After the recent loss of her mother, Ophelia travels with her sister and father to a museum where her father...morethis review will go live on the blog01/30
After the recent loss of her mother, Ophelia travels with her sister and father to a museum where her father is working on a sword exhibit. While exploring the various floors one afternoon, Ophelia discovers a mysterious boy who's locked behind a door. He tells her his name was taken from him three hundred years ago by a group of wizards and that he had been sent to defeat the Snow Queen. Being a child whose beliefs lie in science rather than tales, Ophelia initially shrugs him off - this boy doesn't look a day older than she does yet he insists he's 300? As she hears more of his stories, however, she comes to realize there might be something to them after all. Unfortunately time is running out and the pair only have three days to beat the evil Snow Queen before the world ends.
As much as I wanted to love this one, I just couldn't get into it. I should know better than to automatically leap at comparisons, yet the first mention of Roald Dahl had me hooked. While the similarities were abundant and clear, Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy would have needed something more for it to work.
Throughout the book, Boy's own story is told and these chapters were my favorite. There was definitely a fairy tale-like quality to them that I loved and the giant owls, the wizards, the King - they were all so vivid and full of character. Back in the present, however, I couldn't connect with Ophelia's story. Numerous times her mother talks to her and even after reading I'm still unsure as to whether that was real or if it was all in Ophelia's head (with this story both options are entirely plausible).
Toward the end I was skimming more than reading and the big fight scene was over in such a rush it felt completely pointless. I had high expectations for Ophelia and the Real Boy and, sadly, they fell flat. Despite my lackluster feelings, I do think this book will find its fans and I'm disappointed I was not one of them.(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)
When Kira was just ten year old she saved her cousin, Prince Taejo, from a demon and since then she has been Taejo's personal bodyguard. Unfortunately, her reputation and golden eyes have not made her popular among the kingdom's citizens. It's no secret they're disgusted by and frightened of her; behind her back she's referred to as Demon Slayer.
When the King is brutally murdered in front of his family, Kira, Taejo, and a swarm of guards flee the city in search of three sacred items named in an ancient prophecy in the hopes of protecting those they love and saving the kingdom from the Demon King.
I was really looking forward to Prophecy. It sounded totally kickass and I was extremely intrigued by the Korean influence. The author definitely did her research and it shows. Also, she's definitely not afraid to kill off characters - seriously, don't become attached to anyone! Sadly, that's where my praise falters.
Let's start with the characters. 12-year old Prince Taejo and his dog Jindo were the most likeable, along with a handful of monks met along the way. Everyone else came across as your basic stock personalities: there were Bad Guys, a Mysteriously Vague Old Monk (described as - and named!! - Master Roshi), Noble Captain, I could go on and on. Those that weren't cardboard cutouts were so thinly written that I couldn't get a feel for the character (Seung, for instance).
Jaewon and Shin Bo Hyun are the Love Interests in a romance that really didn't go anywhere (I'm assuming it'll come to light in the following books). Kira is betrothed to Bo Hyun and, let's face it, he's kind of a jerk. But a jerk that truly does like her...? The author made it seem that way, along with hints of attraction on Kira's end, but again, I couldn't get a real feel for it. I did enjoy Jaewon however. He's got a decent backstory in a novel where backstories were either quickly presented or forgotten altogether. That said, his attitude towards Kira (multiple times he mentioned he'd do anything she'd ask/go anywhere she said) bordered on obsessive and was downright confusing. Why was he so willing to follow her? They had only had one conversation by the time he began saying these things. I didn't get it.
Prophecy followed your typical Fantasy Novel model perfectly, right down to it's title. There's a prophecy, sacred objects that give the possessor unimaginable power, a quest to find those objects, an evil (in this case, demon) king who wants that power for his own, etc etc. There wasn't much about Prophecy that was original, but for some strange reason I did enjoy it. The writing was very quick and easy and I noticed this was a dialogue-driven story. So much dialogue.
Despite a relatively harsh review, I had a good time reading Prophecy. Hardcore fans of the genre might want to check it out, but if you're looking for a unique story, I'd suggest looking elsewhere. Also, for a book targeted toward teens, the writing was extremely simple and could have easily been in a book written for a much younger crowd.(less)
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)
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.