Frost Arch, by Kate Bloomfield, is the story of Avalon "Ava" Redding, a Fire MThis review first appeared on my review blog, The Book Drunkard.
Frost Arch, by Kate Bloomfield, is the story of Avalon "Ava" Redding, a Fire Mage who lives in a world where Humans are slaves, Mages are in charge, and how you live depends on how much power you have. Avalon, whose power is midlevel, moves to the city of Frost Arch, a place where curiosity and telling the truth can make your life very difficult. She works as a maid for the Forsythe household. While there, she becomes friends with a Healer, Jack Greenwood, and, with his help, raises the winged fox (named Hawthorne) that she rescues earlier in the story. As the novel goes on, Avalon's life repeatedly gets threatened with each secret she uncovers, from her Master's hidden collection, to the reason why Frost Arch is stuck in a constant winter. It all eventually leads to a deadly battle between Avalon and the most powerful Mage in all of Frost Arch.
Oh, Frost Arch...I wanted to like you so much. Your premise is so promising: magic, mystery, clever animals, and an underdog main character...what could be better? Unfortunately, the delivery didn't live up to the promise. Even when I overlook the many spelling and grammar mistakes (which were truly excruciating), it's still impossible for me to like this book. One of the biggest marks against Frost Arch is its main character.
Avalon Redding is one of the most annoying characters I've ever had the misfortune to encounter. Almost all of her misfortunes are the result of her own selfishness, carelessness, and downright stupidity, and what's worse is that she and her friends barely even acknowledge it. In fact, I don't get why her friends even like her, let alone risk their lives for her. She constantly disregards other people's wishes, she gets angry at every little thing (especially when someone dares to tell her "no"), and she has an awful habit of pointing out the obvious and thinking she's "clever" or something. Now, I'm not saying that the main character of a story has to be good, or even likeable; on the contrary, unlikable characters can be just as interesting as the more pleasant ones, sometimes even more so. However, even the most unlikable protagonist should have something relatable or understandable about them; it shouldn't be the case that a character who the author clearly wants you to like is so annoying that you have to stop reading every 10 pages.
Something else that really bothered me about Frost Arch is the fact that Bloomfield (or at least, Avalon) seems to think that "ugly" = bad, or otherwise undeserving of affection. There are several points in the book where Avalon, sometimes accompanying Jack, sometimes not, has to interact with the woman who runs the town's post office. Avalon is so repulsed by the appearance of this woman, who is described as a "large, older woman with long, grey fly away hair," that, when Jack flirts with and jokes around with her, calling her a "lovely lady," Avalon's first thoughts are "this Gretchen was far from lovely. She reminded me of a pug-dog. She even seemed to have a moustache." She starts to feel guilty, but the feeling doesn't last. The next time we see Gretchen, there are mentions of wobbling double chins, plump figures, and of course (and this is more on Bloomfield than Avalon), a "mouth full of pastry." Earlier, Avalon even shudders at the thought of being friendly with her. Strangely, the "ugly = unloveable" mentality doesn't really go the other way. Two of the main villains are described as being very good-looking, even when they hurt Avalon. But then, maybe that's part of the reason I don't like this aspect of Frost Arch; there's so much description of physical beauty, and the awe that Avalon feels when she sees a pretty face, that it's almost like Bloomfield's main priority was always physical description first, story second. In fact, every time the character Raeven appears, there's always a pages-long description of just how amazingly beautiful she is.
My last problem with Frost Arch is the quality of the writing, specifically word-choice. This isn't a huge deal, but it does get really annoying when the same word or phrase is repeated over and over again for no reason. In this case, the word "trundled" appears 8 times, all of them when Avalon is out in the snow. Bloomfield could have easily used the words "walked," "rolled," "trudged," "waddled," "plodded"...you get the idea. There's no need to use the same word (especially this particular word) so many times. Once or twice is enough. Also, not every redhead needs to be described as having "fiery hair" or a "fiery temper." People who write about redheaded characters: please find some different words and phrases with which to describe them!
Thankfully, there are one or two bright spots in this book. The best parts have to do with Avalon's companion/pet, Hawthorne. Hawthorne is intelligent, strong, and protective. He can camouflage his coat, and he can fly. The scene where Hawthorne first learns how to fly is probably one of a few great passages. When Bloomfield describes Avalon's feelings as she soars through the air on Hawthorne's back, it's almost as though I were there in her place. I love reading about the sensation of flying, and Bloomfield does a very nice job with those scenes. The second good part is the final battle. We finally get to see Mages use their powers in cool ways, and it. Is. Awesome. Fire and ice are fun elements to read about, and when they're paired against each other, the results are usually exciting. That battle is the only section of Frost Arch where I didn't check to see how many more pages I had until the end.
1 out of 5 stars
Sorry, Frost Arch, but a couple of good parts can't make up for the rest of a book being terrible.
Megan Crewe'sThe Way We Fall is at once a coming of age story, a zombieapocalypse, and a horror story about a deadly epidemic. The n
Megan Crewe's The Way We Fall is at once a coming of age story, a zombie apocalypse, and a horror story about a deadly epidemic. The novel is written in the form of a journal kept by 16 year old Kaelyn, a girl who's a bit of a loner and who would rather spend the day watching coyotes and playing with her pet ferrets than hang out with other people (even those who she kinda, sorta, maybe sees as friends). It starts off with Kaelyn writing a journal entry on Labor Day. She's writing this journal as a way to reconnect with her former best friend, Leo, who she hasn't spoken to in about two years. The first few entries only hint at the oncoming epidemic (a dead bird here, an absent student there). And here we get to one of the problems that I have with the way this book is written.
The way Crewe hints at/foreshadows the deadly virus (which is something like a mutation of the flu) in the first 20 or so pages is pretty clumsy and heavy-handed. There's no real reason why a 16 year old girl would bother mentioning a dead bird lying on the beach in a journal entry about how much drama she's had in her life and how much self-pity she has. Yeah, it might be a little bit strange, but it didn't really have any place in that entry. Also, the way she mentions that a student is absent from school is too ominous-sounding for the situation. At this point in the story, no one has gotten seriously sick. There haven't been any warnings about viruses or illnesses going around. And, *SPOILER ALERT* the student in question isn't even sick; it's a red herring. *END SPOILER ALERT* These instances just made me roll my eyes and put the book down for a bit.
Thankfully, things pick up soon after that. A few entries later, we get some shocking deaths, a few violent encounters, and some very tense and suspenseful entries. The bulk of the book (about 25 pages in and 10 pages before the end) is pretty engrossing. I lost a good 3 or 4 hours, which is a good sign that a book is going to be one that I re-read and recommend several times. Two of my favorite characters, Tessa and Gav, are self-sufficient, independent, resourceful, and generous. Kaelyn helps Tessa gather different types of medicines from empty summer houses to donate them to the hospital when the government stops sending shipments. Tessa then opens her home to Kaelyn and her younger cousin, Meredith, when they have nowhere else to go. Gav teaches Kaelyn and Meredith some basic self-defense moves (which come in handy several times throughout the book) and takes the lead in organizing food donations and bringing people to the hospital. Gav and Tessa end up being Kaelyn's only real friends, and it's clear how much she needs them. (Gav also becomes Kaelyn's boyfriend, but it's not really a big deal in this YA book.) Their interactions are what move the plot forward, and the scenes that don't include them suffer for it. It would be interesting to read a book that was written from the point of view of Gav or Tessa (or both).
And then there's the ending, if you can call it that. Crewe sets up a lot of loose ends, and unfortunately, the only one that even comes close to being tied up is probably also one of the least interesting ones. I'm not going to spoil it, but it's as though the story was speeding smoothly down an empty highway, when suddenly a stop sign appears out of nowhere, and the driver hits the breaks as it stops to a screeching halt. It's bad. I usually like it when a story leaves me wanting more, because that means that I'm invested in these characters and I want to see what happens to them after a book ends. But in this case, the story leaves me wanting more because there should be more. Nothing gets resolved. I'm not sure if there's going to be a sequel (I don't think there will be) this book could probably benefit from one, if only to not leave the reader hanging. If The Way We Fall were a television series, there would be a "to be continued..." sign at the end.
Overall rating: 3.8 to 4 stars out of 5
Even though the beginning and ending leave a lot to be desired, The Way We Fall is still an interesting and exciting read. I recommend it to anyone who liked The Hunger Games.
It really wasn't that great, which sucks, because I really loved the Princess Diaries series.
Lizzie is way too foolish and naive. She's a huge blabbeIt really wasn't that great, which sucks, because I really loved the Princess Diaries series.
Lizzie is way too foolish and naive. She's a huge blabbermouth, and I honestly don't know how she has any friends. She treats her inability to keep her mouth shut about things that honestly don't concern her as some sort of involuntary misfortune that just happens to her, instead of her just choosing not to exercise whatever small bit of self-control that everyone is born with. It's just very frustrating to read a book about a character you don't like at all, especially when it's written in the first person and the author obviously wants you to sympathize and even relate to her. There is no character development. Lizzie spends 95% of the book being as stupid as possible without actually dying, and then in the last bit, (view spoiler)[she suddenly grows a backbone, dumps her original loser boyfriend for good, and finally hooks up with the one guy who has ever seen her for who she truly is (hide spoiler)]. Blech. ["br"]>["br"]>...more
Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.
Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.
Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.
The premise of the book is really interesting. I enjoy reading books having to do with magic and political intrigue. It's also fun reading about a character who finds out about their powers later in life.
There are some pretty fascinating supporting characters, especially the Darkling. Morally ambiguous characters are always a welcome addition.
Some of the descriptions do a good job at immersing you into the setting. This is most evident in the descriptions of the Fold.
A lot of the Grisha powers are really cool, and the winter fete scene was a fun passage.
The writing can be inconsistent at times. There were certain passages (particularly the prologue and some of the fighting scenes) that were great, fast-paced, and down right immersing. Other places, though, were less enjoyable.
I'm not really a fan of the first person POV, which is so often done poorly. Combine that with an insecure protagonist who's surrounded by beautiful people, and it can be like reading a teenage girl's diary. At least Alina Starkov isn't as horrible as Bella Swan.
The Russian influences weren't always handled very well, especially when it came to the language. Now, my knowledge of Russian and Russian culture is pretty limited, but I know enough to realize that Alina having the surname Starkov, which is male, wouldn't happen. This is repeated with at least one other (male) character, but it probably happened more than twice. Also, apparently "Ana Kuya" means "What the fuck?" in Russian. I mean, I guess it could fit that character's personality, but that's stretching it a little too far, isn't it? The point is, if you're going to use a real culture to influence your book so heavily (large parts of the vocabulary, landscape, and general culture of the society in SaB borrows from Russian language and culture), even (especially?) a fantasy novel, then at least bother to do some research.
There isn't nearly enough magic shown. Even though Alina was a beginner and wouldn't have seen much advanced magic in her classes, she was surrounded by advanced students. We should have seen more cool magic.
The Darkling ends up becoming so...disappointing. His character showed such promise (and was much more interesting than some of the other stuff that goes on in this book), and in the end, he's just another one-dimensional, fiercer version of Edward Fucking Cullen. :(
Look, I know it may seem otherwise, but about 80% of the book was pretty good, 15% was pretty blah, and 5% almost made me put it down for good. Shadow and Bone is a good read if you go into it with low expectations, have a few hours to kill, and just want something a little dark and a little exciting. It's not really a bad book. On the scale of Bella Swan to Arya Stark, I'd probably place Alina Starkov at around the halfway point. Not too horrible, but not really great. Actually, that's my final judgement of Shadow and Bone: Not too horrible, but not really great.
~4/5 stars, depending on your expectations....more
This book is a very easy read, but the story is a lot sweeter than it seems. The characters are all very likable, but the little girl, Tegan, is a bitThis book is a very easy read, but the story is a lot sweeter than it seems. The characters are all very likable, but the little girl, Tegan, is a bit too perfect and unrealistic. She's a bit of a Manic-Pixie-Dream-Girl type, only she's a child. The author really makes Tegan seem like a small adult, rather than a little girl. Also, the story seems to stop for a few chapters about halfway through before picking up again. However, it is still a nice story, and it's not very complicated (nor is it meant to be). 3/5 stars....more
I tried. I really did. But after 117 pages, I just couldn't do it, which sucks because I really wanted to like this book, especially after reading somI tried. I really did. But after 117 pages, I just couldn't do it, which sucks because I really wanted to like this book, especially after reading some of the reviews. It just wasn't for me though. I have a lot of trouble getting past a main character that I don't really like, doesn't really interest me, and is kind of annoying, and Lily is all three. Maybe I'll try again in a few months, but for now, this is a dnf....more
This was ok, I guess. Some of it was a little heavy-handed, and there were parts that were really obvious, but overall it kept me occupied over two loThis was ok, I guess. Some of it was a little heavy-handed, and there were parts that were really obvious, but overall it kept me occupied over two long travel days, so it was worth the read. I'd say the most interesting bit is the last quarter of the book, once (view spoiler)[Penryn and Raffe make it to the aerie and everything goes down (hide spoiler)]. FYI, you will probably end up rolling your eyes a few times, but I'd say the majority of the story is entertaining enough, and I'll try to get the sequel sometime soon (probably from the library, because it's definitely a "borrow" if you go by bookriot's buy/borrow/bypass system). Oh, and JSYK, it does end at the best part, so if you find yourself really enjoying this book, it might be a good idea to lock down the rest of the series before you finish....more
I really enjoyed reading this, even more than I enjoyed the first one. There's a lot more action, and we spend more time with Penryn's mom, which is aI really enjoyed reading this, even more than I enjoyed the first one. There's a lot more action, and we spend more time with Penryn's mom, which is always interesting. Unfortunately, (view spoiler)[Penryn doesn't meet up with Raffe until the last third of the book; up until then, we only see him through some flashbacks. (hide spoiler)] And just so you know, this is a really fast read. If I hadn't gotten interrupted several times while reading, I think I could have finished it in about 3, maybe 4 hours. Probably less. Overall, I think the quality of the story really picked up, and I can't wait to read the next book. ...more
Thank God this book isn't first person POV. Claire (the main character) is honestly the worst part of the novel. She's really naive, sheltered, makesThank God this book isn't first person POV. Claire (the main character) is honestly the worst part of the novel. She's really naive, sheltered, makes really dumb decisions, has an "I'm not like other girls, I like physics and math, and what's the deal with red lipstick, amirite?" kind of attitude, and it's really hard to understand why the others like her so much. Like, enough to risk their lives for her.
Thankfully, Shane, Eve, and Michael make up for the blah that is Claire, which means I'll read the sequel, but just to see what happens with them....more
This was a really cute story, and I'm glad I read it. It's interesting to read about what the acting world and living in New York in the 90s might havThis was a really cute story, and I'm glad I read it. It's interesting to read about what the acting world and living in New York in the 90s might have been like, and most of the characters were really relatable. I definitely got a bit of a "Gilmore Girls vibe" at certain parts, especially with Franny's fast-talking personality, but that wasn't a bad thing. Overall, it was an entertaining read....more
I'm sorry, but I could not finish this book. I received it for free from Shut Up and Read for an honest review, but I just couldn't get through it. ItI'm sorry, but I could not finish this book. I received it for free from Shut Up and Read for an honest review, but I just couldn't get through it. It's not that it's not good, exactly; it just didn't hold my attention. I made it about halfway through, but something about the main characters just bothered me.
Maybe I'll try again in a few weeks, when I have more time......more
I really only stuck with this story for Cole. Nikki was annoying most of the time, and I didn't really care enough...I wish it had ended differently.
I really only stuck with this story for Cole. Nikki was annoying most of the time, and I didn't really care enough about Jack to enjoy his parts. Cole and his story were the parts that really drew me in....more