Whoops. I requested this book thinking it was the next book in Dare's CASTLES EVER AFTER series, but it is not . . . Does anyone know if it's okay toWhoops. I requested this book thinking it was the next book in Dare's CASTLES EVER AFTER series, but it is not . . . Does anyone know if it's okay to read these books out of order? o.O...more
BLACK CITY SAINT was one of my most anticipated new UFs. With a description involving Fae, dragons, and prohibitionReviewed by: Rabid Reads
DNF at 16%.
BLACK CITY SAINT was one of my most anticipated new UFs. With a description involving Fae, dragons, and prohibition era Chicago, how could it not be?
However . . . A lot of you already know that I majored in English, more specifically literature, and even more specifically, British literature. Most of my required reading was wonderful.
But after Chaucer's TROILUS AND CRESSIDA, my least favorite work was Spenser's THE FAERIE QUEENE. It was terribly boring, and oh so very loooooong.
Guess which book BLACK CITY SAINT has as its foundation: THE FAERIE QUEENE.
Holy knights and dragons and cat-eating wolfy changelings and BLAH.
The story itself had tremendous potential, even after I figured out (no hard task, the hints were obvious) that George was indeed St. George, but 16% felt like 40 - 50%, and I'm finding that I loathe plots focused on a cursed individual forced to relive the death of his reincarnated One True Love over and over again.
David Sullivan lives in a version of our world where ability enhancing spheres just appeared out of the blue one day. Canary YReviewed by: Rabid Reads
David Sullivan lives in a version of our world where ability enhancing spheres just appeared out of the blue one day. Canary Yellow for perfect memory, Aquamarine for fast healing, Cranberry to become more attractive, etc.
As far as anyone can tell, once "burned" the gifts granted by the spheres last forever.
The problem is that not enough time has elapsed since their discovery to know for sure.
The other problem is that no one knows where they came from. God? Satan? Aliens? Magic? The theories are myriad, but there's no evidence to back up any one claim.
Regardless of their origin, spheres have become more than a fad, but with the same kind of frenzied desperation to find them (they're hidden), either to use or sell them, and when Sully discovered a brand new sphere, Cherry Red, he thought he'd found the answer to all his and his mother's financial problems.
He sold it for 2.5 million dollars to Joe Holliday, regional kingpin of the sphere trade, but when the sphere didn't do what Holliday expected, he voided payment, using the fine print to crush Sully's dream under his heeled boot (b/c still short despite the several inches he gained from burning Lemon Yellow spheres), and making Sully famous for an entirely different, less enviable reason.
It's easy to spot the Good Guy and the Bad Guy.
But was it easy b/c stereotypical characters or b/c startling similarities between Sully and Holliday and Ready Player One's Wade Watts and Sorrento?
Impoverished high school student who hunts spheres in all spare moments gets cheated by evil corporate stick figure who uses his resources to nefarious ends in his attempts to get ALL THE _______?
But without the cool gaming elements.
Later on, the story starts to diversify, but by that point it didn't matter b/c bored. Maybe a little bit irritated, too . . .
You: Why irritated?
Me: B/c sooooooo YA.
You: Umm . . . it is YA.
Me: Yes, I know. But there's YA, then there's YA. This was YA.
You: WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?!
It means a couple of seventeen year olds swapping "I love you"s after a few weeks, a few months, tops. It means angst for angst sake. Like when Sully's bff decides to nurse a snit b/c he doesn't get his way, even though if things had played out differently, they'd've ended up with NOTHING. Then when not-his-way works to his advantage, it's instantly all good, b/c MONEY.
Then there are the heartfelt declarations:
“I thought the marbles were the best thing. It turns out you’re the best thing.”
But, really, this is the only example you need:
They’d left Mandy lying in the back of the Volvo with a broken leg, or hip, or something. God, Sully hoped she’d be all right.
In case you were still wondering, that is 100% pure YA, right there. Shit like that just doesn't happen in books for grownups.
SO. This one goes in the Emma pile. (Sixteen-year-old) Baby Sister will LOVE it. If you have a teenager who likes to read, they'll probably love it, too. But for those of you (like me) who have long since left high school behind, I'd skip it. Recommend with qualifications.
Lilywhite Abernathy lives a complicated existence.
She's the daughter of a crime boss--the crime boss--yet she's also his heirReviewed by: Rabid Reads
Lilywhite Abernathy lives a complicated existence.
She's the daughter of a crime boss--the crime boss--yet she's also his heir apparent. Her peers, both male and female, don't know how to treat her, and can't relate to her even if they could.
Yet part of her responsibility to her father is to gracefully interact with those peers. A responsibility her father makes triply difficult by watching her like a guard dog.
Hard to socialize with people who already don't know what to do with you, when your father the HEP big criminal is watching your every move, poised to rain down terror and fury at the slightest misstep.
Then there's the fact that she's part faery. More than part, truth be told, which it must be, b/c lies are physically painful for Lily to tell (b/c part faery).
It's almost too complicated.
And I haven't even gotten to her rock star crush yet.
Somehow it works. I'm not sure if it's b/c subconscious allowances made for YA, or b/c Marr is just that good of a storyteller, but even it's the former, the key word is "subconscious."
The faery Queen of Blood and Rage has declared war on the humans. Part of her strategy includes training up baby fae in her favored guerrilla tactics, using their handlers to teach them how to use their magic, after strategically placing them in sleeper cells. At birth.
Once they reach an age and level of training dreamed useful by Queen, they're called active.
These cells of barely adult, maybe part, maybe full fae, but regardless, they've been raised by humans in the human world . . . Which means their loyalty is divided, so even if they obey the commands of a murderous Faery Queen, they aren't 100% devoted to the cause . . .
They have doubts . . . But their fear of Queen keeps them obedient.
Enter Lilywhite (whose name I scoffed at until one of her new friends started calling her Lilyblack), meant to be the seventh and final member of Queen's flagship cell, her black diamonds.
Except beyond the fact that her mother was one, Lily knows nothing about her ties to Faery. She's spent her whole life hiding her secret--having even a drop of fae blood is enough to be imprisoned (b/c WAR).
She's also been raised to be a leader, to question, to make her own choices . . . So being told that she owes her loyalty to Queen, whom she's never met and has good reason to think is CRAZY, doesn't immediately make her fall in line with the others.
And suddenly the world is full of possibilities.
You: What does that mean?
Me: READ THE BOOK.
"The book" being SEVEN BLACK DIAMONDS by Melissa Marr, the faetastical first installment of her new YA urban fantasy series. Marr says in her acknowledgments that her three word pitch was, "faery sleeper cells." It worked for her editor, and it worked for me. There was no struggle to dive deeply into this latest faery endeavor, to roll around in it, losing time, leaving me wondering if perhaps I'd stumbled into Faery as well . . .
What do you suppose a Queen of Blood and Rage looks like?
SO. The good news is that it only took an afternoon to read REVENGE AND THE WILD by Michelle Modesto. The other news is . . . meh.
In all fairness, several of the contributing factors to the MEH are personal preference issues.
Like I find too few gadgets just as annoying as too many gadgets in steampunk. Dollface has a bionic arm, NOT-brother has a Bane-like face mask, Guardian is building a big ol' machine out of copper that amplifies magic, and that's pretty much it.
Oh, there were a handful of throwaway mentions, but altogether it didn't feel very steampunky.
There was also some of EVERYTHING, and I do mean EVERYTHING: vampires, trolls, werewolves, leprechauns, elves, undead, shamans, CANNIBALS . . . Too many things for any of them to make much of an impact. Except the cannibals.
Ye gods, the cannibals.
Once again, rules for fashion are excellent rules for writing: before you leave, look in the mirror and take off the last three accessoryies you put on.
Once I adjusted to the cadence of Modesto's writing style, it was highly engaging. I flew through the middle 70 - 80%.
When we got to the wrap-up 15%, the unraveling of our mystery was very . . . basic. The clues Westie found didn't link back to earlier planted threads, making the whole cohesive. It was more like a scavenger hunt, and scavenger hunts do not tickle my clever bone.
And all that middle I flew through . . . not really memorable.
If you're a thousand+ years old, you don't fall into unrequited love with a seventeen-year-old you've probably spent less that twenty-four cumulative hours with. You just don't. (hide spoiler)]
However, there was one very excellent plot twist that shocked the hell out of me. Especially b/c it was one of those where you know you've figured it out, and you did (b/c you can count), but BOOM that's not all, sucker!
So HOORAY for that.
Ultimately, REVENGE AND THE WILD by Michelle Modesto was entertaining enough to pass a pleasant afternoon, however, for me, there were a few preference-based misfires. BUT. If you like creature features and steampunk überlite, I'd say it's definitely worth a shot. And BONUS, it's a standalone, so no pesky wait for the next installment. Recommended with qualifications.
Ye gods. I had difficulty with REIGN OF SHADOWS from almost the very first page.
There were issues of clarity:
From high in my perch, I listened. My hearing had long adapted to the darkness.
What does that mean?
Even knowing that Luna lived in a world covered with darkness (b/c seventeen-year eclipse), this gave me pause . . . Eyes adapt to darkness, but ears?
But before too long, I gathered we weren't talking about normal adaptations. We were talking about Daredevil-like adaptations (<------I see what you did there).
Daredevil-like adaptations that are never explained . . . and since the extent of the fantastical part of the world-building is limited to monsters and the rare precog, this is unacceptable.
Then we meet Fowler.
Fowler, the wants-to-be-a-look-out-for-numero-uno kind of guy, but can never quite manage it, who agrees to let a pair of siblings travel with him when he leaves . . . wherever . . . to go . . . wherever, and in a world with approximately one hour of daylight each day--the only time the giant, half alien, half insect (b/c FEELERS on their heads *edvard munch face*), man-eating monsters go BACK UNDERGROUND where they came from--this might seem like a good idea. Strength in numbers and all that.
Sister has got to be both the stupidest and most obnoxious redshirt in the history of redshirts.
When Brother gets his leg caught in a trap, he screams, attracting the Monsters, then screams again when Fowler unsticks him. He can't walk. Sister refuses to leave him. Monsters are coming:
“It’s going to be fine, Madoc. We have Fowler. He’ll take care of you.” She patted her brother’s shoulder and lifted her gaze to me again. “Right?” She was bobbing her head again, willing me to promise her lies. “Right, Fowler?”
And when Monsters get there:
Still in a panic, Dagne wouldn’t release her grip on my sword arm. Cursing, I snatched the sword from my right hand with my left. The delay cost me. The dweller was on me before I could bring up my blade.
She wouldn't let go of his sword arm so he could fight the monsters that were ATTACKING THEM.
And all of that, my friends, happened in the first 10%. OH, YEAH.
Which is the only reason I kept going. The middle 65% was better. A lot better, but still not anything spectacular. Fowler was doggedly determined to never feel anything ever again ever (b/c Broken Hero), but he's too vocal about this desire by half, which makes his sudden turnaround all the more eye roll-worthy.
So yeah, the middle was flawed but not terrible.
The end . . .
There are two pointless (and transparent) death scares, and if Fowler wasn't as Johnny-on-the-spot as he is, Luna might be in trouble. But he is. Every time.
Then Luna suddenly decides she must sacrifice herself for the greater good. I say "suddenly," b/c she's known since they found out about thebadthing that she's the reason behind it, but now that Fowler has let himself care for her, she has to be the one to FIX IT, even though it will literally cost her her head.
Even though we know "evil" Councilor is CRAZY, and her sacrifice probably won't make a difference.
She has to try.
THEN Fowler reveals his (not so) Big Secret, and the way Luna reacts . . . (view spoiler)[
"I didn’t want you to do what you’re doing now.” “Which is what, Fowler?” “Looking the way you do. Like you think I’m a part of him,” he snapped, his voice fierce and raw. A curse followed and I heard the flutter of his hair as he dragged a hand through it. “You are,” I whispered.
I don't even care about the cliffhanger that immediately follows that nonsense. But there is one, FYI. And this last example of Luna's headstrong, heedless of the consequences actions is what pushed me into making a new Goodreads bookshelf: must-be-nice-to-have-9-lives.
SO. REIGN OF SHADOWS by Sophie Jordan does not live up to its pretteh cover. The most I can say for the world-building is that it's basic. I wanted to throttle the main characters on more than one occasion, and after finishing the entire book, I still don't have much of a grasp on the storyarc for either the series or this installment. Not recommended.
That's odd as in seriously creepy, not odd as in . . . a little bit different.
There's meth cooker called "The Alchemist," not to be confused with Lascaris, the alchemist whose "discoveries" of gold were the foundation of the town back in the Gold Rush . . .
It's strongly implied that the "discoveries" were alchemical successes that none have been able to replicate--not for lack of trying--in the 100s of years since Lascaris' untimely death in a fire that destroyed all of his belongings and research materials . . .
That's either highly convenient or highly inconvenient, depending on your perspective.
Enter Petra Dee, a geologist searching for her father who happened to disappear 20(ish) years ago, last seen in Temperence, where she's just accepted a new job.
Would you believe that Papa Dee had an interest in alchemy as well?
Another strange coincidence would be the curiously familiar profile inside a mourning brooch Petra stumbles across in the town Pawn Shop/Historical Society to the tune of:
"Say . . . that looks like weird dude with the blood that glows who I watched get beat the hell up, but who had nary a scratch on him the very next day . . . "
Like I said . . . ODD.
So the plot was interesting. But I had a few quibbles:
I picked this up b/c being set in the Midwest and having a bunch of crows on the cover, I figured there's be a Native American angle, and there was, but alchemy was the bigger focus, which has never been a point of interest for me. YES, I know "alchemy" is in the title, but I was hoping there'd be more to it. There was . . . just not enough . . . for ME.
The Park Ranger is as overbearing as he's supposed to be, but I've never understood the point of having faux love interests--if he'd been an old geezer, the role could have been filled just as well and without the awkwardness.
The message-from-beyond via Bobby Darin song was straight out of LOST.
Overall, better than meh, especially if you like the creepy side of Urban Fantasy. Dark Alchemy has creepy in spades (HA!). Between the aforementioned Alchemist who seems to ooze Mercury, the growing number of highly calcified and deformed almost corpses, and the ranch hands of the local BMOC who dangle underground from the roots of the "Hanging Tree" . . . Like I said . . . creeptastic.
Minus 0.5 stars for referring to a gun as a "toy." <------not cool, not EVER....more
There's an episode of Farscape that's a lot like this book.
John Crichton travels through a wormhole back to earth, and DargReviewed by: Rabid Reads
There's an episode of Farscape that's a lot like this book.
John Crichton travels through a wormhole back to earth, and Dargo, Rigel, and Aeryn follow him out of concern, only to be held hostage by the government b/c ALIENS: we must study them, and by "study" I mean "dissect."
It turns out to be an advanced race of aliens running a simulation in John's brain to determine whether or not Earth would be a viable planet for them to integrate themselves into (their own planet having been destroyed).
The answer was a resounding no.
B/c it is a natural state of the human condition to fear that which we do not understand.
Space is infinite, and thus represents infinite possibilities of things that are other.
How much more so if "it" comes from our own world? How much more so if it walks onto our shores from our very own ocean? How much more so if we discover that "they" have been living among us the whole time?
Michael Buckley attacks this scenario with both hands in UNDERTOW.
Three years ago, 30,000 of the Alpha walked out of the Lower New York Bay and onto Coney Island. Since that time, the area has been subject to Martial Law, the communities segregated. BUT. After myriad meetings and negotiations, attempts at integration are to begin with the addition of Alpha teenagers into one of the local high schools. If successful, more Alpha teenagers will be added to the student populations of other high schools, and thus will begin the first step toward peaceful coexistence.
*snickers* Riiiiighttt. B/c that's gonna happen.
So we've got a great plot with a great underlying message, and both of those things are a big part of what makes this not-your-ordinary YA book, but what really pushes it over that edge for me is the SNARK. This book has snark for DAYS, it's fantastic and hilarious:
“You take these girls to the school, Leonard?” she asks my father in her thick, growly accent. She’s been in our building for fifty years, ever since emigrating from Eastern Europe—maybe Hungary, maybe Russia—I can’t remember. It’s someplace where the neighbors used to spy on one another for the government.
And that came immediately following this description:
As soon as the elevator doors open, I wish we had taken the stairs. Mrs. Novakova, short and squat, is lurking inside, like a creepy garden gnome peering out of the brush.
My only issues were a handful of underdeveloped secondary characters and a few unnecessary flourishes when trying to make various points. BUT. This is YA. And as far as YA written for actual teenagers goes, this was fantastic. Buckley does a fabulous job of highlighting the obstinance of high school students without crossing over into that land I try to avoid at all costs: ANGST.
“When we leave town she’s coming with us,” I whisper. My father frowns. “Lyric, no.” “I won’t go without her,” I say. “We’ll discuss this later,” he says. “That’s fine, as long as you know I won’t go without her.”
Instead, it's just funny. Or maybe I just applaud resolve (when the resolve is for something reasonable). Either way, I lol'd more while reading this book than I have in a long, long time.
UNDERTOW is one of those rare YA novels that covers the whole spectrum of what it means to be YA. I myself (well past 25 years old) was greatly entertained, and I have zero inhibitions about also getting it for my 14-year-old sister. If you or someone you know loves modern sci-fi sea creature awesomeness, then UNDERTOW is an obvious choice. Between the clever and snarky characters, the strong bonds of family and friendship, and the unignorable message that prejudice and mindless hatred are unacceptable . . . what's not to like? Highly recommended.
Me: That's a complicated question. Technically, you don't need to. BUT. I think you should. B/c reasons:
1. It's my favorite (finished) YA fantasy series, so EVERYONE should read it.
2. I have an OCD compulsion to read everything in order.
3. There's something that happens at the beginning of FLAMECASTER that won't have the impact it should, if you haven't read Seven Realms.
You: What is this thing?
Me: I'LL NEVER TELL. But later I will dance around it like a zombie from Thriller (b/c still traumatized and can't help it).
You: Is there anything special about this spinoff?
Me: YES. I'm so glad you asked. This book takes place twentyish years after the events in Seven Realms, and the main characters in FLAMECASTER are the children of the main characters from Seven Realms.
HOW COOL IS THAT?
You: SO VERY COOL.
And now is when I'm going to get exceedingly vague.
That thing I mentioned? The one that I warned I'd be dancing around? Yeah, it's . . . so very awful.
It's almost as bad as the Bad Thing that happened in Morning Star, and the Bad Thing that happened in Morning Star is my current reigning Worst Thing to Happen in a Book EVER.
And this Bad Thing influences so much of what comes after that I can't talk about any of it. What I can tell you is:
1. There are dragons.
2. There are pirates.
3. It's funneh:
If I killed the bastard now, Ash thought, none of these lords would lift a finger to stop me. But then they’d turn around and execute me, because, you know, precedent.
B/c, you know, precedent. *giggle snorts*
4. The new characters will keep you in a near constant state of panic trying to figure out who's good and who's bad (which is a good thing b/c TWISTY and unpredictable).
5. There's a villain so contemptible that he/she/it joined the Most Vile Villain ranks with Umbrage.
And most importantly, I loved it. Unless the Bad Thing happened to make it easier for blah, something, blah blah, something to happen, in which case I will do much violence to quench the fire of my RAGE.
I'm hopeful that's just my paranoid, hyperactive imagination running wild, and this time next year, I'll be back to let you know, b/c Chima has proven with FLAMECASTER that her success with Seven Realms wasn't a fluke--she is awesome--and my YA fantasy monster is sated. Highly recommended.
After a prologue that with few exceptions felt like it could've been copied from the Snow and Regina plot thread frReviewed by: Rabid Reads
DNF at 15%.
After a prologue that with few exceptions felt like it could've been copied from the Snow and Regina plot thread from Once Upon A Time (the early version, before things got complicated with back stories), the first chapter began in what felt like the opening sequence of every bad horror movie ever.
Then came a series of stock characters, and, really . . . making a race of dragons flat is an accomplishment that no author should ever attempt to replicate.
Three sisters, only one can be queen, and only after she kills the other two.
Sounds like a good time, riThis one is unsurprisingly darrrrrk.
Three sisters, only one can be queen, and only after she kills the other two.
Sounds like a good time, right? A good and CREEPTASTIC time. Like when the first of the three queens we meet, Katharine, gets asked to dance at her poison ball (more on that later):
Katharine lets him lead her to the floor and pull her close. A beautiful blue-and-green Deathstalker scorpion is pinned to his right lapel. It is still slightly alive. Its legs writhe sluggishly, a grotesquely beautiful ornament.
So the Poison Ball. Katharine is somehow designated at birth as the Poison Queen. The designation seems to be arbitrary as Katharine doesn't have her gift yet (a gift that presumably makes her immune to poison), so in the meantime, her . . . guardian/trainer people build up her resistance to various poisons the old fashioned way (by making her ingest it to build up a tolerance), and then berate her for being too skinny and frail, etc.
Fortunately, the other sister we meet isn't in quite as bleak circumstances, but she too is without gift while carrying the title of Naturalist, which as far as I can tell means she'll get an animal familiar.
The third sister is only spoken of in rumor, and is the Elemental. She's also crazy, if what people say about her is true.
I am EXTREMELY hopeful about this one. I'm only a few pages in, and MC and crew have already slaughtered a royal caravan so MC can replace the princesI am EXTREMELY hopeful about this one. I'm only a few pages in, and MC and crew have already slaughtered a royal caravan so MC can replace the princess. *sing songs* Awwwwwwwwsome....more