This is not so much a fantasy story, but the creation of a whole, complex world, just as we see in Tolkien. Trying to pick out only the important points needed to give you a feel for the plot is a difficult task because this book is both epic and mundane in its scale. We see vast tracts of land and many cultures, with different languages, religions, traditions, attitudes, food, habits, rituals and costumes. We see the political ramifications of characters’ actions written on the battlefield and upon the lives of many thousands. The events that we follow are a turning point in history and will affect the future of every person in Westeros. However, we see it all through the eyes of a select few individuals, which allows us to see the minutiae of detail in their daily lives: the dirt under their fingernails. Each chapter is told from one point of view. These come mainly from House Stark, with Ned and Catelyn, plus their children Sansa, Arya and Bran and the bastard, Jon Snow. However, we also see through the eyes of Tyrion Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen, so we do not get a Stark-biased view of all events.
The world we see is roughly based upon Medieval Europe, but includes aspects of North Africa and the Middle East as well. However, this is not Earth and we see subtle differences all the time. This presentation of the mostly familiar with a few touches of the unusual makes the world very believable, even when there are elements of magic and the supernatural. However, a wonderfully built world needs a believable cast of characters to draw us in and keep us turning those pages, and this is where Mr Martin excels. There are a great number of characters involved in the various plots that weave back and forth across the world, but they are all individuals and they all feel real.
I must warn you that this book is not a fluffy saga of heroic deeds and gallant knights. This is a bleak world where the good suffer and the evil win through by being . . . well, evil. If you cannot cope with the possibility of seeing characters you love die, then this might not be the book for you. However, if you want a world that comes to life as you read and characters that will make you love, laugh and despair, then you should get a copy and dive in: you will not regret it.(less)
One of the really enjoyable aspects of this book is that it uses such an unusual narrative form. This allows it to show us a much greater range of points of view, and to explore the reactions to the plague seen in many different cultures. It makes a great deal of sense to me that the highly cooperative Japanese and Chinese would react very differently than the highly individualistic Americans, for example. I can understand why some regimes would be more likely to repress information and try to hide the truth from their citizens and other nations. I also liked the way that Mr Brooks showed us a number of ‘solutions’ to the same problem, each growing from the individual societies and their situations and each uniquely suitable to the resources at hand. He also takes us through the typical responses that we would expect, such as massing the US army at Yonkers, and shows us how they fare against this new type of enemy.
Some of the interviews have funny sections, others horrific, whilst the some will just make you see red with anger because of the attitudes on display.(less)
I have to admit that I spent a great deal of time chuckling whilst I read this book. The name of the series that it begins, The Parasol Protectorate, is indicative of the humor that fills the writing. The author’s turn of phrase is delightfully sharp, although it captures the overly wordy style of writing of the period, which is Victorian. Of course, I am British myself, so I may find it easier to associate myself with an Alexia who is not only witty but also has a cutting, sarcastic tone.
“How ghastly for her,” said Alexia, driven beyond endurance into comment. “People actually thinking, with their brains, and right next door. Oh the travesty of it all.”
Alexia is a fearless heroine who fights her own battles: and in a full skirt and corset with a bushel and hat to contend with. She knows that she is not really a part of the High Society that the rest of her family inhabits, but she genuinely doesn’t care and is unashamed of her differences. So, in many ways, she seems like a very modern woman. However, she is limited by some of the mores and expectations of her time and never really pushes the bubble so far that she feels out of place in the Victorian period. In many ways she reminded me of Lauren, the heroine in Mary Ballogh’s A Summer to Remember, that I read at about the same time. It is so nice to have a period character who shows some backbone, but is not too anachronistic.
All the other main characters are very well drawn. Lord Maccon is a bad-tempered bear of a man, who seems to have great difficulty behaving in an acceptable way, and relies upon his Beta, the diminutive Professor Lyall, to deal with the niceties of most situations. Alexia tries to escape her air-headed, fashion and marriage obsessed mother and sisters as much as possible. She can always depend upon Miss Ivy Hisselpenny to join her for a turn around the park and a good gossip, although Ivy’s totally disastrous taste in hats is a major flaw that Alexia has learnt to tolerate. Her other great confidant, Lord Akeldama, is a wonderfully affected character who constantly seems to speak in italics and is so flamboyantly gay that he is almost universally despised by everyone else that she knows, but she loves him dearly, mainly because he seems to genuinely like her for who she is. These are fun people, and I can imagine that they would be very entertaining to spend time with.
The story moves along fairly well, though the pace is a little uneven, but the writing itself is enjoyable enough to overcome this. The world is well drawn, with lots of detail and different enough from historical Victorian London to show a little of the Steampunk aspects that become more prominent in the second book in the series. The Romance elements were handled with an air of confusion, but I felt that this conveyed Alexia’s own reactions to Lord Maccon’s advances. There is a great deal of sexual tension between the two, with increasingly urgent sessions of fumbling, but the relationship proceeds in a stop-start fashion, as they both fight to control their urges. I felt this demonstrated both his animal instincts and her ‘soulless’ lack of romantic sensibilities.(less)
Sookie inhabits a world where Vampires have come out of the coffin because of the development of True Blood, a synthetic blood that means that they can survive without feeding on humans. As part of their attempts to be accepted they have created the myth that they are simply humans suffering from a virus, but the human population is still very wary of them. Some humans, called fang-bangers, enjoy being fed on, whilst many others want to see all the vampires given the ‘true death’ by stake, sunlight or shotgun. Unusually, Ms Harris’ vampires are allergic to silver whilst garlic is just an unpleasant seasoning for their food. There are other mythological creatures lurking in plain sight as well, although they have decided to stay quiet about their existence. Also, we never find out what exactly Sookie is and why she can read minds.
One aspect of the novel that I do like is the setting. Although we are in Louisiana, we are a long way from New Orleans. This is poor Louisiana, where Sookie makes ends meet only because she owns some land that she inherited from her dead parents. She still lives with her Gran and her friends inhabit trailer parks and low-rent apartments: this is not the French Quarter. Along with the poverty we find plenty of prejudice. Merlotte’s is basically a ‘white’ bar, so LaFayette, a black homosexual, stands out like a sore thumb. When three vampires visit the bar there is one of those moments when everything goes quite and the music stops: not because they are vampires, but because one of them is a black woman. As you might expect, this community is not very open to anyone different, so Sookie is seen as the town freak and vampires are rejected on principal. This means that the murder victims get a lot less sympathy than you might expect because they are white trash who ‘asked for’ their deaths by being promiscuous and hanging out with vampires. Surprisingly, the most open section of the community is the Descendants of the Glorious Dead who are swept away by Bill’s accounts of the Civil War and his remembrances of their ancestors. (less)
This urban fantasy is an enjoyable read, but it does have some issues that I could not overlook. In short, it is what we in Britain call a ‘curate’s egg’, which means that is a mixture of both good and bad bits.
I will start with my most favorite aspects of the story. The characterization is good, with a mostly show rather than tell way of conveying personality. The dialogue is very good at giving us a strong impression of a character very quickly, so that it is easy to distinguish between the different Brothers, for example. On the whole I liked both Wrath and Beth, finding them both to be credible and sympathetic. I have to give special mention to my favorite characters in the book: Fritz and Butch. Fritz is Darius’ butler, who enjoys serving Wrath, Beth and anyone else who will let him. He is wonderfully drawn and I kept giggling at him and his witty dialogue. I loved how he could manipulate Wrath whilst remaining totally subservient. Butch is your typical insensitive alpha male cop who is living in the wrong century and gets confessions by ‘persuasion’. His reactions to Beth are touching, as is his back-story, and his reaction to Marrisa is sweet and funny.
The dialogue is excellent, with lots of witty banter and characters bouncing off one another. I particularly like the scenes when Butch is first introduced to the Brothers and manages to avoid being eaten by talking about baseball. The banter between him and the Brothers goes from tense to bizarre and, finally, to hilarious as they accept him as a true warrior, even if he is only a human. I also liked the variation upon the ‘good’ vampire theme. In this case the evil undead are actually the Lessers, who are decidedly nasty and smell of baby powder. Also, we have two deities introduced: the Omega and the Scribe Virgin. These mysterious characters are not very well explained or used to miraculously solve problems, but are interesting aspects of a different mythology.
So, what is not to like? Well, I have a real problem with the Brothers’ names. At the beginning we have Darius, which is fine, then Wrath is introduced, still OK, but then we get Tohrment, Vishous, Rhage, Phury and Zsadist. I am sorry, but these are just naff names, and the ‘unusual’ spelling just makes them even sillier. This is a shame, because these are really badass Warriors, so I do not want to giggle whenever I see their names written down. There is no suggestion that these are adopted names, even though they are appropriate for each man, so they were born with them: yikes!
Although I quite like Beth, she does seem to be amazingly stupid, which I always find difficult to read. She finds Wrath strangling Butch and then follows him when he runs off? I believe the phrase is ‘too stupid to live’. Also, I found that they and their romance were more than a little predictable. Do we have to have a heroine who is so beautiful that everyone’s jaw hits the floor as she walks past, even though she is insecure and unaware of her effect on people? Does our hero have to have a tortured past and so be unwilling to have close relationships, even when he is sure that he has found the woman of his dreams? I had hoped for a little more originality.
My final complaint comes in part from my background as a biologist. In this world the vampires can feed from humans, but ideally they feed from a bound partner. That’s right: he feeds on her and she feeds on him. My inner biologist had real trouble with this concept, which is like a mythical perpetual motion machine and just does not make sense.(less)
It makes a very nice change to read an urban fantasy that does not simply rely upon the same old Vamp-Were clichés. One of the best aspects about the world that Ms Cole creates is her use of the Valkyries. They are wonderfully funny characters, suitably ‘other’, but with an obsession with shiny gifts and a remorseless protectiveness of young Emmaline, who is only seventy years old. It is also good to see some conflict even within the Vampire race itself due to differences in ideology. Although we do not see much of the constant war between the various sworn enemies, there is a lot of potential for the future novels in the series. Plus, we have the arrival of the Ascension, a cyclic event that brings the races together in mass warfare as they struggle for survival every five hundred years or so.
The main characters are sympathetic and interesting enough to keep us engaged with them and their journey, although Lachlain’s behavior may be a little difficult for some people. Due to the years of searching for his Mate and then the endless cycle of near death and regeneration he is more than a little tactless in his pursuit of Emmaline. He is so blinded by his own needs that he verges perilously close to rape and sexual assault as his animal urges overwhelm his more reasoning side. This is only compounded by the fact that Emmaline is a very inexperienced virgin, who has been sheltered by aunts that would tear the limbs off any man who looked at her sideways. This makes the ‘seduction’ aspects at the beginning of the book somewhat non-consensual and, therefore, difficult to read. Although, intellectually, I know that Lachlain is not a raping monster, it is still difficult to read Emmaline’s reactions to his actions, and I am always going to struggle with the concept that a woman can be won over by forced sexual attention. Having said that, it did not bother me enough that I failed to finish the book, nor will it stop me from reading more in the series.(less)
The central character, Joanna, is a strong female, who has survived a terrible assault to become a reasonably normal adult. The book is written in the first person, so we get a great insight into her thoughts and feelings, and she is a generally sympathetic character, so I was invested in finding out more about her and her past. The other characters are mostly well drawn and there are some nice relationships: I especially liked her barbed sparring with Olivia’s BFF, Cher. However, I felt like Chandra, as “the angry competitor for her role who hates her at first but then has to grudgingly admit that she’s quite good” was more than a little generic, even down to the fact that Rachel mistook her for a man at first.
The world that Ms Pettersson builds is mostly believable, and quite well detailed. The zodiac theme feels a little forced and I would have liked some reason why the warriors are identified by the signs. There is talk of them being a separate race from humans, but some more details would have helped this to seem less random. I was also confused as to the true number of the warriors: it sometimes reads as if there is a set in each town or city, but then that makes Joanna’s role as the Kairos seem a bit strange. Also, I really struggled with the instruction manuals for being an agent for either side being produced and kept in a comic store: this made very little sense and was almost reason for me to stop reading. This was just silly and was a major stumbling block. Hopefully, these problems will be addressed in the later books. One aspect that I really did like is the Light’s use of cats as guardians because they can identify Shadow warriors: this is a nice way to incorporate our perception of cats and their supposedly supernatural powers . . . little Tiddles doesn’t like that guy down the street because he is an agent of the Shadows!
My biggest issue with this book was the pacing. I almost gave up with it several times during the first two thirds because it was so heavy with exposition and so slowly plotted. Fortunately, the plot reaches a turning point, after which Joanna starts to kick some ass and the pace picks up nicely. I understand the need to establish the world, the characters, etc., but this was very hard going, and I spoke to several people who had given up before getting to the turning point. I hope, again, that this is not an issue in the later books.
This is not your traditional vamp-ridden urban fantasy, and that is refreshing. Plus, it is nice to have a heroine who is grumpy and paranoid, but has a really good reason to be like that: the assault robs her of her innocence, her mother and her boyfriend, so we can forgive her for being very defensive. It is a little rough around the edges, however, I am glad that I stuck with the book as it has great promise and it seems that this is her first published novel, so I can cut the author some slack: I am looking forward to reading the second book in the series. (less)
Wow! So many people had told me that this was a great read, but I wasn’t prepared for how seriously good it was.
I know that it is billed as a Young Adult title, but I never once felt that the author pulled her punches because of the intended audience. In this respect it reminds me much more of Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy than J.K. Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter’. This title has real grit: we follow Katniss through blood, sweat and tears to Hell and back again. The first-person perspective and usage of present tense increases the sense of immediacy and tension as we are insulated from any outside knowledge. In fact we are kept ignorant of many details, just as Katniss is. The fact that some of the Tributes make no impression on her, so that she knows them only by their district numbers, whilst others are quickly analyzed makes the stream-of-consciousness so much more realistic than an endless pile of exposition. I’m not normally a fan of either first-person or present tense, but here they added to my connection to the character, rather than being a barrier.
Katniss herself is a wonderful, sympathetic character, but the secondary characters are fleshed out beautifully as well. They fell real, which makes it even more difficult to read some of the sections in the Arena. Indeed, the underlying cruelty and sadism in Panem can make for harsh reading. This is a society where the majority of people are barely able to survive starvation, whilst the privileged few in the Capitol enjoy a luxurious, hedonistic lifestyle.
Collins makes many references to Ancient Roman culture. The nation’s name is taken from a phrase used by the satirist Juvenal: ‘panem et circenses’. This is often translated as ‘bread and circuses / games’ and bread certainly plays a pivotal role in the life of most of the people in Panem as they desperately seek to feed themselves. The circuses / games were the amusements that the privileged classes would stage to entertain the masses. These often occurred in an arena and could be as simple as a pair of gladiators fighting one another or as ornate as the recreation of an event from history, complete with set and costumes. Bread was usually thrown to the crowd as part of the proceedings. The arena also served to demonstrate the power of the nation to the masses, though the Romans saw this more as a celebration of their military prowess against the barbarians, rather than being used as a way to subjugate its own citizens.
One thing that Collins does very well is to show the societal effects of the Games. We are constantly reminded that many of the most brutal and demeaning aspects of them are televised live, so that Katniss is always aware of how she must appear to the audience in order to win them over to her side. We see that if the Tributes are not being entertaining enough the Gamemakers will manufacture a natural disaster or provoke confrontations by offering a boon. Also, we get to hear how even Katniss’ prep team fail to see the Tributes as real people, instead viewing them as actors in an entertainment. I found this to be one of the most chilling aspects of the book and an intriguing statement about the celebrity culture surrounding reality shows. We see this most clearly in the 'romance' between Katniss and Peeta, which is used to manipulate the audience quite shamelessly.
This emotionally-engaging and action-packed book is highly recommended to all adults: young or otherwise.(less)
This is a charming book, and in many ways it is similar to Garden Spells, Allen's debut novel. The characters are well-drawn and the dialogue is realistic but quirky enough to make it funny. The setting is warmly familiar and yet slightly magical, although this is mostly restricted to Chloe, with her book-stalkers and ability to cook eggs with passion, and Rawley, who cannot break a promise because he is a Pelham. Most of the characters are sympathetic and likeable, although Della Lee's boyfriend, Julian, is a real creep and it is difficult to sympathise with the unfaithful Jake. The place of chief baddy seems to be reserved for Margaret who resents her daughter, and hated her husband, so very much, that she continues to punish Josey for simply existing and looking like her father. However, as the story unfolds, we come to understand the reasons for this, and so she is a fully-realised three-dimensional character with a very sad past. Indeed, Marco turns out to be the true villai, in more ways than one. The funniest character is undoubtedly Hannah, the maid, who has an amazingly irreverent attitude to her employers, and the reason behind the Oldsey / Oldgret names is so pointedly rebellious that it will make you laugh out loud.
Unfortunately, the biggest difference between this and Garden Spells is that, at the end, I didn't have the same sense of disappointment that I had to leave these characters. Their stories and conflicts are resolved and there is a sense that they can now ride off into the sunset to enjoy the rest of their lives happily ever after: with Garden Spells, I felt that unusual things were always going to happen to this family and I wanted to know what they were. That is why this isn't quite a five star review: I really enjoyed it, but I didn't LOVE it. However, I will read Allen's other books, as soon as I can fit them onto my coffee table.(less)
Amazon suggested this book to me not long after I bought some of Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse titles, and there are some similarities. Both series deal with a human world coming to terms with the other species living amongst them and both have a strong, feisty heroine. However, Ms Harrison’s Vampires are even further removed from the traditional garlic-fearing undead: Ivy is a living Vampire, born that way and destined to rise again after her death. Humans can be bitten and infected with the virus, but they must depend upon an undead vampire to raise them to undeath. One other significant difference is the exploration of the magic that Rachel wields. This is an interestingly practical form of magic that involves a lot of preparation to cook up potions that can be impregnated into wooden charms and which must be activated by a drop of blood. It makes a very nice change for magic to be slightly more than just shouting and pointing. But perhaps the greatest addition to the supernatural universe is that of the Pixies. Jenks and his family are amazingly well drawn and amongst my favorite characters of all time. Jenks may be only four inches tall, but his personality is massive and his hyperactivity fills any scene that he is in. He is funny, witty, sarcastic, brave, protective . . . and looks like a blond sex-god: no wonder he has so many children!
Rachel is a strong character and given some depth, which is fortunate as the book is written in the first person from her perspective. She is fully realized and stands out against the backdrop of world building that is always necessary in the first book in a series. Not that the exposition is overt and distracting: Ms Harrison deals with the differences between our world and hers in such a subtle way that I was never jarred out of the story. This is a wonderfully detailed world, which has an interesting, and believable, history. This makes it so much easier to make the leap of faith needed to accept the presence of the supernatural in ‘normal’ human society. However, the first two-thirds of the book are a little slow, though the action kicks off after that and the last third moves at a more satisfying pace.
One thing I especially like about Rachel is that she is not perfect: she worries about her looks, sometimes makes dumb decisions and is often clumsy, but is always her own person and is willing to stand by her poor choices without too much whining. Also, she values her relationships and the friends that support her, although this can make life uncomfortable for her. The biggest example of this is Ivy, who is obviously very attracted to Rachel and who has a great deal of difficulty controlling her desire to take their relationship further. For Harrison’s Vampires, sexual relationships are closely tied to feeding because they produce a neurotoxin in their saliva that turns the pain of their bite into erotic pleasure. Ivy is a real threat to Rachel’s safety, but there is such a deep trust between them that they both struggle to make their relationship work. It is also encouraging to see a LGBT character treated as perfectly normal.
The bad guy, Trent, is nicely ambiguous: is he really evil, or not? There is a twist right at the end of the book that shakes Rachel’s belief that he is rotten to the core, so who knows? He is certainly capable of great cruelty, and has little regard for the lives of the humans and Witches that he manipulates ruthlessly. Even some the supporting characters are ambiguous: only Rachel and Jenks’ family to seem to be totally good. Ivy is more than capable of killing or enslaving Rachel, whilst Nick, the nominal love interest, seems to have a dodgy past, because he is known to the FIB, and knows how to handle demons. The book does tie up the plot quite neatly at the end, but we are left with many questions about secrets and motivations that I hope will be explored later in the series. (less)
Apart from the obvious attraction of a series set in Ancient Rome, the Falco books have a great voice, as you can see above. The character of Falco draws very heavily on those down-at-heel, sarcastic and nihilistic Private Investigators that we all saw in black and white movies back in the day. He owes a great deal to the likes of Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade, but does deviate from them in significant ways. He shares the typical PI background of military service and has a friend in local law enforcement, Petronius Longus, the Captain of the local Watch patrol. He also gets beaten on a regular basis and can usually handle himself in a dirty fight, using his witty repartee to really annoy his opponents. He is even susceptible to dangerous women, although he usually has to make do with cheap Libyan dancers.
However, he is not suave or poised, mostly due to the above-mentioned beatings and his persistent poverty. He is also plagued by an over-abundance of family members, rather than being a lonely and isolated figure. However, his family is a huge part of what makes Falco who he is, and they are endlessly entertaining. Finally, although he is rather cunning, and certainly intelligent, Falco makes progress mostly by blind luck and accident. He is regularly plagued by bad timing and terrible luck, and we can always assume that if something can go wrong then it undoubtedly will. Unsurprisingly, Falco’s running commentary is delivered with a world-weary tone that is both funny and endearing at the same time, making the titles in this series very easy and enjoyable to read.
Falco does not claim to be a hero, and yet he shows great courage and the type of persistence that would impress even the most determined terrier. He is also doggedly determined to fulfill his role as the head of his rather large, and almost unanimously ungrateful, family. We are as likely to find him babysitting his niece Marcia as mooching about on business. He is a man who has been dealt a rather dubious hand of cards by life and yet he doggedly attempts to do the best that he can. All of this, along with his witty banter, makes him a wonderful character to read.
Of course, no PI is complete without his femme fatale. Although she does not really fulfill this role in its entirety, Helena Justina is also an extraordinarily entertaining character. I do not want to spoil the events of this title, but she appears in a rather unexpected role in the later books of the series. Here we see their initial impressions of one another and their developing relationship, which is both touching and very realistic. She is just as snarky as Falco, and is more than capable of beating him in a round of banter. She is very intelligent and determined, which creates a massive headache for her long-suffering father. Headstrong and opinionated, she does what she wants, when she wants, but somehow always does it with marvelous style. As the daughter of a senator, she is totally out of Falco’s league: something of which he is painfully aware.
Of the supporting cast, perhaps the most entertaining in this title is Falco’s Mother. She is almost always disappointed by his behavior and life choices, and spends a great deal of time cleaning up after his messes. However, she cares deeply for her family and her son, even though she does tend to show this love through criticism and knowing sarcasm. This is a mother-son relationship that shows a great deal of affection without any cloying hugging and endless “I love you” sentiments. As with the Falco-Helena relationship, this feels very real and makes any moments of emotional display even more poignant.
The same could be said of Falco’s relationship with Petronius. These are two men who have shared a lot of hardships together in the army. They know each other so well that they often do not need to actually speak. There are several moments in the book when Petronius simply allows Falco the time that he needs to gather himself: no speech can truly reflect the depth of understanding that is communicated by just standing beside someone who is suffering. But Petronius is given a nicely rounded character of his own, even if he does seem to fit into a certain type. He is big and tough in his work, but a total pussycat at home with his three little girls.
Of course, a good cast does not guarantee a good read. The plot clips along at a good pace with plenty of surprising turns and red herrings thrown in along the way. However, there is little revealed to be significant at the end that is not mentioned earlier in the book. Most of the evidence is there, if you look for it, although it may not carry much significance until it is pointed out. I have to say that I prefer this type of mystery to those that are impossible to guess until the vital pieces of obscure evidence are revealed in the great dénouement when the murderer is exposed. It is not that I guessed who did what in this title when I first read it, but I can see all the evidence now when I reread it, which me feel as if I could have solved it if I had been paying slightly more attention. I like to feel as if it is possible, assuming that you are not as hopeless as me at guessing these things.
As a person who has spent a great deal of time studying the Ancient Roman period, I have no quibbles with the way in which Ms Davis builds her world. The atmosphere seems suitably grungy: something that the HBO series Rome captured equally well. I have yet to detect an error in her world building, even though I am famous for my nit picking when reading books, so I do not have to worry about being thrown out of her world by a glaring error. It is so nice to know that I can relax into her titles without feeling compelled to keep running to my textbooks because I do not trust what she says. I am sure that some people are a little surprised by some of the details that she includes, such as Falco’s appalling apartment, but I appreciate her attention to historical research.
I highly recommend this title to anyone who likes a good mystery novel that comes with a healthy dose of realism and cynical wit. The characterizations are realistic and excellently entertaining, with well-drawn relationships and delightfully dysfunctional personas. The setting is well researched and accurately portrayed, with no attempt to over-glamorize the era or its people. (less)
Set in the Regency period, this has a definite feel of Jane Austin, with a suitably stubborn and independent heroine. The setting is conveyed brilliantly, with such a wonderful turn of phrase that I found myself giggling in delight at many of the scenes. For example, when we meet Kit, in the very first scene, he is bare-chested . . . in public . . . fighting no fewer than three ruffians . . . who had been harassing a milkmaid . . . oh, the scandal! This scene gives us a great insight into Kit’s character, whilst being very funny and setting up the society that the characters inhabit. This is vital, because their reactions, decisions and behavior are all driven by the social etiquette and expectations of their time. Although Lauren makes some very modern decisions, she is still bound by manners and her place in society, and must act accordingly. After all, this is a society that is shocked beyond belief that . . . Brace yourself! . . . Lady Freja wears her hair unbound and loose around her shoulders!!!!! . . . sorry if you fainted away there, but the truth had to be told!
Many aspects of the plot are fairly conventional. Also, some might find the pace a little slow, but this fits with the historical setting and provides us with the breathing space needed to appreciate the complex characters, both lead and secondary, who populate this world. Just as Lauren comes to understand the friends and family that she encounters whilst living in Kit’s home, so we also move beyond our initial impressions and appreciate the real motivations behind their behaviors. In fact, one thing I really did like was the absence of overwhelming passion and the irrational behavior often associated with it. This is a story of deep, intense feelings, most definitely, but they are tempered by rational decisions driven by the best of intentions. The leads fall in love in spite of themselves: this not only makes the story much more believable, but also increases our involvement with them.
"The people we love are usually stronger than we give them credit for. It is the nature of love, perhaps, to want to shoulder all the pain rather than see the loved one suffer. But sometimes pain is better than emptiness."
With such profound understanding of the human condition, Mary Balogh held me enthralled to the very end of the story. I do have one criticism: due to the fact that many of the characters are ‘titled’ they often have two ‘names’: for example, Christopher (Kit) Butler is also Viscount Ravensburg. This means that it can be a little confusing to work out who is who and their relationships to one another, but this really is a minor quibble for a book that was almost perfect. The characters are believable and engaging, while the dialogue is witty and funny. Like Kit and Lauren, I felt some regret when the summer ended, but I shall remember it.(less)
I am always a little cautious when approaching a highly recommended book, film, etc. as there is always the fear that it will not live up to expectations. That could not be further from the truth for Garden Spells. The writing is amazingly evocative and the characters are beautifully drawn with such brevity that a single sentence can say as much as several pages. For example, Bay is named after her father’s restaurant, a fact that gives us a shortcut to understanding his character. The developing romances are emotional and you are genuinely moved by the reality of the relationships. Strangely, for a story involving magic, it is so true to life that you feel very close to the characters, laughing and loving with them. Nothing seems strained or out of place, characters make decisions that seem sensible and there is little to break the spell that draws you to keep turning the pages. Indeed, most of us finished the book in one sitting because we couldn’t stand to put it down. The plot moves along at a nice pace, with plenty of dialogue and time to smell the roses, but no sections that seem drawn out or unnecessary. Great writing, setting, plot, characters, dialogue make this the perfect read. However I do have a complaint . . . I wanted more: I wanted to stay with these people and watch them as they lived out their lives. I wanted to trot beside Evanelle rating the backsides of the new Freshmen; to follow Bay through school; to find out if Fred got what he wanted . . .
In short: I LOVE this book – go and read it!(less)
Quentin is not a nice person, and very few of the other characters elicit any sympathy, which is unfortunate when we are supposed to care whether they die or not. I suppose I could claim that this is Mr Grossman’s very clever use of his writing to make us feel the same listless inertia that his characters exhibit, but given the books other failings I am not tempted to be that generous. Quentin is so invested in being unhappy that he constantly looks for the thing that will fix it: and consequently fails to try to be happy by living his life. He only looks outside himself for a path to happiness and thus succeeds in moping through the book like a little black cloud, obliterating any prospect of happiness that crosses his path. In general, he and his friends are self-absorbed babies with entitlement issues, even though they are all in their early twenties.
The plotting and pacing in this book are truly awful. We spend an eternity at Brakebills learning very little about the characters or the world: it is somewhat like reading a thousand ‘What I Did In The Holidays’ essays written by five-year-olds. Nothing much happens, it is very repetitive and anything that does is described in such a way as to make it uninteresting. This is definitely a book that should have been at least one hundred pages shorter: all taken from the Brakebills section. Once we left the wretched school things became marginally more interesting, but by that stage I was in such an unforgiving mood that I struggled to even complete the book. The plot itself had episodes that were totally illogical and unexplained. For example, at one point one of the other boys attacks Quentin and they have a huge fight because . . . I have no idea, because we never get the slightest hint of a reason for this bizarre behavior. However, the same boy appears later as the Deus Ex Machina to move us into the next phase of the story, so maybe he is simply there to allow the plot to progress.
The blurb says “ . . . thrilling . . . boldly moves into uncharted literary territory . . . an utterly original world . . .” erm, let me think about that: no, no and not totally, as I have outlined above. The one saving grace that I could find is that the magic is handled very differently from the usual ‘point and zap’. Not only is magic really hard work, but also, as Wendy from the book group pointed out, it is NOT the answer to all of the world’s problems. It does not make things better in the miraculous way of many fantasy titles: it is just another way to do some things. Looking at the reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, there are a wide range of views on this book, so I'm not alone in my disappointment that it didn't live up to the hype.(less)
From the very beginning, this is a very funny book. It is told from Betsy’s perspective, and she has a wonderfully witty and snarky voice. I found myself laughing out loud at Ms Davidson’s turn of phrase and the ludicrous situations that she puts her characters into. Betsy herself is a very flawed character, being vain and more than a little dumb, but still very likeable. Her attempts to rid herself of her undead status are hilarious, as well as obviously unsuccessful, but she is stubborn to a fault and just keeps on trying because she is convinced that she is a zombie. However, her encounter with a woman and child being attacked makes her realize that she is a vampire: one who lisps when her fangs grow! So she runs to the nearest church to end it all, but finds herself surprisingly not burnt into a pile of ash. Indeed, the usual anti-vampire things have no effect on her, which she assumes is because the movies and books have got things wrong.
The plot is somewhat formulaic, but the ways in which Betsy deals with her transformation into the most powerful vampire on Earth are really what sets this book apart. She runs to her parents to tell them that she isn’t actually dead: much to the disgust of the evil step mother who had taken her death as an opportunity to steal all of Betsy’s designer shoes. There are the faithful sidekicks: Betsy’s childhood friend Jessica, who is amazingly rich and rabidly anti-racist, and Marc, a gay doctor that provides a useful snack at one point. The banter between these characters is worth the cover price alone. The obligatory stud muffin is every girl’s dream: tall, dark, handsome, wealthy and immaculately dressed. Even better, he understands her shoe-obsession and exploits it to get her cooperation. Admittedly, she does see him having sex with three women at once, which puts her off a bit, but we know that they are destined for one another. The token villain is the wonderfully pathetic Nostro. Although he is a ruthless and psychotic despot, he has the most appalling taste. He wanders about in stereotypical dress and even talks like a really bad Hollywood vampire, although I always had the image of The Count from Sesame Street in mind when he appeared.(less)
I made it to about page 100, but I'm afraid I simply couldn't force myself to keep reading this book.
The main character is not only the one-born-in-every-1000-years uber vampire slayer, but also a rap star . . . the dialogue is inane and often used for exposition in a way that is simply absurd . . . but the worst was a chapter where the author changed where the action was located half way through the scene but didn't re-edit the dialogue to change the 'here's to 'there's.
I hate not finishing a book, and I rarely give up part way through, but this was just plain bad. :((less)
This book falls very clearly into the Vampire Romance genre, but there are no fey, sparkly Edwards in evidence. In fact, these are not your typical undead vampires at all: they are the descendants of eight aliens that crashed on Earth thousand of years ago and the human females that they impregnated. These original aliens were vicious bloodsuckers, but their offspring were much more human-friendly and killed their fathers to stop the violence and bloodshed. However, all members of the Breed can fall prey to the Bloodlust if they allow their self-control to waver. This is different enough from the usual fare to be interesting and a nice change from the normal fare. The world that Ms Adrian creates is believable and detailed, with a minimum of dull exposition.
The lead characters, Gabrielle and Lucan, are both three-dimensional, well drawn characters, although they both could do with a slap about the face to awaken them to the obvious attraction between them. It seems that relentless sexual desire and numerous very amorous bedroom encounters do not translate into a possible relationship, not for these two dunces. This goes on a little too long for my liking, though I guess Lucan has had a very, very long time being broodingly macho and alone, so it does make sense that he would be resistant to change, and I believe it is also a convention of the Romance genre. The secondary characters are also quite believable, especially the other warriors and their Breedmates. Although they fall into several stereotypes, they are still individual enough to be satisfying. It will be interesting to see how these characters are expanded later in the series: will we continue to focus of Lucan and Gabrielle, or will the focus shift, as it does in J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series? I am also intrigued to see how Lucan reacts to being in a relationship, though I guess it will involve lots of anger, brooding and broken objetcs.
The action, both in and out of bed, is hot and fast-paced, which might be a problem for some people, especially those who prefer their romance a little less gory, but I thought it hit a nice balance. This was an enjoyable read, with an intriguing world inhabited by interesting characters and I look forward to reading more in the series.(less)
As with the second book, Changeless, we see Alexia’s world expanding. Geographically, we move through France and Italy, which allows us to see how these two cultures have reacted differently to the total acceptance of the supernatural races that we see in Britain. This increases the complexity of the world quite significantly, especially once we get to Italy, which has little resemblance to our version of the country. The Italians actively seek out and destroy any supernaturals that they discover, using the magical properties of pesto to protect themselves. The whole idea that pesto is a way to make a person unpalatable to both races is simply delightful and indicative of how Ms Carriger’s fiendish mind works.
We also see a massive expansion in Alexia herself, and I do not mean in the size of her abdomen. As a preternatural, she had always assumed that she was basically heartless, but here we see that she feels emotions very deeply indeed. She is totally distraught by Conall’s rejection and refusal to believe her. She finds this all the more frustrating because she cannot think of a reason why she should be able to be pregnant by a man who is basically dead. Her grief and frustration turns to anger and she holds onto that fierceness whenever she falters. It is also very touching to see how she develops feelings for the ‘infant inconvenience’ as time goes on and she starts to become more comfortable with the idea of her situation.
Conall is given a rather minor role, which mostly consists of drinking vast quantities of formaldehyde in order to stay insensible. However, this allows the wonderful Professor Lyall to shine as he takes control of the Pack, tries to support his Alpha and solve the mysteries of the ladybug attacks and the disappearance of Lord Akeldama. To add to his troubles, various powerful werewolves attempt to steal the Alpha position whilst Conall is unavailable. Of course, Lyall rises to the challenge wonderfully and it was nice to see him acting independently. The same could be said of Ivy, who steps in to run Madame Lefoux's hat shop during their trip to Europe. She is now married to Tunstell and we see her being sensible and thinking for herself, which reminds us why Alexia chose her as a friend in the first place. Even Major Channing Channing of the Chesterfield Channings manages to develop and become less of an irritation.(less)
The main reason that I picked up this book was because the book group read ‘Agnes and the Hitman’ by the same pair of authors and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Both books make good use of the different strengths of the two authors. Ms Crusie has a witty, funny voice that makes her heroines very appealing and sympathetic, whilst Mr Mayer gives us manly men who are confused by women in general but helpless to withstand the powerful attraction of the particular woman in the book. Both books follow a similar basic outline: a strong woman is plunged into a dangerous situation and becomes reliant upon, and passionately involved with, a military man as the action carries them along. They both also have a strong cast of secondary characters that are fully realized and well rounded, so that they are more than just plot devices. The suspense and action has real danger behind it, and the leading lady plays a significant role in defeating the adversaries: she is no shrinking violet, but courageous and resourceful, providing her knight in shining armor with some much-needed back up.
I have to assume that Ms Crusie writes the sections from Lucy’s POV, whilst Mr Mayer handles those from the male perspective, however there is no obvious difference in style, so that there is only one ‘voice’ throughout. I found the mixture of Romance elements with Suspense / Action enjoyable, but the real selling point of the book are the characters and relationships that are set up. Young Pepper is just delightful, and so funny, bopping about in her Wonder Woman outfit. She is the grounding center to her little family and all the relationships revolve around her to a certain extent. This provides a way for our protagonists to spend time together whilst still being antagonistic, and also supplies a great reason for them to cooperate later on.
I did have a slight problem with J.T.’s dalliance with the lead actress, but she was naked in his bed, and it did make a nice change for the protagonists to not be all doe-eyed about each other from the beginning. Also, the motives of Nash, the ex-husband, were interesting: for him to be genuinely interested in renewing his relationship with Lucy would have been far too simple. As the book progresses his grip on reality gets more and more tenuous, until he descends into truly bizarre behavior. I guess the character that was the most difficult to accept was Daisy: although we get some explanation for her behavior, she still seems like a really bad mom for most of the book.(less)
Simon has a cat, called Simon’s Cat. Like most cats, it is part evil genius and part clown. We follow its exploits as it destroys Simon’s world and attempts to fill its perpetually empty stomach.(less)
Simon has a cat, called Simon’s Cat. Like most cats, it is part evil genius and part clown. We follow its exploits as it destroys Simon’s world and attempts to fill its perpetually empty stomach.(less)
I have read quite a lot of fantasy, and would count myself as a fan of the genre, so I was looking forward to this unusual version of the fairy / elf world. The Aetherials’ Spiral, their history and culture are fascinating, as are the parallel versions of Earth that they can access. However, I felt that we spent far too little time exploring that aspect of the story. Instead, most of the book is given over to the family dramas that surround the main characters, which I found a little disappointing. The first half to two-thirds of the book was slow and got bogged down in exploring the family relationships and dynamics, with the fantasy elements really pushed to the background. However, once the transition to the Otherworld occurred, and the fantasy aspects came to the fore, the pace increased and the book became much more successful. Unfortunately, even here the world building could have been far more detailed, and I hope that the second book in the series spends much more time exploring this fascinating world.
The main characters are very three dimensional, though not necessarily very likeable. Many of the characters have secrets and do not behave honestly with their friends and family, which leads to a great deal of drama and tension, but makes it difficult to sympathize with them. This becomes a major problem when they are placed in danger and we need to care about them and their survival. Not that the human characters are any less dysfunctional. In fact, the two most destructive characters in the book are humans, bringing abusive incest and homicidal psychopathy to the party, so in some regards the Aetherials are far more sympathetic. However, infidelity is a recurring motif, as is self-deception, so it seems the author has a fascination with the lies we tell one-another and ourselves. Although there are a lot of clichéd Romantic Fiction aspects here, the more melodramatic romantic plot points did not have me rolling my eyes and reaching for my sick bucket. The characters are so well drawn that their actions are totally believable, in a “Oh no! Don’t do that!” kind of way.
One aspect of this book that I really loved was the way in which the various houses and buildings have their own life force and presence. The Foxes’ home is warm and inviting, which seems to reflect the family’s connection to the earth magic of their particular Otherworld realm. The fact that the house can change and shift to provide what the characters need is almost more fantastical than the whole ‘alien elves living amongst us’ idea. We see this to much greater effect in the Wilder house. Being of the air realm, these characters are much colder and cerebral, with Lawrence, in particular, having a kind of obsessional self-containment that borders on madness. His house has a cold menace that is truly chilling and makes the unpleasant secrets that are revealed there even more unbearable. The disturbing images that surround the characters in prison reminded me of Hieronymus Bosch’s depictions of Hell, making me wonder how any Aetherial could survive an extended time in such an environment without losing their mind.
I really wanted to love this book, and I did appreciate the wonderful writing and characterization, but I wanted more fantasy and less family angst in this ‘Fantasy’ title. (less)
One aspect of the book that I really liked is that it does not restrict itself to a limited number of viewpoints. We may follow a character for only a single scene, but that view from their perspective allows us to experience their reactions to the events and expands our own view of what occurs. This feels very cinematic to me, and allows us to follow the various characters that are going to become important later in the book, much as many successful disaster movies weave a series of stories together until the final group of survivors is revealed.
This is most definitely an unsettling and disturbing book, and there will be scenes that some people find difficult to read. This is not because there is a huge amount of ‘gore porn’, but rather because they place normal people in the most terrible situations. For me, the most difficult section involves one of the recently turned and his pair of St Bernard dogs. Not because of what he does, which is certainly horrific, but because of what he thinks throughout: he hates what he is doing and yet is driven by his intense hunger. Such an intensely emotional response to his own actions creates a great deal of sympathy for the man that is himself being consumed from within.(less)
Our protagonists are a little earnest, especially F’Lar, but this is also a function of their life experiences and so it fits perfectly with the world that they inhabit. However, they also demonstrate my one problem with this title. F’Lar and Lessa have a difficult relationship and they are both very closed off, private people, so they have some trouble admitting their feelings for one another. Even so, I did get very annoyed with the number of times that he grabs hold of her and shakes her. Whenever she appears to be being awkward, argumentative or uncooperative he resorts to physical violence in order to ‘shake some sense into her’. I found this very objectionable and, although I doubt that it would appear in a book written today, it made it rather difficult for me to like F’Lar as much as I should. Somehow I struggle with a hero who keeps assaulting his partner.
It is interesting to note that this misogynistic approach to communication is at odds with the sexual relationships shown within the Weyr. The riders are psychically linked to their dragons, and so when the dragons mate their riders do as well. As the dragons are somewhat liberal in their mating choices, this means that some of the female riders mate with many men and do not have monogamous relationships. Also a female dragon that is not a Queen can bond with a male rider, and so we can assume that homosexual relationships are perfectly acceptable as well. This liberal attitude to sex is one area where the riders are shown to be very different from those who live outside the Weyrs, where more conservative family relationships are the expected norms.
However, putting this interesting dichotomy in attitudes to violence and sex to one side, there are many things to enjoy in this title. As I have already mentioned, the setting is still unique enough to be interesting, but there are two other aspects that are even more of a ‘selling point’ in my opinion.(less)
As with the earlier book, this is most definitely a Paranormal Romance. The main characters are engaging enough, with sufficiently unusual backstories to make them interesting. Fortunately, they are slightly less irritating about their obvious attraction to one another when compared to Gabrielle and Lucan in the first book. The secondary characters fair reasonably well and the adorable little dog, Harvard, is a nice addition to the dysfunctional family. The drug pushing baddy was suitably amoral and ruthless, although I almost felt sorry for him by the end.
I was interested in the plot strand involving the Breed detective, Chase, and his widowed sister-in-law, Elise. It was good to get an idea of how the non-Warrior, ‘normal’ vampires lived in the Darkhaven because it emphasized their similarity to their human Breedmates. We got a better idea of what it would be like to live within this community and the grief that Elise endures for her dead husband and the terror she feels for her missing son are very well done. The drug plot line was interesting and meant that the Warriors had a new enemy to confront, rather than just a simple re-hash of the Rogue build-up that we saw in book one. This created more of a sense of danger, making the enemy a real threat. I liked the addition of Breedmate talents that I do not remember being shown in the first book. Again, this added more depth to the characters and the world, as well as providing some very handy ways to move the plot along.
However, I did have some disappointments. I would have liked to have seen much more of Gabrielle and Lucan. I wanted to know how their relationship was progressing, especially as I could imagine Lucan would be somewhat difficult to house train! Unfortunately, they are barely mentioned and they are now happily married, just like Gideon and Savannah, which is a little boring. I was also disappointed that the story was so tightly focused on the Tess / Dante love story and was opened out to show more of the Warriors in action. There was a feeling that they were simply sitting in the bunker knitting socks or something when they were not included in the action.(less)
Unlike many modern horror stories, this title is mercifully lacking in blood-splat-gore-horror. This is the more psychological horror of Edgar Allen Poe and Bram Stoker: it relies upon the terror produced by the unknown and the inexplicable, rather than simply exposing vast quantities of internal body organs. We share Arthur’s increasing terror as the unusual events move gradually from the merely peculiar to the absolutely murderous. However, we do not share his reaction to these events at the beginning: whilst we KNOW that there is something very wrong with his first meetings with the Woman, he ignores all the signs and continues to deny an otherworld explanation for events. Even when he has had some really terrifying experiences, he recovers and then hides behind his blind faith in his own indestructability and tries to ignore what his instincts, and we, are shouting: “DON”T BE STUPID! RUN AWAY!” I find this kind of horror far more disturbing than the simple ‘jump out of your seat’ shocks that are the usual fare in most modern horror films.
Other significant aspects of Gothic horror take minor roles in this book. As the story of the Woman is revealed, we find that her life was destroyed by society’s ideas of acceptable behavior. This was a great influence on Dickens, who is himself an influence upon this novel, as he is credited with introducing fog / smog into literature as a way of creating mood. Ms Hill uses the smog in London to create a feeling of foreboding at the beginning of the story, when Arthur is being given his task. Then the sea mist / fog is an important part of the setting out in the marsh, where the loss of vision adds to the claustrophobic, gloomy mood. This morbid fascination with death was also a common motif in Gothic novels, no doubt due to the increased prevalence of death in the increasingly crowded and poverty-stricken cities of the time. Indeed, Eel Marsh House itself and the surrounding landscape is almost another character, oppressively spreading an air of malevolence and despair.
I enjoyed the writing in this book very much, but I do have a criticism with the pacing: once the haunting began, the pace picked up and began to feel a little rushed. There was such a great set up to the horror that when it actually arrived I would have liked a more prolonged and gradual increase in tension. Also, the way in which Arthur uncovered the story about the Woman seemed far too easy: there really needed to be more subtle and varied ways to drop hints and give us pieces of the picture, which he could then mold into a whole. I felt this was a real weakness, as it made me feel that I was being fobbed off with a hurried way to give him the answers he needed. I also have a nit-pick about the lights, which kept annoying me. The book seems to be set in the early 1900s, at which time there is absolutely no chance that such an isolated house would have had electricity, unless there was a generator, and yet Arthur blithely wanders in and switches on light bulbs. This is only a very minor point, but it really stood out as a sloppy mistake in an otherwise well written and enjoyable read, and so it broke me out of the book, which is never a good thing.
As an aside, it appears that the recent film has taken great liberties with the original story, which is unfortunately all too common.(less)
So, why do I love this book so much? Is it the characters? The plot? The setting? The dialogue? The writing style? I have to answer “YES!” to all of these. It is rare that I read a book that I do not want to change in any way, but this is one of them. OK, I realize I am gushing a bit here, but as Readhead says at the Little Red Reviewer: “Scott Lynch turns me into a blabbering fan girl.” Trying to restrain myself a little, I will try to provide a more reasoned set of arguments for why you have to read this book.
This is Scott Lynch’s debut novel, but you would never know that from his skill with dialogue and descriptive writing. His voice is very engaging and witty, giving us memorable quotes and laugh-out-loud descriptions of events. His characters are well drawn and fully realized. Indeed, we come to love some of them very quickly: there are few ‘throw away’ place fillers in evidence. The setting is expertly drawn and we are given enough detail to leave us wanting more: it is similar to Elizabethan Europe, but different enough to tick all the required Fantasy boxes. The plot has enough originality to keep us off balance and surprised, with bold moves that will have you shouting angrily at the author because you do not want him to do THAT to the characters.(less)
Before I start my review I need to post a disclaimer: the author sent me a free Kindle copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
The very fact that Lily and Mountjoy meet in the first scene and that she is immediately pinned to the floor by his presence, made me sigh with disappointment. From then on the plot progresses in a very predictable way as they fight with and then give in to their obsession for one another. The obstruction to their ‘happy ever after’ is of their own construction: much as we find in ‘A Summer to Remember”. However, these objections do not really feel in character and are overcome far too easily for them to be all that interesting. The principal characters themselves are moderately interesting, but do not really progress, unless you count buying more fashionable waistcoats as progress. We do not have the massive development that Ms Balogh’s protagonists are led through, which makes them too two dimensional for me to really care too much about them. In fact, the only character that shows any development is poor bereaved Eugenia. However, she is a very minor character who is simply there to move the story along, unlike the wonderfully detailed Lady Freja. This paucity of character development led the ‘surprise’ ending to Mountjoy’s intended engagement to be eye-rollingly predictable from the first time the two individuals involved were shown together.
The plot was either predictable or strangely contrived: there is a whole section where Miss Wellstone is ‘outrageously independent’ and insists on getting some of the footmen to dig up part of the grounds. At first, I thought this would lead to some accident or mysterious happening that would allow character development, but, no, nothing as exciting as that: they dig stuff up, Lily gets heat stroke, Mountjoy looks worried in a manly way, the stuff is mostly forgotten about and has no significance. There is simply no subtlety or nuance here: we are told, rather than shown and this does not make an interesting read in my opinion. I am told that Romance readers like to know what to expect, but that is no excuse for making the books dull. We all know that Kit and Lauren will finally end up together, but the great enjoyment of that book comes from the wonderful depiction of Regency life and language that Ms Balogh lays before us, plus the amazing characters and significant events that influence them so that they are changed forever.
In short, this was a reminder of why I struggle with the Romance genre in most cases. I have found reviews of some of Ms Jewel's other works on my friends' blogs, and they have really enjoyed them, so I am happy to accept that this may be more of a problem with me than with her writing.(less)
This is my first Janet Evanovich and I have a suspicion that it might very well be my last. I know that she is amazingly popular, but this was a very average book that I could tell was formulaic even though I have never read any of the Stephanie Plum books. There were things introduced that I could tell were supposed to make me nod with recognition. However, they did not make me want to run out and read more of her work, rather they made me feel cheated by a fairly lazy author.
The characters were almost all flat and lifeless stereotypes, even Diesel, the crossover from the Plum novels. I can safely say that the most entertaining and fully realized ‘characters’ were Carl, the monkey and the cat. Lizzie’s ditsy friend who wants to be a witch and goes around causing mayhem was the only other character who felt in any way real, and I have forgotten her name already. Not only were the characters uninteresting, but they did not behave like real people, which led to some bizarre plotting. For example, I lost count of the times Lizzie and Diesel got into one of his amazing cars, drove somewhere, sat in the car for a bit, could not see what they were looking for and then drove back. What? It was as if Ms Evanovich had never re-read the book after writing it in a stream of consciousness kind of way. She should fire her editor for letting this type of thing through into the published book.(less)
I am pleased to say that Ms Carriger has lost none of the wit and humor that she displayed in Soulless. Having much less exposition to deal with, we get a more detailed view of Alexia’s world and her relationship with Conall. It is always interesting to see if a romance relationship can still be realistic after the couple has ‘ridden off into the sunset’. Their dynamic has changed slightly, but there is still a lot of humor, frustration and sexual electricity: and we see how Alexia deals with being pack Alpha. The sections where Conall is proud of how strong she is are quite cute. She remains as strong and independent as she was in the first book, controlling her husband with a deft hand and beating Major Channing into submission when he dares to flirt with her. She has not become a simpering wife, thank goodness, but continues to be a worthy mate to the most powerful werewolf in the country.
The secondary cast continues to be strong. Unlike some reviewers, I didn’t find Ivy all that irritating: rather, I found her attempts at drama and attention-seeking funny, as they were met by indifference or snarky comments from Alexia. Indeed, Felicity was the one I wanted to throw over the side of the dirigible as she continued to make snide remarks about Alexia. Lord Akeldama continues to be almost a caricature of homosexuality: but I’m never quite sure how much of this is an act that he uses to disarm people. As for Madame Lefoux and her suits, this does seem a stereotypical way to portray a lesbian, but she is not described as being overly mannish or butch, although she does mimic a lot of male behaviors.(less)