. I also know I feel quite idiotic even bringing this up but having every single page littered with original terms in addition to original names I couldn't pronounce or often tell apart in some cases gave me a headache. So while this might not bother other readers, I have to admit that this aspect of the writing and world-building definitely kept me from ever getting completely lost or immersed in the story.
In conclusion, The Tempering of Men was quite good. It was quite frustrating too, but I still think the Iskyrne series is worth checking out if only for the world Monette & Bear have created. I definitely think that the third book has the potential to be totally awesome given what happened in the second book and I'll be eager to revisit Iskryne once it comes out. (less)
As overjoyed I was to finally get a chance to read this, I was also incredibly apprehensive. On one hand, darkness...more(Originally posted @ CSI:Librarian.)
As overjoyed I was to finally get a chance to read this, I was also incredibly apprehensive. On one hand, darkness taking over is something Barker does well. On the other, I wasn't sure really what could possibly happen to Candy or Abarat to warrant three more books. Happily, re-reading the first two books assuaged most of my fears and Absolute Midnight itself was more than worth the wait.
Wow. I am still reeling from the emotions, the darkness, the characters, the diverse settings, the amazing writing, and the events that took place. While Absolute Midnight obviously was in the same spirit as Abarat and Days of Magic, Night of War, this new third book was darker, more profound, and more brilliant than I could have ever anticipated. Every time I thought I knew what was going on, I didn't really and thank goodness because what happened not only to Candy but to Boa, Carrion, Pixler, Motley, Malingo, and everyone else in Abarat or Chickentown made for a thoroughly engaging read.
The direction everything and everyone got taken in were really some of the more refreshing changes, particularly for a YA book, that I've come across in awhile. There is a lot going on in the Abarat series that deals with love, life, death, friendship, good, evil, finding one's true self, and choices. I still don't know if I would say this was a book strictly targeted towards teens, but all of the topics I've mentioned are definitely what teens are starting to become aware of if not to terms with. What makes this book and its prequels work so well is that the subjects are handled in really thought-provoking ways that aren't in the least bit heavy-handed.
I could go on and on about the wonderfully terrible and terribly wonderful parts of Absolute Midnight, but needless to say there are a wealth of spoilers involved. Without giving too much away, I will tell you that there were so many monsters, so many story-lines, and so many amazingly unexpected developments that I found myself absolutely miserable and frustrated when I couldn't just sit still to read this book all the way through. While reading, I cried, I laughed, and I was moved by the scope of Barker's vision, imagination, and depth he gave to each of his characters. I was occasionally horrified by some of what happened, of course. But over all I was impressed, enthralled, and keenly pleased by the uniquely Barker but somewhat Lovecraftian-tinged elements that were introduced as well as how much the stakes get raised for everyone.
One of the strongest elements of the first two books were the art, and the paintings in Absolute Midnight were pretty amazing too. The words themselves held their own a bit more firmly this time around, but I still loved the pairing of images and text. Since I was reading an ARC not a finished book, I had to make do with black and white reproductions. That worked for about half of the paintings. With the other half it just turned everything into one shade of gray on top of the other, which was pretty awful in terms of catching any small details. Again, this is also not something I would hold against the book itself. Instead I will definitely be hunting down a finished copy of Absolute Midnight as soon as it is out in order to see the oil-paintings properly because I am positive that they will look awesome in color. Somehow I suspect re-reading won't be a hardship either.
As far as complaints go, I can't really think of any. Yes, there are a lot of cliffhangers, but I think that's sort of par for the course since this is the third book in a five book series. I could have done without the new love interest for Candy, but I will reserve any real judgment until I see how it all plays out. Besides, Barker did so many things so well that it is difficult to hold anything so trivial against him.
In conclusion, awesome and not to be missed! Throughout the Abarat series, Barker has been able to strike a remarkable balance between the use of words and images, and he is really gifted at expressing himself through both mediums. Even just in terms of words, Absolute Midnight is the sort of work of fiction that readers need and that I sometimes forget even exists. It is such a shame that so few authors are wielding their imagination so freely or in such successful abandon as Barker. Just like the first two books of Abarat, I can see Absolute Midnight appealing to a wide range of people. Particularly to readers who are sick and tired of the same old thing, readers who are tired of authors refusing to go into the dark with their stories, and to fans of really good, fantastical horror. (less)
(Please Note: This review contains several spoilers relating to characters, but not to the overall plot.)
While Blo...more(Originally posted @ CSI:Librarian.)
(Please Note: This review contains several spoilers relating to characters, but not to the overall plot.)
While Blood on the Bayou had a really neat plot and some engaging minor characters, it really, really let me down in terms of its main character, Annabelle Lee.
I am a very character-driven reader. Plots and world-building are awesome, but even then, unless I'm reading a book about the exciting adventures of a planet or plot-point, I need something else to go on. I need a character to connect to. That doesn't mean I have to become BFFs with the character. I'm not saying need to see their resume nor require them to adhere to a strict moral code, but I do prefer protagonists that have something --anything-- going for them. This is particularly true of Urban Fantasy where so many heroines are presented as absolute messes in terms of their personal life and emotional state.
I can understand the appeal of a messy character. I can also appreciate fictional private investigator or magic user types who come across as both sarcastic and self-deprecating while masking some kind of secret hurt that gets slowly revealed over the course of their series. Having low self-esteem, being an addict of some kind, or having a dark past isn't going to keep me from liking a character. I think having issues like that can be compelling. Successful examples for me would be Stacia Kane's Chess, Putnam, Lauren Beukes' Zinzi December, Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels, and Diana Rowland's Angel Crawford. They don't all have the same range of problems by any stretch of the imagination, but their books/series are all focused on the ways they change and become more comfortable in their roles as well as with themselves. Yes, men become a part of all of their lives, but that isn't the end all be all of their existence.
In approaching Blood on the Bayou, I was aware that Annabelle was still quite a mess and not likely to make any improvements at a rapid pace because honestly she doesn't care enough about herself. Even knowing that, I figured something ultimately would change given that this is the second book in an on-going series. Therefore I was very disappointed when, just like in the first book, Annabelle didn't seem to care about herself on any level, constantly was looking for conflict to have with someone else, took very little responsibility for her actions, took advantage of various emotional attachments, and was apparently quite content cultivating a nice little garden of problems for herself.
With a character like Annabelle, my hope is usually a) that she or he will either be such an awesome force that I won't care about their personal hang-ups or shortcomings, b) I will be given insight that will allow me to have more empathy for him or her, or c) he or she will decide to possibly change their life for the better in some small, organic way over the course of several books.
Maybe this is expecting too much from a book or maybe it's expecting just the right amount from a novel. Jury's still out. Either way, character development would be sort of pivotal for a fictional someone with more issues than actual friends. The last thing I am interested in is how many guys or gals said heroine or hero can hook up with while ignoring their issues or so much as sorting out a single, solitary mess facing them outside of the main plot.
So imagine my horror when Annabelle went from having maybe one guy to having three guys that were into her because... Well, that's the problem. I think I'm as likely to figure out the answer to that question as I am to figure out while every female character in Norway was in love with Jo Nesbø's Harry Hole.
What was also problematic for me in terms of Annabelle and her love interests was that one of the guys into Annabelle has a pregnant fiancée who was in a hospital and in danger of losing their baby. Until the plot got a move on, he spent a lot of time trying to get Annabelle to take him back because of their epic misunderstanding a long time ago. And he also thought her craziness is sexy. Another one of the guys was so in love with her that it is really depressing to read about. The right thing to do would have been to tell him it's over at some point, but instead Annabelle accidentally sort of intentionally strung him along for just about the entire book. And the third just was sort of there for most part but they have witty exchanges and he was hot and was also into her being a hot mess for no real reason.
I realize these issues won't trouble every reader and to many it will seem like I read this book the wrong way. But I can only speak to my experience which was full of frustration, bafflement, and disappointment. I got really sick and tired of the plot having to get put on pause for Annabelle and her love square, which really didn't hold my interest or make me feel all that emotionally invested. More importantly, I didn't feel like the characters were all that genuinely invested or that they would have been pursuing Annabelle had she not been the main character. Along those lines, I also got really fed up by how nothing seemed to get resolved with any of the three men for far too long. And I really just found myself fundamentally disliking all the decisions Annabelle made and all the approaches she took to any given situation.
Things got slightly better as the plot continued, and I did like the way the novel ended in terms of the plot as well as the minor characters especially Fern and Deedee. Along the way, there were a lot of quirky moments and the some of the humor worked for me. And, yes, Annabelle ultimately made some good decisions... but by then I felt like the only reason Annabelle was important to anyone in the book was because she was the main character and everything was from her point of view. The ways in which Annabelle seemed to be growing and changing didn't do much for me anymore than her love life did.
In conclusion, not for me. I have no desire to only read and review books where the main character has a clean bill of mental health, but I'm not a fan of stories where female characters are messes in need of unconditional support and a good therapist but instead have 3+ guys trying to hook up with them.