There's so much to talk about, but anything I say would be a HUGE spoiler. If you're a fan of mythology, folklore, mysterious towns, HELLHOUNDS, biker...moreThere's so much to talk about, but anything I say would be a HUGE spoiler. If you're a fan of mythology, folklore, mysterious towns, HELLHOUNDS, biker gangs, serial killers, omens and portents, and sassy cats, Cainsville is the series for you. I tore through these books - and they're definitely not short reads. However, the writing is blindingly fast and the story completely sucked me in..these 400+-page chunksters were one-sitting reads. THAT is how much I loved these books. Only two things leave me upset: 1) I've never read anything of Armstrong's before this (I've been missing out on some seriously good stuff!) and 2) I have to wait an entire year for the third book!
Chock-full of metaphory goodness, 2AM at The Cat's Pajamas beautifully weaves together three storylines gravitating around a past-its-prime jazz club....moreChock-full of metaphory goodness, 2AM at The Cat's Pajamas beautifully weaves together three storylines gravitating around a past-its-prime jazz club. The novel's Old World feel perfectly suited the smokey barroom. The secondary characters were just as intriguing as the key figures and the foul-mouthed nine-year-old at the center of it all quickly became a favorite of mine. With it's catchy title and gripping characters, I can easily see this novel gaining a following, maybe not in the mainstream media, but underground - and I don't see that as a bad thing at all! This is a special novel that I'll have at the ready whenever someone asks for a solid story, but without all the hype and fanfare.
If you're into creepy settings (This silence here was somewhat heavier, lonelier than the preceding one. The former was an elevator silence; this one...moreIf you're into creepy settings (This silence here was somewhat heavier, lonelier than the preceding one. The former was an elevator silence; this one was a walking-through-the-woods-by-night silence.), rooms that lead to nowhere, secret pasts, awesome characters, quirky formats, The X-Files, and historical fiction (the novel takes place in the 90s, but were it not for a few specific references to television shows, I could have easily believed this took place far, far earlier), this is the book for you. From what I can tell, this is Cantero's debut in English. If the rest of his books are this fun, I'll keep my fingers crossed for translations!
If you want a fairy tale retelling done right, look no further than Bitter Greens. Forsyth is a master at what she does. This novel was released early...moreIf you want a fairy tale retelling done right, look no further than Bitter Greens. Forsyth is a master at what she does. This novel was released early last year in the UK and Australia, but the wait has been SO worth it. If you’re looking for unforgettable characters, settings that are every bit as fascinating as its inhabitants, and some good old-fashioned magic, Bitter Greens is the novel for you.
I Am Pilgrim is a sweeping 700-page behemoth of a novel that spans multiple decades and continents and I cou...morethis review will go live on the blog05/27
I Am Pilgrim is a sweeping 700-page behemoth of a novel that spans multiple decades and continents and I could have easily read another 700 pages. I'm typically hesitant to give in to hype, I've been burned in the past, but with this novel, the hype is not only deserved, but actually doesn't do the book justice. I Am Pilgrim is greater than the hype. It's the kind of book that rocked me to my core and left me breathless. It took me over a month to finally come up with a review but even after a month's thought, nothing I say will be good enough. This book is that good.
I'm purposefully leaving the summary vague; uncovering the details is half the fun! What initially starts out as a routine - albeit rather gruesome - murder investigation in a seedy New York hotel quickly spirals into a whirlwind race across Europe and the Middle East to stop a crazed zealot from raining destruction down on America. Throw in some ultra-secret government divisions, biological warfare, and a main character with severe mommy issues, and you've got the backbone of I Am Pilgrim.
It's never fully revealed just who our main character is. He was adopted as a child and later on recruited for an agency where he was given a new name and a new past. With each case he took on a new identity. He's a ghost, living on the fringes of society, never getting close to anyone. After he left the agency, he wrote a book detailing various crimes and unique methods of killing. He becomes involved in the murder investigation after it becomes clear the killer used his book as a blueprint, a checklist of what not to do and how to get away with it. From there I Am Pilgrim takes on a life of its own and I happily buckled in for the ride.
This is a novel where there's So. Much. to say but saying it will give away the book's secrets and I refused to ruin it for anyone! I Am Pilgrim is definitely not for the queasy and makes that clear with the opening scene. Thankfully I'm the kind of person who can't resist watching horror unfold and was thoroughly ensnared in this book's web. I'm convinced Hayes is something of a genius - the way he introduced multiple stories that, on first look, appeared completely unrelated only to have everything come together at the end had me in awe. It takes a special kind of author to turn a book of this length into a frenzied page-turner, and Hayes is clearly a master of his craft.
I Am Pilgrim kept me up late, got me up early, and had me sneaking in some reading time whenever I could throughout the day. When I wasn't reading this book I was thinking about it and counting down the minutes until I was able to get back to it. I realize this review is little more than me rephrasing "I LOVE THIS BOOK" over and over again, but when it comes down to it, that's all I can say (without spoiling anything, of course). I Am Pilgrim is a highly ambition novel that fully lives up to those ambitions and I'm counting on it becoming a huge hit this summer. It appears this is going to be a series, and if that's truly the case, I desperately need the next!(less)
The House at the End of Hope Street is that rare kind of story that initially comes across as wholly unassuming and it isn't until you look up and see it's going on 3am that you realize this book has completely enchanted you. There are few books I'll read in a single sitting and even fewer that I'll sacrifice sleep for, but with this book I happily ignored the rapidly-approaching dawn. For 280 gorgeous pages I lived and breathed this story. When I finally finished I wanted to hold the book close, somehow make it a part of me. I seriously considered starting over again, turning back to the very first page - and I have never reread a book immediately after finishing.
At 19, Alba Ashby is well on her way to a bright future. She was Cambridge University's youngest student (15) and is now the youngest PhD student. Her world collapses in an Unspeakable Moment - throughout the novel the truth is hinted at, though never fully detailed until later on - and she sees herself with no option but to leave school. Not wanting to return to a home where her siblings hate her (Lord Ashby's children prefer the latest and greatest, not understanding their youngest sister's passion for books and history) and finds herself at the door of 11 Hope Street.
As if she fully expected to see Alba on her doorstep, an older woman introduces herself as Peggy and invites the girl in. She invites Alba to stay in the house for ninety-nine days while she gets her life back on track. Once inside, Alba notices the photographs lining the walls. Hundreds on photos of famous women, all of whom had taken up residence in the house at one point or another. Beatrix Potter, Florence Nightingale, and Sylvia Plath had found the house in their time of need and now it's their turn to offer advice to Alba - literally. The house on Hope Street isn't an ordinary home, it's a living, breathing place ready to provide inspiration and assistance to any woman who finds herself at the door.
The characters in The House at the End of Hope Street are just as magical as the house itself. Along with Peggy and Alba, there are two other women who have taken up residence in the house. Greer, a starlet pushing forty, recently discovered her fiance entertaining a woman young enough to be her daughter and Carmen, a beautiful Portuguese woman who fell in love with a musician and is now holding onto a dark secret. The story's narrative alternates between these four women and nothing - nothing - makes me happier than some multiple narratives! There's Stella, a ghost only Alba can see, who has filled the role of friend and confidant that was missing from Alba's life. There's also Mog, a cat who has been in the house for decades - and let's not forget the photographs! The entire time I was reading this book I kept imagining Harry Potter-esque photos. The women in the frames are fully capable of interaction and, whether Alba wants it or not, are quick to offer advice. At the very end of the book there are a few pages devoted to these women which give mini-bios. There are suffragists (Millicent Garrett Fawcett, Emmeline Pankhurst), writers (Daphne du Maurier, George Eliot), actresses (Elizabeth Taylor, Vivien Leigh), scientists (Caroline Herschel, Mary Somerville) and so many, many other remarkable women and let it be noted that my interest is definitely piqued. Don't be at all surprised if future reviews include a biography or two!
The House at the End of Hope Street is a book I could keep talking about for AGES. For such a tiny novel, there's so much to be said about this story! It's also one of those books I loved so much that I fear anything I say could never do it justice. There are novels that I enjoy enough to declare a top pick for the year. This one, however, has gone above and beyond. It's achieved that special status: a favorite not just for the year, but overall. Some books I like enough to reread - at some point. This time I know I'll be revisiting these characters.
Whether you're a Young Adult reader who's looking to dip your feet into the Adult genre or a reader who's looking to get lost in a beautiful world, I cannot recommend this book enough. It had everything I didn't know I had been looking for and Menna van Praag is an author I'll now be keeping my eye on.(less)
Oh, this was lovely. Absolutely wonderful. I spent a little longer than I would have liked reading The Traitor’s Wife, but I wanted to savor it, to re...moreOh, this was lovely. Absolutely wonderful. I spent a little longer than I would have liked reading The Traitor’s Wife, but I wanted to savor it, to really get down deep into these characters’ lives. While I liked it when reading, the more I think about it since finishing, the more I love it – and I’ve already ordered a copy to keep on my shelves! That’s certainly saying something about this book; even when I love a story, I rarely – RARELY – purchase my own copy. The Traitor’s Wife is definitely a special story.
Everyone knows the evil Captain Hook, the villain of Neverland. What Alias Hook delivers is the tale of Jamie Benjamin Hookbridge, the eleven-year-old boy obsessed with ships. James Hookbridge, the charming young man who enjoyed women and drink and was in no hurry to settle down. The curse that cast him a devil, the boy who haunts him day and night, and his only chance at a way out.
I'm a big fan of retellings. A big fan. When I first heard about a retelling that focused on Captain Hook, the story that told his side, I couldn't contain myself. This was a story for me. Unfortunately, after an extremely strong start, I quickly found myself losing focus; Alias Hook lost its steam hardly a quarter of the way into the story.
Hook's childhood was fascinating and I loved these early alternating chapters between his life in London in the late 1600s and his hellish existence in Neverland in (what turns out to be) 1950. I'm a total sucker for a good backstory and I think it's crucial to a successful retelling. Hook's time spent with his father, his passion for the sea, even his early adulthood when he was often found in a saloon with his uppercrust pals or entertaining ladies in a seedy brothel. These windows into just who this man was made the story for me. I'll take some good old-fashioned character exploration over action scenes any day of the week.
Unfortunately, once his backstory was established and there were no longer any of those lovely looks into his previous life - his mortal life - I found it was a struggle to continue. There was a woman Hook loved, though he secretly wasn't looking forward to a life at home with a wife and children. He took to the seas and never returned. A dark curse was placed upon him, sending him to a boy's fantasy world where he would forever be tormented and challenged. Two centuries later - two centuries worth of shipmates, Lost Boys, Wendys, and Pan's antics - Hook discovers something new to Neverland: a woman.
Stella Parrish was a nurse who aided wounded soldiers in the Second World War. When that world became too unbearable, she sought the refuge of her childhood dreams and soon found herself in a place she immediately recognized from her storybooks. Naturally she doesn't believe Hook is really the Captain Hook, nor does she take Pan's word as truth; he's just a silly boy, a child. What power could he possibly wield? It's not until she witnessed firsthand just how deadly Pan's games are that she comes to realize this isn't silly, this isn't a game. For centuries Pan has acted out his heroic fantasies while Hook is predestined to lose every single time. While he is never fatally harmed (despite his longing for release from this dreadful place), his men, mere mortals, die for Lost Boys grow up to become men and Pan would never allow grown-ups to plague his world.
Stella's arrival is met with confusion - if Pan's in charge and he adamantly refuses to allow adults, just how did a grown woman appear? Hook takes her aboard his ship in an attempt to protect her and possibly gain the upper hand on Pan for once (Hook reasons that Stella made her way to Neverland without Pan's knowledge and he won't pass up any advantage he could have over the boy). Over time the two become close and, yeah, I wasn't at all surprised by the romance - anyone reading this book should not be surprised. The only woman in Neverland and the first woman Hook has seen in over two hundred years? Yeah.
There's lovely homage paid to J. M. Barrie. Although he'd long since passed by Stella's arrival, Hook remembers him as Pan's Scotch Boy. Barrie was one of the Lost Boys and when he returned to our world and grew up, a part of him retained those childhood memories. In his recollections, however, Barrie viewed Peter as a great leader, as all Lost Boys do, thus making Peter Pan beloved and renowned while Hook was demonized.
While I felt the story began to drag once James became Hook, I was never not interested. I certainly wasn't nearly as invested in the story as I had been in the beginning, leading to it taking nearly two weeks to read when I typically get through a book in two or three days. By the halfway mark I found myself skimming over the longer passages, usually those scenes where Hook was lamenting Stella's absence or discussing matters with his men. A large part of the book was slow-going and as much as I love a story that takes its time, Alias Hook didn't have enough to keep me turning the pages. Many nights I only got through a chapter - two if they were short. Although I wasn't as in love with Alias Hook as I had hoped, I like the idea behind it and I loved the look into Captain Hook's life before Neverland. His quest for redemption, for death, captivated me and the ending is open to a variety of interpretations. And, really, the cover is seriously spectacular in person. The colors are astoundingly vivid!(less)
Cracked is a novel that came out of nowhere and took me by surprise. Initially I wasn't expecting more than a run-of-the-mill YA Paranormal. By the end of the first chapter, however, I was completely hooked!
Meda isn't quite sure what she is, but she knows it isn't good. See, Meda eats souls. And she likes it. Meda's mother always knew Meda wasn't like the other children - public schooling (or any schooling, for that matter) couldn't handle Meda and her tendency for violent outbreaks. Her mother's gruesome death has left Meda to fend for herself and Meda is more than capable of doing so.
After gaining admittance to an institution, Meda finally has her target cornered. She's had her sights on this man for a while, and now it's time for action. Unfortunately, there are others - some like Meda, some not - who arrive with plans of their own. When she's 'rescued' by a well-intentioned young man, Meda decides to make the most of it; Chi is a Crusader, a Templar seeking to rid the world of Demons. These demons he fights sound startlingly familiar to Meda. Here's her chance to find out just what she is - and possibly catch a snack or two in the process.
Cracked was, well, delicious. It was a fun, take-no-prisoners novel that I hadn't realized I needed. Meda was a fantastic character - though readers will either love her or hate her. She's snarky and rude and doesn't hide the fact that she is what she is. She had very few redeeming qualities - if any at all - and it's this anti-hero trait that made her so refreshing and enjoyable. The Knights themselves were all a great bunch too: Chi, the fearless leader who's just a few crayons short of a box; Jo, the no-nonsense girl who's haunted by a wound; Uri, the most adorable 12-year-old who practically worships Chi. I found myself truly caring for these characters and one scene even left me teary-eyed.
Not only did Crewe turn the likeable main character idea on its head, but she also did an absolutely wonderful job with the romance. The romance is between two secondary characters and I was rooting for them the entire time. If you squint a bit, there's a sliiight chance that Meda might have her own romance in the next book, but it really could go either way - and for once, I don't mind. Meda's character and the story itself are strong enough on their own to where I'm fine with the lack of a love interest.
Cracked was a short story, but one I was fully invested in and enjoyed immensely. If you're looking for a story that's outside the usual YA Paranormal, check this one out. This is a great start to a new series and I can't wait for the sequel!(less)
They come out of the sky and take you. Everyone knows that.
Six years ago, life in Riley's town changed. Without warning, the angels appeared and began taking people. That first year was the worst; no one knew what had happened or what was going on. Where did these people go? They weren't dead, they simply vanished after being taken into the sky. The second year, however, the town was ready. They knew what to expect, yet there was no way to stop it.
With each Taking, more and more friends and family vanished and the town viewed it as their own awful curse. It wasn't until Pastor Warren's arrival that things began to change. With his sermons and flashy way of preaching, he was able to convince the townsfolk that, no this wasn't a curse, this was a blessing. The Taking is actually the Glory and is something to be worshiped and desired. Soon the entire town - whether voluntary or involuntary - are under his spell and go along with his word.
One of the few members of the town not to accept the pastor's message is Riley Carver. Sixteen and a bit of an outsider, she'd all but shut down after losing her best friend in the previous year's Taking. When one of the angels shows up outside her bedroom window, she's ready to take action and in the process, shoots it. Unfortunately for Riley, the angel is no longer an angel. He's a boy, naked and confused and thinks he's still in the 1950s.
We all know to beware the hype machine, right? I know I've certainly given in multiple times, only to realize I actually HATE the book. Guys, Outcast is worth it. It deserves all the hype and then some! I'm typically not a big fan of paranormal, but this one was fantastic. Ms. Kress took these angels, turned them around, and made it believable. I know it's a little hard to picture a novel about angels stealing people as believable, but the novel does it in such a way that the paranormal elements aren't overdone and that is what makes it so great.
What really made the novel for me, though, were the characters. They were beautifully fleshed out and spot-on. Riley is still hurting over the loss of Chris and she battles with her newfound emotions for Gabe. Her internal struggle was incredible and made her shine as a character. Gabe had been one of those creatures until Riley shot him. Now he's a super hot Greaser who believes he's still in his present - 1956. Gabe was great and their friendship was wonderful. He's a total playboy, but doesn't hide his intentions. His sheer terror of the Internet was beyond adorable. Lacy, a stereotypical cheerleader; Father Peter, Hartwich's largely ignored Catholic priest; Pastor Warren, the slimy and oh-so-charming man who hovers during his weekly Commune. Each character was remarkably well-done.
An added bonus was the inclusion of Riley's parents. Both are featured heavily in the novel and even call Riley out on letting a boy come before schoolwork. Way to go, Mr. & Mrs. Carver!
The novel's only downfall was the ending. Well, endings. Plural. The first was absolutely heartbreaking and I kept hoping it wasn't going to happen. Sadly, it did, and I was left in pieces. That wasn't the end, however. There was still another chapter and another ending. It would have been more of an emotional impact if there had only been the first ending, but even with the second, I still had that punched-in-the-gut feeling.
An original plot, beautifully crafted characters, and emotions galore made Outcast a quick favorite. It's short and can easily be read during a bright and sunny weekend and I know it's one I'll be revisiting again soon.(less)
"We don't run indoors. We don't disobey our elders. We don't speak too loudly. Sometimes we don't even speak at all, hmm? Sometimes children shouldn't say a word."
Victoria Wright is the best at everything she does. She wakes up at precisely the same time every single day, she expects her school uniform to be pressed just so, and all of her desk accessories are in clearly labelled boxes. Her parents brag about her to their friends - who certainly don't have children nearly as perfect as Victoria - and when her teachers assign 5-page papers she hands in 10.
Then came the day Victoria never dreamed would happen: she received a B in Music.
She had been too angry and ashamed in her less-than-perfect grade to notice the disappearance of her best friend Lawrence. Lawrence, who constantly needed reminders to comb his hair or tuck in his shirt. Lawrence, who loved his piano above all else - despite his parents' wishes to follow in their footsteps and pursue a career in dental care. Lawrence, who might be a fairly average student, but would certainly never receive a B in Music.
All her life, Victoria had never been one for tears. When people cried, it made her uncomfortable. People who cried couldn't handle their lives, and Victoria could always handle everything. Plus, crying messed up your face. It was disorderly and inconvenient.
When Victoria finally does realize Lawrence is missing, she immediately heads to his house to find out where he went. His parents casually mention a sick grandmother, but Victoria can't help but notice something is...off: their smiles are a little too wide, their eyes a little too bright. The more people Victoria runs into, the more she notices things aren't quite right. While her own mother is no stranger to skin creams and products, her neighbors are starting to look less like humans and more waxy and shiny.
Also, she can't help but notice the sudden swarm of bugs popping up all over town.
Victoria's investigation eventually leads her to the largest house in town: the Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls. Until now, Victoria never had a need to visit the orphanage and avoided it at all costs (who knows what kind of filth and germs those children would have!), but with time running out - and more missing children - Victoria will stop at nothing to bring Lawrence back.
"I must have imagined it," she told herself, slipping into her bed and shutting her eyes tight. "I imagined it, I imagined it. Houses don't move like that. Houses aren't alive."
The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is a book that had been on my radar for a while now, but it wasn't until I received an ARC of Legrand's The Year of Shadows (out this August), that I made the decision to move Cavendish up a few spots on my list.
Spring has finally graced Pittsburgh and that means rain. Rain and gloomy, dark days. I can't think of a better atmosphere for a novel like this. I curled up on the couch with a cup of tea and a blanket and devoured this book in a sitting. Initially I had my doubts about Victoria. She was the quintessential definition of a snob, yet this was the main character! How on earth was I going to spend 300+ pages with her and her incessant quibbling over incorrectly ironed pleats?
Imagine my absolute shock when I realized I really liked Victoria! Her need for perfection would have been intolerable in anyone else, but with her, it was adorable. Her quirks came off as amusing rather than grating, and her no-nonsense attitude helped move the story along at a wonderful pace. The story doesn't really come alive until Victoria winds up in the Cavendish Home, but once she does, the book takes off beautifully.
The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls reminds me of dark, gothic stories I enjoyed enormously as a child. It's delightfully creepy and the sinister feel didn't let up once. Interspersed throughout the chapters are gorgeous full-page illustrations and every so often there are smaller illustrations of bugs. Ha, more than once I forgot they were just drawings and nearly threw the book across the room. That those drawings kept me on edge while reading only added to the overall feel of the novel and worked in its favor.
Though this is most definitely YA, there were a few moments that surprised me - unbeknownst to the children, they were partaking in cannibalism. These instances did nothing to hinder my enjoyment of the book, however.
Having one Legrand novel under my belt, I cannot wait to read The Year of Shadows! If you're in the mood for a dark tale, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is for you!(less)
Sophie Hatter is the eldest of three girls and is, by order of birth, doomed to be a failure. Lettie, the middle girl, is breathtakingly beautiful while Martha, the youngest, is certain to find fortune and a happy life. The girls' father runs a successful hat shop and upon his death, their stepmother takes over and begins making arrangements for the girls to take up apprenticeships. Sophie will stay at home and inherit the hat shop one day, while Lettie will train under a highly skilled witch and Martha will learn all there is about cakes and pastries.
At first, Sophie was comfortable. As the months go by however, she feels a longing to do more and be more than a hatter apprentice in drab grey dresses. Unfortunately for Sophie, she crosses paths with the evil Witch of the Waste and soon discovers she has been aged 70+ years. She's now a 90-year old woman, cursed to be old - for she can't tell anyone about the spell - until the day someone comes along to release her.
Because her stepmother obviously would be a bit shocked to discover an old woman in her shop, Sophie makes the decision to leave. She leaves Market Chipping, the town she has known her entire life, and heads off in search of her own fortune. All the while the large, floating castle - home to the evil Wizard Howl - looms overhead.
"That's magic I admire, using something that exists anyway and turning it round into a curse."
It's when Sophie enters the moving castle that things really get going. She meets Michael, Howl's young apprentice, and Calcifer, a fire demon trapped in the fireplace. She quickly strikes a bargain with Calcifer: if she lifts his curse, he'll find a way to change her back. All the while Howl is nowhere to be seen.
When he finally does appear, Sophie is more than surprised. Instead of the fearsome wizard who steals girls and eats their hearts, there stands before her a young man not much older than she is (was?). Over time they become something of a very dysfunctional family: Sophie cleans the castle and cooks the food, Howl and Michael supply spells and potions for the surrounding towns and villages, and Calcifer...well. He's Calcifer.
Unbeknownst to Sophie, Howl is also cursed. The Witch of the Waste has been hunting him down and now she's finally found him.
Howl's Moving Castle is short, y'all. We're taking barely over 200 pages here (my copy is 212). Going into this book I knew about Sophie and Howl, but everything else was completely new to me and not at all what I had expected!
These are the kind of books I love. That lazy Sunday feel is super strong in this book and I love it. Apart from the big battle at the end, not a whole lot happens and I know that's where the book can lose some people. Luckily for me, I'm all about easygoing stories and gobbled this one up.
Over the course of her travels, Sophie meets an enchanted scarecrow, a teacher who might not be all she says she is, and discovers a strange new world: Wales. I was right there with Sophie, taking in every night sight, sound, and emotion.
The ending wrapped up a little too well, but I can easily look past that. It's no wonder Howl's Moving Castle is so beloved and I know it'll be a book I'll revisit time and time again.(less)
The year the ghosts came started like this: The Maestro kicked open the door, dropped his suitcase to the floor, and said, "Voila!"
Olivia Stellatella used to have a great life. Her father, maestro of an orchestra; a wonderful mother and grandmother; a warm house. Now her mother is gone, simply leaving the family one day. The orchestra that had once made her proud is now failing and the music hall is falling to pieces. In an attempt to save money - and the orchestra - Otto moved what was left of his family into the hall; the cold storage room is now home. Olivia retreats into herself, ignoring her once-large group of friends and pushing others away.
Life at the hall is both unbearable and mortifying - until four ghosts make their presence known. Suddenly Olivia is caught up in their world, the fascinating (& terrifying) world of Death and Limbo and the awful shades. These ghosts need her and Olivia is determined to help.
"Midnight," Frederick smiled dreamily. "How poetic of you. Important things always happen at midnight."
Let it be known that I love Claire Legrand. Absolutely ADORE her. I recently read her debut, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls (my review here!), and it blew me away. The second I finished I knew Claire would be an auto-buy author. Naturally, I was a little worried before starting The Year of Shadows: I thought so highly of Cavendish, what if this new one fell flat? What if Claire was just a one-hit wonder and her debut was simply a fluke?
It turns out my fears were totally silly and ridiculous: The Year of Shadows is just as lovely as Cavendish. 12-year-old Olivia is hurt and upset and embarrassed over her new housing situation and I felt for her. Not only did she just lose her mother - with no explanation! - but her father is becoming obsessed with a dying orchestra and Olivia's stuck living in a storage room! She's so angry with her father that she no longer calls him Dad, he's simply Maestro.
Along with her grandmother, Igor (a cat that more-or-less adopted the family as opposed to the other way around), and a sweet couple who run a tea shop and allow Olivia to help out after school, Henry - usher at the hall and fellow classmate - refuses to give up on Olivia. Henry used to sit at the popular table. Now he's sitting with Olivia. Olivia's not the only one hiding secrets and Henry won't let her hide from the world.
While the living characters were fantastic, the ghosts really stole the show (and made me more than a little teary-eyed!). There are four haunting the hall: Frederick, Jax, Tillie, and Mr. Worthington. Although they lived during different times, they're bound to the music hall and it's impending destruction will also bring about theirs. The only way they can safely cross over is to find their anchors - the object that's keeping them in this world. Unfortunately, once dead, the ghost forgets all memories of living and the only way to recover those memories is through a living body.
Now, possession is an ugly word. The ghost prefer the term sharing, as in, they're be sharing Olivia's and Henry's bodies as well as sharing their memories. Also, they'll share their moment of death and any pain they might have gone through. Obviously Olivia and Henry are both hesitant, but ultimately they decide it's for the best. The scenes through the ghosts' eyes, so to speak, broke my heart. Especially Mr. Worthington's scenes. He had been my favorite throughout the entire novel and learning how he died was too much for me.
Have you ever watched people when they don't know you're watching them? Like in a movie theater or a concert. When people get caught up in watching something, their faces change. The lines on their faces get softer, because whatever they're watching has made them forget how they think they're supposed to be looking. Instead, they just are - just sitting there, listening and watching and being real.
There were numerous twists and turns, including some I truly hadn't expected! While everything wrapped up very nicely, I wouldn't mind another book featuring Olivia and Henry. Particularly with their super-adorable-and-obvious-yet-unspoken crush on one another. SO. CUTE. And Igor? Crazy awesome.
With two books under her belt, Claire Legrand has proven her immense skill as a writer and I stick by my initial judgement: if you have an auto-buy author list, Claire deserves a place on it.(less)
Dead flesh and sharpened scalpels didn't bother me. I was my father's daughter, after all. My nightmares were made of darker things.
After a fairly lackluster start, I'm thrilled to say that 2013's books are picking up very nicely. I've said it before and I'll say it again (and again and again): I love retellings. I don't know what it is about them, but I can't get enough. Luckily for me, it seems the rest of the reading world feels the same way; retellings aren't going anywhere anytime soon.
The Madman's Daughter is a new take on The Island of Doctor Moreau by H. G. Wells. The original brought the subject of vivisection - dissection on a living animal - to the attention of the public, and this new tale expands on it flawlessly.
An older gentleman came by once a week like clockwork, and Mother would send me out for chocolate biscuits in the cafe downstairs. He wore strong cologne that masked a pungent, stale smell, but Mother never said anything about it. That's how I knew he must be rich - no one ever says the rich stink.
Juliet Moreau is sixteen and one scolding away from living on the streets. Her childhood had been a lavish one: her father was the best surgeon in all of England until the scandal struck. Once Dr. Moreau left his family, Juliet's mother sold everything she could - including her body - in order to keep up with their lifestyle.
Once death took Mrs. Moreau, Juliet had nowhere to go. Thankfully there was still one of her father's friends who hadn't turned his back on the family and found Juliet a job at the university. Scrubbing bloodstains was far from the life Juliet knew, but it was far better than the alternative.
It is a nighttime dare that changes Juliet's life and spreads whispers through her mind that maybe, just maybe, her father might still be alive. England has nothing left for her, and with Montgomery - the former servant of the family - and Balthasar - a sweet, but horribly disfigured man - Juliet leaves the continent and sails to Australia in search of the truth.
Memories of my father flooded me. As a surgeon, blood had been his medium like ink to a writer. Our fortune had been built on blood, the acrid odor infused into the very bricks of our house, the clothes that we wore.
To me, blood smelled like home.
The Madman's Daughter was everything I hoped and then some. It's creepy and horrifying. Countless passages were so expertly written that I read them multiple times. There was one downfall to the story however: the love triangle.
I've been reading YA for quite some time, so love triangles aren't new to me. That said, I'm still not a fan of the romance taking over the story. I wanted more monsters, not moments behind waterfalls!
The two love interests were like night and day. Montgomery grew up with Juliet and was the family's servant. When Dr. Moreau disappeared, so did Montgomery. Now he's back and Juliet's childhood crush is back in full-force. Edward Prince is clearly of high society. He's found stranded at sea and from the moment the two meet there's a strange (yet undeniable) attraction.
Juliet bounces between the two and can't figure out her feelings. One paragraph she's thinking of one boy and in the next the other boy takes hold of her thoughts. Personally, I could have done without the romance.
The horrors that await Juliet on the island are unimaginable. Dr. Moreau had been experimenting with animals in an attempt to develop a creature that could walk, talk, and think like a human. Balthasar, one of the doctor's creatures, was easily my favorite and toward the end I truly felt for him and his fate. Ajax is Balthasar's polar opposite: while Balthasar is sweet and shy, Ajax is cold and calculating. He was the doctor's greatest success. Until the day Ajax became too smart. Now that blood has been shed, the islanders' animal senses are being awakened.
Maybe we weren't wicked, but there was something stained, something torn, in the fabric of our beings.
The Madman's Daughter is truly unforgettable. There was a twist at the end that I wasn't expecting at all and I'm definitely excited to see how it'll play out in the next book! This is one you definitely do not want to miss!(less)
Nora was just like any other woman in her late 20s. Okay, so her dissertation was slowly snowballing into an utter disaster and her boyfriend abruptly dumped her to marry another woman - and had the nerve to send Nora an invite! - but apart from that, she led a normal, happy life. That is until a weekend trip found Nora is a much different world, one where magic ruled and faeries were not the sweet little sprites from storybooks.
Unaware she has crossed over to a new land, Nora meets to glamorous and gorgeous Ilissa. Ilissa quickly takes Nora under her wing and soon Nora is attending party after party with breathtakingly beautiful people. Over time, Nora is delighted to discover that she even looks more beautiful. After meeting the charming and devilishly handsome Raclin, Nora finds herself falling for the man. She learns he is Ilissa's son and the two are quickly engaged. There's a part of Nora that knows this is ridiculous, that wants to say no, but she's just so happy.
Nora soon finds out Ilissa, Raclin, and their friends are not who they seem. They're Faitoren - fairy folk - and have used their magic to not only lure Nora in (Prince Raclin needs an heir), but also to glamour their entire landscape. The large house, the land, even the Faitoren themselves are enchanted to look beautiful. A chance meeting with a magician leads to Nora's escape and it's at Aruendiel's estate that she begins to learn about magic and what chance she has of returning home. All the while Ilissa is eager to get her revenge.
The Thinking Woman's Guide to Magic is NOT a lazy weekend read. No, no, no. This is a big, thick book (563 pages) with a pace that's in no hurry to reach its destination. I spent two weeks with this story and by the time I finished I was shocked by how upset I was. Not because of the way the book ended, but that it did end. I came to deeply care for these characters and this world and I simply wasn't ready to leave it behind.
While the book is largely told from Nora's perspective, there is the occasional glimpse into Aruendiel's thoughts and I loved these scenes. No longer did I see him as a stiff old magician. He felt real and by the time he told his story to Nora he was one of my favorite characters. He has a past, people, and it's not at all a pleasant one.
The secondary characters - Mrs. Toristel and Hirizjahkinis especially - were all so expertly drawn that I knew them, whether they were around the entire book or just a few chapters. It also doesn't hurt that throughout the novel there were many references to Jane Austen and poetry.
This is the kind of novel where I don't want to talk about it too much (for fear of saying the wrong thing), but I simply can't stop rambling. Really, it's that good. After finishing, I realized that little details in the beginning made sense; everything came full circle.
The ending might not appeal to many readers - the open-endedness of it forces the reader to reach her own conclusion - but rest assured I'll be highly recommending this one any chance I get. Don't let the length put you off - The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic is so worth it. The story was stunning and the world-building was fantastic. Ms. Barker announced on twitter there will be a sequel and let's just say there was much rejoicing on my end. The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic exceeded all expectations and you can bet I'll be awaiting the sequel with grabby hands!(less)
"Mortals. I envy you. You think you can change things. Stop the universe. Undo what was done long before you came along. You are such beautiful creatures."
There are very few things that can compel me to move a book - especially one clocking in at nearly 600 pages - to the top of my To Read list, but I'm a total sucker for Jeremy Irons. Naturally I had heard of this series and even went so far as to include it in my list of series to read in 2013. A few months ago I saw the movie trailer and thought it looked interesting and a few days ago saw it again while Matt & I saw The Hobbit. A second dose of Mr. Irons was more than I could handle and I promptly went to my library and checked out the first book.
Going into this series I knew nothing about the story. Zip. Nada. Nothing. Imagine my surprise when it relies heavily on a Civil War-era plot! (The Civil War was my area of focus in school and any book about the War - fiction or non-fiction - is a must-read for me). Add in multiple references to To Kill a Mockingbird and you've got yourself a triple whammy.
There wasn't much we wanted to know about any town but our own, and if your granddaddy or great-granddaddy couldn't tell you, chances were you didn't need to know.
Beautiful Creatures was a delight to read for the simple fact that the narrator was a boy. Ethan Ware, sixteen, one of the star players on his high school basketball team. I was overjoyed at a male perspective, although the more I read, the more I realized that the only things separating his POV from the countless female protagonists in YA were the pronouns. Once the action started and especially once the romance began developing, Ethan could have easily been any female MC. He just didn't sound like a 16-year old boy. That said, I liked him.
Ethan lives in the tiny town of Gatlin, famous for its buttermilk pie and a Civil War battle. The previous year his mother died in a car accident and since then his father has been shut inside his study, still too hurt to return to his old life. Amma, Ethan's nanny? housekeeper? practically raised him and I enjoyed her immensely.
"Harlon James's been injured, and I'm not convinced he ain't about ta pass over." She whispered the last two words like God Himself might be listening, and she was afraid to give Him any ideas. Harlon James was Aunt Prudence's Yorkshire terrier, named after her most recent late husband.
Gatlin is a town very set in its ways. It's a town where everyone knows everyone and has for generations. There is a DAR group as well as the Sisters of the Confederacy and the famed Southern hospitality is alive and well.
One day a new girl arrives to the town and immediately her name is on everyone's lips. Lena Duchannes. Macon Ravenwood's niece. Despite the Ravenwood being the founding family of Gatlin, the residents still treat Lena as a complete outsider and her taste in black clothing doesn't help matters.
Of course Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and the two discover they can communicate telepathically, which instantly brought to mind Kami and Jared's relationship in Unspoken. What Ethan doesn't know is that Lena is a Caster - a witch - and on her sixteenth birthday she'll be forced to take part in a Claiming ceremony where her future will either be one filled with Light or Dark.
Macon Melchizedek Ravenwood was the town shut-in. Let's just say, I remembered enough of To Kill a Mockingbird to know Old Man Ravenwood made Boo Radley look like a social butterfly.
Other reviewers make mention of the abundance of Southern stereotypes, but I didn't see Beautiful Creatures that way. I was thoroughly sucked in and tore through this massive book in just a few days, which is really saying something, considering the time it usually takes me to read and factoring in the holidays. I absolutely enjoyed this book and can't believe it took me this long to read it.
I'll admit that toward the end the plot lost a bit of its steam and started throwing in plot twist after plot twist, ultimately leaving me with more questions than answers (so what really did happen to Ethan's mom?). I'm hoping these loose ends will be tied up in the following books.
As you all know by now, I'm a BIG fan of dual narratives. Ethan and Lena's story was intertwined with the story of a Confederate soldier and the Caster girl he loved and although theirs was only told through flashbacks I adored it.
I had spent so many hours in it as a kid, I'd inherited my mother's belief that a library was sort of a temple.
While Beautiful Creatures did have its flaws (hello, super-insta-love!), I wholeheartedly, absolutely, utterly loved it. It got to the point where I stayed up well past a reasonable hour just to keep reading. I'd reward myself after doing housework by reading a chapter or two.
Its enormous size could definitely have been shed a couple hundred pages and the deus ex machina ending made me roll my eyes, but I savored every moment and there's no doubt in my mind I'll be continuing the series.(less)
Linus and Ophelia had roped poor Walter into serving hors d'oeuvres with them, believing fully in the old adage that misery loves company. In other words, if you have something you'd rather not do, you might as well bring your best friend along and let him suffer as well.
Guys, this series is growing on me. A lot. I had a few problems with the first book, Facing the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and I'm pleased to say those problems have all but vanished in this sequel. Twins Linus and Ophilia Easterday have been shipped off to live with their aunt and uncle (also twins) while their parents hunt butterflies on a remote island in the South Pacific. Their good friend Walter resides in the nearby boarding school after more than his share of picked locks back home in London.
Aunt Portia owns a bookshop and in its attic the trio discovered an enchanted circle that can bring literary characters into our world. Naturally this comes with some rules: they have sixty hours before they need to return, the circle only opens once a month, etc. In their previous adventure with the circle, they met Quasimodo. This time around they set the bar a bit higher: Moby Dick's Captain Ahab.
Meanwhile, Aunt Portia didn't care about the Moby Dick theme at all. She figured it was a water party and mermaids live in the water, so it stood to reason that she could fudge a little bit.
Every single character is great. They're funny, they're flawed, they have their own distinct personality and I love it. I'm also very pleased to say that Walter's love of exercising isn't shown to the extent it was in the previous book (during a pretty important scene in the first book, Walter randomly started doing push-ups.
Whereas Quasimodo was sweet and kind, Ahab is anything but. He's a man on a mission and is blinded by his revenge. He also doesn't take too kindly to being ordered around by three 14-year olds. That said, his fascination with modern technology (indoor plumbing, computers) is hilarious and I loved the scenes where he's wrecking havoc on message boards on a whaling website.
We also see more of Cato Grubbs, the mad scientist who previously owned the house/bookshop before suddenly disappearing. In Saving Moby Dick we discover a bit more about him and his relationship to the twins.
The only drawback to this book (and this series as a whole) is the narrator. Bartholomew Inkster works in the English Department of Kingscross University and while I enjoy him 90% of the time, his constant need to define words can be a bit grating. This series is targeted toward the 9-12 crowd. I highly doubt they need words like ingest, clear-cut, or fumble explained.
"Curse that foul tome!" he roared. "I curse the day it was ever written, this Herman Melville reaching down into my soul and displaying it for all the world to see."
Saving Moby Dick is a wonderful display of what a sequel should be. It's issues have all been ironed over and since the world-building and magical rules have already been introduced in the first book, the story can finally get down to business. Short chapters and a quick pace make this book a breeze. Also, one of the characters is a bounty-hunter-turned-hippie-priest. How could you pass that up??(less)
This one's a little older (how sad that I think of 2009 as old!), but the moment I heard about it - and subsequently saw it on a shelf at work - I knew I needed to read it. A cop-turned-agent who can solve crimes by eating people? Yes, please!
Due to bird flu, the government has banned the sale of chicken. Instead, there are chicken-flavored products, but let's face it, there's nothing like the real thing. Tony Chu, an officer with the Philadelphia Police Department, is on a stakeout with his partner in an attempt to bust chicken smugglers.
Instead of catching some black market dealers, Tony gets himself a taste - literally - of a serial killer and secures a shiny, new promotion: FDA agent.
Tony is a cibopath - he get psychic impressions from anything he eats, be it fruit, vegetable, or flesh. Oddly enough, the one food he's able to eat without receiving any impressions are beets. ♥ My kind of food. Mmm.
There are only three known cibopaths (foreshadowing???) and Tony's new partner, Mason Savoy is one of them. He's a big, hulking man who loves his $10 words.
There are five chapters/stories in this volume and they were all great. The one I liked least was problem the fourth chapter: Russian vampires (?) living near the Arctic in a giant telescope.
Taster's Choice was a great introduction to a totally original series and I can't wait to read more!(less)
I have a special fondness for books that feature famous literary characters. Jasper Fforde does this expertly and I love him for it. Last year one of my favorites reads was Arthur Slade's The Hunchback Assignments. When I came across Facing the Hunchback of Notre Dame, I instantly wanted to read it. I couldn't wait to jump back into a book featuring Quasimodo! (Embarrassingly enough, I have never read The Hunchback of Notre Dame. However, now that I've got a few books under my belt with Quasimodo as a main character, I feel as though it's definitely time to read the book that started it all.)
Ophelia and Linus Easterday are sent to live with their uncle and aunt while their parents go off chasing butterflies for five years. Being shipped off to live with strange relatives can put a damper on any fourteen-year old's day and this case is no exception. Uncle Augustus and Aunt Portia are...odd. They have a huge interest in themed parties & dinners (for example, a pea-green dinner - every dish contained a green color, whether it was real or artificial) and force the twins to partake in the events.
The only saving grace to their new living arrangement is Aunt Portia's bookshop. She specializes in antique and rare books (she's a lady I could definitely be friends with!) and Ophelia is an avid reader. There's also the exciting rumors that surround the house's previous owner. Cato Grubb, a devious mad scientist, had owned the house before Augustus and Portia moved in and his bizarre disappearance was so sudden all of his belongings were left behind.
One day the twins come across the remains of Cato's laboratory, complete with a wide array of bottles and potions and interesting drawings on the floor. After Ophelia happens to fall asleep in the attic (where the lab is hidden), she discovers something truly amazing: a flesh-and-blood Quasimodo is on the floor in front of her.
In YA novels, it seems to be convenient to have the parents absent. That's not the case with this book: Portia and Augustus ever-present! Despite what the twins think, I'd love to spend a week living at their house. Old books and medieval parties and right up my alley!
I was surprised by how fast-paced this book was! It actually was a bit too quick for my liking. And, unfortunately, once the magical element became introduced the story was bogged down with a number of rules and regulations (many of which didn't seem to be fully explained).
There's a boy staying for the summer at the nearby boarding school who the twins befriend. Walter is charming and British and has a past! These boys tend to be my favorite characters, but it seemed that all Walter did was exercise. There were a few pivotal moments in the book (huge, HUGE scenes) where it mentioned Walter started doing push-ups. Or Walter decided to do sit-ups. His lack of character development was upsetting.
Quasimodo was easily my favorite character. Such a sweetheart. Since all that bell-ringing has made him deaf, Walter 'borrows' a pair of hearing aids for Quasi. Hee! Quasi also develops quite a taste for tea and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches.
The rules dictate that Quasi only has sixty hours before he needs to get back to his world, lest he be vaporized. Those sixty hours went far too fast and despite the kids determination to show Quasi their world, they aren't able to do much other than eat snacks.
The climax was, well, anticlimactic. The story has built up to that moment and it was such a letdown for me. In the end there were many questions left unanswered, but I know this is the first book in a series, so hopefully problems will be settled in the next book.
Overall, I enjoyed Facing the Hunchback of Notre Dame. The writing style in the beginning reminded me of Roald Dahl novels (never a bad thing!). However, the narrator quickly wore out his welcome: he was always using 'big' words and then defining them. I definitely could have done without that. I'm still not entirely sure what the narrator had to do with the story other than the main characters were too busy to sit down and write out their adventure.
While this wasn't a bad book at all, there were some things I didn't love. However, I'll probably check out the second book (especially if it deals with Moby Dick - the book Ophelia was reading at the end of this novel).(less)
Sometimes I need a push to read a book. Whether it's because I've had an iffy experience with the author/similar novels in the past or I simply have too much on my plate already, there have been numerous books widely loved that I just haven't managed to get to yet. Shadow and Bone is one of those novels. For over a year I've been hearing absolutely GLOWING reviews and the current buzz over the third (and final?! I HOPE NOT!) installment coming in the spring has brought this series to my attention once again.
Earlier in December, I posted about Epic Recs, a book club of sorts founded by Judith and Amber. What makes this book club different is that you have a partner and you recommend books to each other. You can read more about it in my post - including what book I recommended to Lillian! As for Lillian, she wasted no time in recommending Shadow and Bone and I immediately grabbed a copy from my library. Russia (or, in this case, Russia-inspired), high fantasy, mythology - these are things that IMMEDIATELY appeal to me. I dove right in and, much to my delight, was not disappointed one bit!
Shadow and Bone tells the story of Alina and Mal, two orphans who were taken in by a Duke and raised together. When they were children they were visited by Grisha, people who possess magical abilities. Every child in Ravka undergoes testing to determine Grisha talents, but neither Alina nor Mal presented abilities and that was it. Ten years later, however, things have changed. Mal is a tracker in the First Army and Alina is a passable mapmaker. On an expedition to the Shadow Fold, a darkness home to creatures seemingly plucked from nightmares, Alina risks her life to save Mal's and soon the entire kingdom hails the coming of their Sun Summoner.
Suddenly Alina is thrown into the world of the Grisha, a world with magic, fine clothes, and people so utterly breathtaking they can't possibly be real (and I won't say anything further on that!). As a Sun Summoner Alina ranks among the most powerful Grisha - comparable to the Darkling, a man who has taken quite an interest in this once-ordinary girl.
Alina's put to the test - physically, mentally, and emotionally. She's desperate for a friendly face, she misses the bond she shared with Mal, and struggles to perform her magic. The pressure of being Ravka's savior weighs heavy on her shoulders and the complete lack of word from Mal cuts deep. Could this pale, scrawny, lonely orphan really be the answer to Ravka's prayers? Could Alina truly be the person to banish the Fold?
Just like with The Raven Boys, I dreaded the thought of writing a review for Shadow and Bone. I loved this book, absolutely ADORED it, and nothing I could possibly type could ever do it justice. Leigh Bardugo thoroughly won me over, not just with the Russian-esque setting, but with her gorgeous writing, fantastic characters, and beautiful story. I was completely enchanted and had to make the hard decision of reading the entire book in one go (I definitely didn't want to stop!) or take my time to live and breathe this world. Ultimately the latter choice won - though it was certainly a hard decision to make! - and I spent four glorious days immersed in the world of Grisha.
It's extremely rare for me to jump right into the next book in a series, but my library currently has a copy of Siege and Storm and, well, I've never been very good at controlling temptation..(less)
OH HEY WHAT UP 5 STARS. Okay, seriously you guys, read this book. It's gorgeous, so so beautifully written. And there are Norse gods in it. And nothing is more badass than a Norse god.
The thin child learned to read very early. Her mother was more real, and kinder, when it was a question of grouped letters on the page. Her father was away. He was in the air, in the war, in Africa, in Greece, in Rome, in a world that only existed in books. She remembered him. He had red-gold hair and clear blue eyes, like a god.
Ragnarok takes places in the English countryside during World War II. The thin child (otherwise unnamed throughout the duration of the book) relocates with her mother while her father is off fighting. She comes across an old book of Norse mythology and it sets her imagination running.
The book also said that these stories belonged to 'Nordic' people, Norwegians, Danes and Icelanders. The thin child was, in England, a northerner. The family came from land invaded and settled by Vikings. These were her stories.
This book is not one to be read for plot, characters, or rich dialogue. In fact, as far as I remember, there are only two short sentences of dialogue in the entire story. Instead, this is a showcase for Byatt's sheer talent for writing. The language in Ragnarok is absolutely breathtaking. There were countless passages I read and reread simply because the imagery was so beautiful. Ms. Byatt was even able to turn a description of a boat made from toenails into a gorgeous work of art.
There are no altars to Loki, no standing stones, he had no cult. In myths he was the third of the trio, Odin, Hodur, Loki. In myths, the most important comes first of three. But in fairy tales, and folklore, where these three gods also play their parts, the rule of three is different; the important player is the third, the youngest son, Loki.
The chapters alternate between the thin child's perspective and that of Asgard and its inhabitants. With each chapter the tension built and I knew it was coming. I knew his chapter would be up soon and when I finally reached it, I wasn't disappointed. It was everything I had hoped for and more.
Loki and I go way back. He's one of my favorite mythological beings - Norse or otherwise - and I eagerly awaited his arrival. In a book not written for its characters, I felt Loki was the one character I truly got a feel for. As he hatched his plans I became downright giddy. The writing was such that I felt as though I were watching his scenes acted out, rather than reading words on a page.
The skies thickened and thickened. Things - Dises - leathery winged female things - wailed in the wind and perched on the crags, staring and screaming. Nidhøggr the great worm who gnawed the roots of Yggdrasil came out and sucked the blood from the dead as they law in the freezing slime. From the Kettlewood, where Loki lay bound among the geysirs - which still spouted hot - came a louder howl of wolves, wolves in the wood, wolves padding over the snow, wolves with blood on their fangs, wolves in the mind.
Wind Time, Wolf Time, before the World breaks up.
That was the time they were in.
Loki's capture heralded in Ragnarok itself: the final showdown. Neil Gaiman did a spectacular job of capturing this moment in American Gods and I couldn't wait to read Byatt's take on the battle. In a word: stunning. I could vividly picture the entire world delving into chaos. I watched the battle-scarred gods fight against Loki's wolves.
What I love about the story of Ragnarok is that it doesn't have a happy ending and Byatt actually discusses that in the story. Long before the war the gods knew what was coming and what they would have to do. There are no good guys. There isn't that long, drawn-out moment while the audience holds its breath, waiting to see if the underdogs can score that winning goal as time runs out. It is what it is and I love that.
Bunyan's tale had a clear message and meaning. Not so, Asgard and the Gods. That book was an account of a mystery, of how a world came together, was filled with magical and powerful beings, and then came to an end. A real End. The end.
Despite its extremely short length (less than 180 pages!), Ragnarok is a sweeping epic and has earned a place as one of my tops reads of 2012.
They became raiders. They overran each others' housesteads, howling and roaring, slaughtering the weak and emptying the meagre stores. They drank what mead there was, swallowed the wine as though there was no tomorrow, which they began to believe was true. Hungry creatures, hungry men, will eat anything. The battle-winners feasted among the dead bodies, which were being torn at by creeping, crouching beasts. They gripped each other and fell about the fire, fornicating with whomever was to hand, with whatever was to hand. They bit and kissed and chewed and swallowed and fought and struggled and waiting for the world to end, which it did not, not yet. They ate each other, of course, in the end.
This was the moment. This was the beginning of the end. These gods were gods who had existed in waiting, waiting to made a last stand.
The gods went over the bridge, Bifröst, the rainbow bridge that linked Asgard and Midgard. They were damaged already, when they set out. Tyr had lost his arm to the wold, Odin his eye to Mimir, Freyer had given away his magic sword, Thor's wife, Sif, had seen all her magical hair fall away from her bald head. Thor himself, according to some poets, had lost the hammer he had thrown after the Midgard-serpent. Baldur had lost his life. There are two ways, in stories, of winning battles - to be sumpremely strong, or to be a gallant forlorn hope. The Ases were neither. They were brave and tarnished.
You know how there are certain authors who are practically deified their fans worship them so much? I'm not one to give in to hype - I've definitely been let down in the past. That said, guys. I wish someone would have given me a thorough shaking and forced Libba Bray upon me earlier. The Diviners was my first introduction to Ms. Bray and I can assure you it will not be the last.
Naughty John has come home. And he has work to do.
With an eerie childhood-lullaby-gone-wrong, John Hobbes announces his presence. It has been over fifty years since he was last among the living and he's ready to make up for lost time.
Meanwhile, in a tiny Ohio town, Evie O'Neill is eager to sprout wings and fly away. Her thoroughly modern ways are too much for the town and after a parlor trick exposes secrets, Evie finds herself on a train bound for New York to live with her uncle. Not that she minds of course. New York is far more her scene. She has big dreams and she certainly won't reach them back home in Zenith.
However, life isn't all fun and games for Evie and her friends. A string of gruesome murders happens and Evie's uncle finds himself in the midst of it all.
It's no secret I'm a HUGE fan of the 20s. The blog's name, after all, pays tribute to Gatsby! The Diviners sounded absolutely fantastic and it exceeded all expectations. The writing is flawless, the imagery and slang make you feel like you're actually there, and the horrors can feel all too real in the middle of the night.
"If you feel strongly about it-" "I do." "Then you may do what scholars do when they feel passionately about a subject." "What's that?" "You may visit the library," Will said.
There were a lot of characters in this book. Normally this leads to cardboard cutout, stock personalities. I'm overjoyed to say that is not the case with this book. Each character is beautifully fleshed out, from Evie and her Uncle Will all the way down to the minor characters who only show up for a few chapters. I really have to hand it to Ms. Bray: she knows what she's doing.
I was incredibly impressed with the explanation for how a dead man was able to return to life and continue his mission. A lesser author would have fallen flat on that one, but Libba Bray had an entirely believable story.
All the little shout-outs to things happening in the world at that time were great. The Fox sisters, the sudden popularity of Ouija boards, the Scopes Trial. Small things like that not only made me smile, but also showed Ms. Bray really did her research.
"Prohibition? I drink to its health whenever I can!"
The only thing about this book that bothered me was just how much Evie liked to drink. At times it seemed she was bordering on addiction. She accepts bribes of alcohol, and multiple times she goes on about how desperate she is for a drink. By the end of the story it seemed that this slowed a bit, but for that first half it felt as though all Evie thought about was gin.
I'm still a bit unsure of my feelings for Jericho's secret. The story behind it was fantastic, but I sort of feel as though the book strayed into steampunk territory. That said, he's still a wonderful character and I was left speechless at the end of the book.
Clocking in at nearly 600 pages, The Diviners is a lengthy book for any genre, let alone Young Adult, but I was captivated the entire time. I actually felt I read it a little too fast! This book could have been a few hundred more pages and I would have gladly gobbled it up.
If you still haven't yet read The Diviners, I urge you to do so. I absolutely loved this book and that cliffhanger of an ending will make the wait for the second book absolute torture.(less)
Prince Charming has no idea how to use a sword; Prince Charming has no patience for dwarfs; Prince Charming has an irrational hatred of capes.
Every once in a while you'll come across a book so magical, so wonderful that you think about it long after you've reached the end. The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom is that book. Part of me wants to end the review here and now and force all of you to go out and buy a copy. It was that good.
The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom tells the real story of the Princes Charming - yes, the Prince Charming we all know and love wasn't one guy. In fact, it turns out there were four. And their names definitely weren't Charming. Nope. Frederic, Duncan, Liam, and Gustav saved the day and got the girl only to have their identities forgotten.
Cinderella's Charming, Prince Frederic, isn't your typical hero. He would much rather have a nice picnic or look at art than face down hoards of monsters (it would ruin his clothes!). Prince Liam plays the hero to a fault. Unfortunately, his kingdom only praises him because his parents arranged a marriage with Sleeping Beauty and her kingdom is beyond rich. Snow White grew a little tired of Prince Duncan's...quirks. Any animal he sees he decides to name (dwarfs included - Flik, Frak, and Frank - and dubbed his horse Papa Scoots) and is convinced he has magical powers. Lastly, Prince Gustav. He set out to rescue Rapunzel from her tower only to meet a particularly nasty witch and his sixteen older brothers have yet to let him live it down.
"Oh, give me a break," Liam yelled, and stomped his foot in anger. "Why is there a dragon here? Nobody mentioned a dragon!"
When word gets out that the kingdoms' bards have been kidnapped, the princes decide that now is their chance to prove they really are heroes (and, you know, the bards will be so overjoyed they'll write new songs that make the princes look MUCH better). If only it were that simple. Along the way they have to face goblins, trolls, the Bandit King (who is actually only 10, so oh so very terrible), a very well-spoken giant, and even a dragon.
I could seriously go on and on about this book. At 430+ pages, it's definitely a meaty book - especially for MG! - but it could have been 1,000 pages and I would have loved every second. The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom had absolutely everything I wanted in a book - including pictures and a map! Christopher Healy is now on my autobuy list. Do yourself a favor and pick this book up. You'll be happy you did.(less)
I've stopped and started writing this review so many times since finishing the book. I've paced back and forth all over the room and have burnt my tongue on countless cups of tea all the while staring at a blank screen and trying to think of the right words to say. This definitely is not a "meh, sure, it was pretty good" book. Not by a long shot. This book was, in a word, phenomenal.
I will admit that, before beginning the book, I was slightly biased. I have a huge interest in the Romanovs & Tsarist Russia, and given the period this book takes place, I knew I'd enjoy it at least somewhat. I didn't realize just how much I'd enjoy it, however.
Our family tree has roots and branches reaching all across Europe, from France to Russia, from Denmark to Greece, and in several transient and minute kingdoms and principalities in between. This tree is tangled with all the rest of Europe's royalty, and like many in that forest, my family tree is poisoned with a dark evil.
From the very first paragraph I was sucked in. I love the imagery those two sentences bring. And you know some shit is about to go down.
It was Friday afternoon and our lessons had been canceled at the Smolny Institute so everyone could prepare for the ball. Because dressing up like a doll was much more important than studying literature or learning arithmetic.
I. Loved. Katerina. Despite being born into a life of endless balls and socializing with royalty, she is determined to become a doctor. No, she doesn't want a hospital built in her honor, she wants to be the one discovering cures and healing wounds. She's so unlike the horde of overly cliche YA heroines we see today: she's funny and sarcastic and is so determined to reach her goals (women doctors were virtually unheard of in the world at that time - and were even outlawed in Russia - yet she still sent out multiple applications to universities to study medicine). The relationship she shared with her family (her father in particular) was a joy to read and such a breath of fresh air. She's extremely close with her cousin Dariya and I loved the scenes they shared.
Why must ghosts always be so ambiguous?
Katerina has a deep, dark secret. She has the ability to raise the dead. Russia at this point in history was all about the occult and mysticism (oh, hello, Rasputin). In high society, holding seances and consulting tarot cards was a popular hobby (even Katerina's mother took to reading her cards). Even though the paranormal was in vogue, Katerina despises her "gift" and made a promise to herself to never use her abilities.
However. And there's always a however. Katerina winds up reviving a moth at a ball one night in order to save a member of the imperial family. Immediately certain characters realize what she truly is: a necromancer.
There was secret knowledge to uncover in science. All romances ended exactly the same way: a girl realized the surly boy she had hated all along was the only person in the universe who could complete her soul. I did not believe for a minute that my soul could be completed by some surly boy.
Another aspect of The Gathering Storm that sets it apart from other YA series is the romance. You won't find any instalove here! And while the romance is given its time in the spotlight, the overall plot is more important. ♥ And I loved that. This is potentially spoiler-y, but there isn't a love triangle (YAY!). The buildup is perfect. There's certainly that spark of attraction when the two first meet, but they don't hit it off. At all. Overtime, however... so wonderful. & I was so, so, so conflicted at the end! They acknowledge their feelings for one another, share a single kiss (♥♥ oh how I squealed like a schoolgirl), and that's it for now.
Especially if she had seen the way Nicholas Alexandrovich looked at Princess Alix.
Oh my gosh, I LOVED all the cutesy cuteness that was Nicholas & Alix. The Gathering Storm shows the beginning of their romance and ♥~ Even though royal marriages were held mainly as a way of securing power or land, these two really loved and adored one another and I think that is so wonderful. (There's a book coming out on the 17th that I'm pretty excited about: Alix and Nicky: The Passion of the Last Tsar and Tsarina)
I highly suggest reading The Gathering Storm either with notebook in hand or with Wikipedia open. There are so many buildings, people, and events mentioned that I felt compelled to research.
The Gathering Storm was a fantastic debut and I absolutely cannot wait for more!
Xenia believed in love. George was old enough to understand that tsarevitchs were not allowed to marry for love. And neither were most grand dukes.
"Katerina, I am sure you handled the bandages expertly, buy you cannot practice medicine on the tsar's son!"
An afternoon spent solving quadratic equations would have been infinitely more pleasant. I smelled like a salad.