2016 was the year of the graphic novel for me--between Fables and Monstress, I was well and truly hooked, but itReviewed by: Rabid Reads
2016 was the year of the graphic novel for me--between Fables and Monstress, I was well and truly hooked, but it was Brian K. Vaughan's SAGA that blew my mind and showed me that, similar to (good) poetry, graphic novels could pack all the insights and feelings of a first person POV full-length novel into a third of the pages and an even smaller fraction of the words.
So I've been looking forward to Volume 7 ever since I binge read 1 - 6 last July.
I'm actually pretty proud of myself for waiting for the last six individual installments to be bundled together instead of snacking on the smaller episodes each month. I wasn't sure I could do it, but I'm glad I did, b/c combined they pack one hell of punch.
And by "one hell of a punch," I mean that Vaughan broke my heart 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, SEVEN times.
I started taking screenshots after the third time, which, incidentally, was less than halfway through it, to keep track.
It wasn't just a heart-pummeling either. Vaughan likes to do this thing that most people would call foreshadowing, but that's kind of like saying Karen Marie Moning likes to end her books with cliffhangers (a gross understatement).
If you're familiar with SAGA, I'm sure you remember that bomb Hazel dropped about her parents however many volumes ago it was. This time it wasn't quite that bad--my chest didn't feel like there was a gaping void where my heart used to be--but the sense of impending doom made me feel like that bird that panicked and took flight in BAMBI.
You know . . . the one that got shot.
There was also a horribly awkward plot thread involving Sir Robot and his amorous feelings for Alana. #grossman
Now would be a good time to mention the adult nature of this series. There's an ambiguity to SAGA's designation as a "graphic novel" that is not for the faint of heart.
I'm fairly vocal about my dislike of being crass or vulgar out of lack of creativity and/or for the shock factor, and I don't feel that's what's happening here. Is it still uncomfortable at times? Definitely. But that's kind of the point. LIFE is uncomfortable, and at its roots, SAGA is about life.
As for how it ended, well, you'll just have to experience that for yourself, and as is always the case with an ongoing series, there are several big unanswered questions, like:
What the hell was in that box?
And something about the context surrounding Marko and Petri's argument over who should go after Izabel made me think ze wasn't referring to either hir criminal status or hir transgenderness when Marko voiced his concern about hir being recognized. Or maybe I'm reading into things b/c we know virtually nothing about hir past. *shrugs awkwardly*
Regardless, Volume 7 of SAGA does not disappoint, and it continues to be the very best of what graphic novels have to offer, IMO. Highly recommended to the WHOLE (adult) WORLD.
There are a lot of things wrong with this book. A lot, a lot. Probably more than five. I'll make a list later, but I want it tReviewed by: Rabid Reads
There are a lot of things wrong with this book. A lot, a lot. Probably more than five. I'll make a list later, but I want it to be clear that ORPHAN QUEEN is a seriously flawed example of YA fantasy . . . Before I tell you that I kind of liked it anyway.
THE HEART WANTS WHAT THE HEART WANTS.
1. Plot twists not so twisty. And WORSE, Wil (short for Wilhelmina which is a-whole-nother problem) was shocked by them when they played out.
If it had been a singular instance, like when the identity of Black Knife (a vigilante . . . named Black Knife . . .) was revealed, I probably would've let it go.
But it wasn't.
2. Bad lingo. This is a problem with layers.
Why do you need new colloquialisms in a YA fantasy duology? YOU DON'T.
But. If you're going to do it anyway, it had better be worth the effort, and substituting your pinky finger for your middle finger as a rude gesture does not qualify as worth the effort:
It took all my self-restraint not to flip my little finger at her.
Neither does "say it again" in place of . . ."You can say that again."
3. Wacky shit. Like calling your gang "Ospreys."
I'll admit they're a bit more fierce in appearance than I expected, but still . . . in a world where other house symbols are dragons and unicorns (<------problems as far as the eye can see), where does a bird commonly confused with water fowl fit in?
And why the hell would you name a noble line "House of the Unicorn," if it's not in a story for a five-year-old?
Then there was the time Patrick did the thing I'd been waiting for him to do at a completely baffling moment: (view spoiler)[reveals his intention to be Wil's King--for the good of the kingdom, of course--by flatly stating that if she was "wise," she would marry him.
And he did this just after she found out the mission she'd been against (but he organized anyway) led to death of two of their members. (hide spoiler)]
What is that?
4. Poor execution/lack of subtlety. There were multitudes of cool plot-twists-that-could-have-been that were either ruined by Meadows' impatience or by saying things that were obviously happening could not be happening b/c reasons.
This is also the reason the plot twists weren't so twisty.
6. Grab bag sans any kind of originality. I know there's no such thing as a new idea, but you have to put your own mark on it. You can't just cobble together a bunch of odds and ends, slap a title on it, and call it a day.
7. Ignored obvious solutions and ignoring this obvious solution in particular was ground zero for basically ALL the problems in the last half of the book: (view spoiler)[Rival King to Wil (who doesn't know she's Wil) about his (the King's) and her parents intentions for her and Tobiah:
“We always said that our children would marry and unite the two kingdoms . . ."
Wil a couple hundred pages later:
"Soon, regardless of our actions tonight, our kingdoms would be at war. After all, he couldn’t just give up Aecor to me. Could he? But why would he? Kissing wasn’t a good enough reason, and I couldn’t think of any political advantages to releasing a valuable piece of land, even if it was to stop a minor war."
Really? B/c King already told you what would FIX IT. *headdesk* (hide spoiler)]
8. REALLY flimsy main concept. Use of magic has been outlawed in Wil's world b/c overuse is being blamed for the explosion of BAD magic (called Wraith) into existence, warping and/or destroying anything it comes into contact with. It's covering the land like waves creeping up a beach at high tide.
But this is all we get:
“That’s the theory,” Clint said. “The overuse of magic triggered a cataclysmic reaction we haven’t been able to reverse.”
Except there's very little evidence to support the theory, and what they do have is circumstantial.
Maybe that's the point, b/c despite Wil's back and forth on the issue, I'm not convinced they haven't been digging their grave with their assumptions.
BUT if that's the case, the world leaders made BIG decisions based on . . . nothing of substance.
Either way, it's a problem.
So yeah . . . a lot of issues. THE ORPHAN QUEEN is definitely not for readers who need well-planned, well-executed, logical worlds and plots. BUT. It was an entertaining and easy read, and when I finished, I didn't want to hunt down Meadows and demand my day back (<------always a good thing). I'd recommend it to someone looking for a brainless way to spend a Saturday.
B/c I'm in the mood for YA fantasy and who the hell cares that I DNF-ed the first book in Meadows' other series, or that this one apparently ends in an epic cliffhanger of DOOM?
As big a fan of superheroes as I am, I've actually read very few books that are superhero focused: Jennifer Estep's Bigtime seReviewed by: Rabid Reads
As big a fan of superheroes as I am, I've actually read very few books that are superhero focused: Jennifer Estep's Bigtime series, After the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi . . . maybe one or two others that didn't immediately spring to mind, but that's pretty much it.
Of those, Superheroes Anonymous is most similar to Bigtime, but that's a very kind comparison . . .
Gail Godwin lives in a world filled with superheroes and villains. When our story begins, she's just an ordinary human, which is a problem, b/c she's constantly getting taken hostage. She gets taken hostage so frequently that, like the superheroes and villains she so often rubs elbows with, she has her own moniker:
YEP. Gail Godwin is Hostage Girl.
"But why is Gail Godwin always getting taken hostage?" you ask.
B/c the superhero/villain community thinks she's Chicago's #1 superhero's girlfriend, that's why.
And even Gail herself doesn't know if that's true. Her incredibly hot (but somewhat slacker) boyfriend Jeremy certainly could be her habitual rescuer Blaze, but . . . for whatever reason, Gail doesn't think so.
But what she thinks becomes irrelevant when Jeremy breaks up with her, accepts a job transfer to Miami, and Blaze is seen rescuing new damsels in distress in the same city.
But at least she's no longer getting kidnapped several times a week, right?
Someone didn't the memo, and when evil Dr. Mobius snatches Gail from a local coffee house with the intent of performing Mad Scientist experiments on her, Blaze isn't there to stop him.
After spending an indeterminate amount of time weighing the pros and cons of attempting to launch her own breakout vs. continuing to feel sorry for herself and waiting to be rescued, she eventually escapes (under dubious circumstances), stumbles into a bank robbery, and spineless-ninny-that-she-is, manages to occupy the villain until the superheroes arrive.
Then she blacks out.
She wakes up at Superhero Headquarters where she's to be tested to determine the extent of the new villain-occupying abilities she now has thanks to Dr. Mobius' aforementioned experiments.
And that's pretty much all that happens in this book. Yeah, she finds out, once and for all, Blaze's true identity, and yeah, the previously mentioned bank robber is part of a bigger sinister plot, but do we find out anything about that plot?
The book ends in a cliffhanger of DOOM, with us knowing neither what the Bad Guy is after, nor why it's important, and with Gail being accused of being a Bad Guy herself.
Seriously. It's like the book was cut in half, and that's all we got.
Add to that Gail being a chump who calmly embraced her Hostage Girl status for years, and well . . . her incremental character growth wasn't quite enough to overcome that less than flattering first impression.
Still, it was a highly entertaining read, and if you like mousy heroines who struggle with self-doubt, but (presumably) go on to eventually discover their self-worth, then I would definitely recommend Superheroes Anonymous. Whether you want to wait for the next installment, or dive in right now is your call.
Do we have any Anne Shirley fans out there? Me, I love Anne Shirley. I loved her when she first arrived at Matthew and MarilReviewed by: Rabid Reads
Do we have any Anne Shirley fans out there? Me, I love Anne Shirley. I loved her when she first arrived at Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert's farm and asked them to call her Cordelia. I loved her when she broke her slate over Gilbert Blythe's head for calling her "carrots." I loved her when she gave that hilariously honest apology to Rachel Lynde . . .
But it wasn't just the early years, I loved Anne's adult years too.
Do you remember when Diana sent Anne's short story (Averil's Atonement) to that (Rollings Reliable) baking powder company?
If Anne Shirley were a real person alive today and had an interest in paranormal alternate history, this is the kind of book she would write:
"Is that all, milord? I've left my dear wife anxiously awaiting her surprise: a trip to Paris. She's impossible when she's impatient . . . and she's never patient," he added with a smile that spoke of the throes of young love."
THE ETERNA FILES was resolutely Victorian, at times being whimsically funny, floridly embellished, and frustratingly redundant on points of feminine equality.
I feel like it's important to say that this book was well-written and entertaining enough that I didn't lose my patience with it until the very end.
What was so dreadful about the end?
*harrumphs* Only that it ended mid-climax. That's all. No big. *shrieks* *gnashes teeth* *glowers*
I kept pushing the arrow button, over and over, half a dozen times, thinking my kindle had chosen an inopportune moment to go wonky, before I realized that, NO, it was over.
And ending mid-crisis highlighted how, for more than one reason, it felt like half a book.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Steampunk is not a genre that I've had much success with. There have been a very few exceptions, but mostly I've found it to be tech-heavy and plot-lite, and I assumed that was what prevented me from enjoying it more.
But here's the thing--THE ETERNA FILES is not steampunk. In fact, it's so not steampunk that I had to add "alternate history" to our genre list. But still . . . I found my eyes glazing over in the manner to which I'd become familiar, b/c bored with the flowery descriptions of corsets, petticoats, and fascinators.
And while I am (of course) sympathetic to the plight of women who had yet to be seen as equal and independently worthwhile human beings . . . finding new and creative ways to highlight that point every few pages became tiresome.
There. I said it. All the "woe-is-me, corsets" and "unfair, unfair, unfair" got tiresome, I was tired. *straightens backbone* (b/c no corset).
And b/c of the era's preoccupation with ghosts and communicating with ghosts, nine times out of ten any paranormal elements in this type of book are going to be in relation to that obsession, which in turn lends a gothic feel, neither of which am I very fond. *sighs*
So that's something to take into consideration: if you like Victorians and Victorian things, there's a strong possibility this book will go much better for you. I consider it a lesson well-learned.
Back to the earlier point, two stories are taking place simultaneously, one in New York, the other in London. In both places a team of scientists trying to find "a cure for death" have gone missing. For some reason, the London powers that be believe the Americans have greater and more extensive research on the subject, so they dispatch a spy to recover said information, b/c much like the Space Race of the '60s, both countries are determined that they be the one to succeed, this time in thwarting death, a concept that I found completely ludicrous. I mean, how can you even say, "a cure for death," without Phantom of the Opera-like organ music blaring in the background?
I do not know. Like I said, not for me.
Regardless, the teams are working in tandem, each trying to beat the other, each trying to discover what happened to their scientists, a circumstance that cannot be unrelated, so you know that they will eventually, inevitably overlap . . . but it never happens. Just before the end (mid-crisis, and NO, I will not let that go), plans were finally in place for the English to cross the pond, but this was not a particularly short book, and I can't help but feel that ultimately . . . not much happened.
Overall, not for me, but maybe for you. If you prefer Ann Radcliffe or the sisters Brontë to Jane Austen, I say give it a shot. Likewise, if you like ghosts and melancholy, or you think stealing (or making) corpses for nefarious experiments is deliciously creepy, rather than grotesque, THE ETERNA FILES by Leanne Renee Hieber could very well be your next great read. However, if you are like me, and all of those things are at best "meh" and at worst "ick" then I would move on to less dreary cityscapes. Recommended under a very specific set of circumstances.
When I saw this book available for review, I leapt at it. I’ve been meaning to start Delaney’s The Last Apprentice series forever, but was, once again, daunted by the number of installments (13, not including the various bonus stories).
In A NEW DARKNESS, I thought I’d found the perfect solution—I’d get to see what all the Delaney fuss was about without having to commit to another long-running series.
I was so very, very wrong.
I know I don’t pay enough attention to blurbs. It’s a problem, and I own it. But this time . . . this time, I’m almost positive that I did read it, b/c I specifically didn’t want to request A NEW DARKNESS if it was a continuation of the previous series (b/c OCD).
Whatever. The current, just-before-publication blurb, clearly states that it is, in fact, a continuation, but that no prior knowledge is necessary to read and understand this book. And maybe that’s true . . . I’m not sure if what I was feeling while I was reading this was confusion or frustration, b/c whether I needed to have read The Last Apprentice was kind of irrelevant to me . . . b/c I wanted to have read it.
Half of the book was throwbacks/mentions/this-one-times from the other series, and while we were given enough information for it to make sense, it was painfully obvious that there was more going on that was flying right over our heads.
I don’t like feeling ignorant. I would even go so far as to say that I HATE feeling ignorant.
I felt ignorant the entire time I was reading this book.
So that was a problem. Another problem was that I felt like I was reading an historical accounting of the events in the book . . . but in real-time? Which was strange . . . but the feeling made more sense when right before the first POV change, a point was made by the character that they were writing everything down in a journal.
But while, in theory, reading someone’s journal may sound highly entertaining and full of juicy tidbits, in reality . . . unless you know the person incredibly well (your sister, your girlfriend, etc.) . . . it’s really not.
As for the characters, not only did I feel like I didn’t know them very well, but I didn’t particularly like them either. I’m guessing that Tom Ward is the last apprentice, and Grimalkin seems like an immensely interesting character, but yeah . . . in this one book . . . not enough development to make a lasting impression. And without context, Grimalkin just comes across as the scheming, manipulative witch that Jenny fears she is. Jenny . . . I initially liked her, but as the story progressed, she became more and more judgmental, and more and more surly. She badgered Tom into taking her on as his apprentice, but then she does nothing but second guess him, and complain about his instruction.
And the new enemy . . . this is a personal peeve of mine, so it probably won’t bother you unless you share my peeve, but I’ve never been a big fan of humanized animals as characters.
And it probably has something to do with going to see Guardians of the Galaxy a couple of weeks ago, but when this “new darkness” was on the page, all I could see in my head was an evil version of Rocket. I think the Kobalos are supposed to be more wolf or fox-like, but yeah . . . Rocket. *shrugs* Even if I could force myself to see beyond that, I’d still be seeing something pretty awful:
Any WoW players out there? Say hello to your friendly neighborhood kobold. *shudders*
And don’t even get me started on that cliffhanger. I wasn’t even that invested in the story, and I wanted to throttle someone.
So yeah . . . if you’re a longtime fan of the series, I’m sure A NEW DARKNESS is an excellent addition to your well-loved world. But if you’re thinking of using this book to take the easy road to exploring the widespread fascination with Joseph Delaney . . . you might want to think again.
So I don't think I've read a translated book before. At least not a recently translated book.
I've thought about it. I mean, the book was popular enough in it's native language to get translated into English and re-published, so that speaks highly for it, right? Yeah, definitely . . .
Language is a complex and beautiful thing, and this isn't a real life interaction where only the gist of the information needs to be understood. This is LITERATURE, and there is not one thing that anyone can say to convince me that Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening doesn't lose some essential spark when it's adapted into something not-English. The words are like a dance, expertly choreographed, and that cannot be translated.
So that's why I've kind of avoided this kind of book in the past. And you know what?
I was right.
Chasers of the Wind by Alexey Pehov was a surprisingly good read. It took awhile, but the characters grew on me. This is straight-up fantasy, so there are multiple POVs, but not too many, and the shifting perspectives are mostly focused on pairs.
My favorite pair is Ness and Layen/Gray and Weasel, an assassin husband and wife team (Gray and Weasel are their "working" names). Gray is an expert shot with almost any kind of bow, and Weasel has the Gift (MAGIC), but as far as we know, is completely unaffiliated with the magical hierarchy, the strangeness of this circumstance being communicated in various, but thankfully not obvious, ways.
Second favorite pair is Luk and Ga-Nor. Luk is a rascal and a solider who is overfond of dice, and Ga-Nor is a Northern tracker, and viewed by the majority of society as a savage. Ga-Nor keeps Luk out of trouble, Luk lightens things up for taciturn Ga-Nor, and they just work well together. I like them.
NOT my favorite is Pork, the village idiot, and Tia, or Typhoid, the Overlord, or Damned, depending on who you ask. Pork is the Noah Percy in M. Night Shyamalan's The Village variety of village idiot---NOT the good kind, the creepy and sinister kind. And Tia is a spoiled brat who has probably been a spoiled brat for the entirety of her existence (over 500 years).
So the characters were pretty well-developed and mostly likable, unless the point was not to like them, then you didn't.
The world-building was . . . interesting. The book begins with the fall of the impregnable fortress. The early and very thorough takeover of the impregnable fortress doesn't happen until you've been told SIX times in four pages how awesomely awesome this fortress is, and how it will never, EVER fall.
And that magical hierarchy I spoke of earlier? They're most often referred to as Walkers and Embers. Embers are kind of obvious. Walkers, not so much, but we didn't find out until 77% into the book what they actually were.
Then there's Luk's overuse of his favorite curse, "screw a toad." 33 times. 33 times, he swears, "screw a toad."
And that's a good intro to the language crossover issues.
Using nature inspired names is a fairly common practice. Especially in fantasy where you often find numerous magical and diverse peoples. Elves, Fae, earth magic users, etc. will have names like Rowan Whitethorn of House Somekindoftree. This happens in contemporary novels too. One of my favorite non-magical characters is named Blue Echohawk.
But what about House Strawberry?
Or House Butterfly?
*frowns and squints*
Okay, maybe, if we're talking about cute, little Tinkerbell fairies. Maybe. But take a gander at that book cover. Does that look like the cover of a book with cute, little Tinkerbell fairies?
Houses Strawberry and Butterfly are two of the seven Highborn (Elf) houses, and though we don't actually meet any of them (well, there is one, but he doesn't count), we are lead to believe that they are a rather fierce and warmongering people.
And they'd have to be. Otherwise no one would take them seriously.
So there are the bizarre name issues. And then there are the bizarre dialogue and description issues.
The dialogue issue is most obvious in a conversation between two of the Overlords, Tia and Rovan (<------the Highborn who doesn't count). Rovan is acting completely out of character, and Tia, rather than saying something like, "Who are you, and what have you done with Rovan?" which would make sense to a native English speaker, says, "I don't recognize you."
*frowns and squints AGAIN*
And I'm familiar enough with the Rascal Soldier character to assume that he is more than a joker and a gambler. But that belief was a deliberate decision, b/c there wasn't any evidence to support that claim. At least not until more than halfway through the book when Ness comments that, "Luk, despite his frivolity, is not a man to mess with," and the lack of evidence had been such that that one statement filled me with a sense of vindication.
Overall, Chasers of the Wind by Alexey Pehov was an entertaining enough read that the obvious translation misfires were merely nuisances that I flicked away like a gnat. The alternately interesting and monstrous creatures, as well as the complexities of the magical races drew me in completely. While I'd not yet classify Chasers of the Wind as dark fantasy, there are definitely hints of darker things to come. Necromancers, overtly feared Overlords known to the masses as Leprosy and Consumption who wield great and terrible power, and wizards whose primary function is controlling demons we've yet to encounter, all promise more exciting chapters from this world. I'll definitely read the next book, and I'd recommend this to readers who like a bit of nefarious in their fantasy....more
Laini Taylor is a genius. No really. You know how “they” say that all myths and fairytales have an element of truth in them? HReviewed by: Rabid Reads
Laini Taylor is a genius. No really. You know how “they” say that all myths and fairytales have an element of truth in them? How that element of truth is where the myths and fairytales originally came from? Well, in Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Laini Taylor treats all the myths like they’re Athena—sprung fully formed from the head of Zeus. Greek, Middle Eastern, Egyptian, various and sundry Pagan belief systems, it doesn’t matter, it all combines to make one glorious whole. There are Mesopotamian Hamsa on the hands of resurrected Naga (Hinduism/Buddhism), Greek Minotaurs, Egyptian jackals, and a multitude of other mythological creatures. Hamsa that repel the mishmash of creatures’ enemy, the Seraphim. Seraphim who are wholly unconnected to Christian, Jewish, or Muslim ideologies.
And the magic that both sides utilize must be paid for in PAIN. This (IMO) is the best and cleverest part b/c in European folklore, both Eastern and Western, there are all kinds of pagan belief systems focused on witchcraft, earth worship, manipulation of the elements, etc. Almost all of those belief systems center on the principle of payback. Karma. The Golden Rule. Pick one. All variants of the same basic idea—if you put good in the world, it will come back to you, and if you put bad in the world, that will come back to you as well. Taylor takes this principle and transforms it into something with tangible, immediate results. In her world, you don’t have to look over your shoulder waiting for your bad deeds to catch up to you, you pay as you go. Or someone pays.
Right. So. Meet Karou. Karou is a blue-haired girl who lives in Prague, where she is in enrolled in a school of the arts. Before that she was somewhere else, and before that, yet another place—rootless, homeless, Karou. When she was a child, she lived in an other-place, surrounded by other-creatures who were her friends and family, but when she got older, Brimstone (the othercreature in charge of those who raised her) sent her out into the human world, to learn human things, and run human errands b/c Karou is human.
But if Karou is human, then how did she become a part of this otherworld? How did she acquire languages as birthday gifts, and why did her hair turn blue when she wished it? Why has she had tattoos of an eye on the palm of each hand for as long as she can remember, and why does she constantly feel like something is missing, that she should be doing something, being something, a part of something, that she is not?
Daughter of Smoke & Bone will make you ache. It will make you clench your hands and clutch your arms around your stomach in trepidation of what Karou will learn, must learn about herself, about the othercreatures she calls family, about the strange, burnt hand prints that show up on the doors that are the gateways to their otherworld, and about the beyond beautiful man with the shadow that has giant wings who put them there.
Inexplicably, I left these books off my list of Top 5 YA Series a few weeks ago. It somehow slipped my mind, though it has clearly earned its place there. It’s simply the most brilliant and unique story I’ve read in recent memory. I love the characters, both main and secondary, I love the world-building, and the romance is simply fantastical. Daughter of Smoke & Bone hits you straight in the feels, and you love every second of it, want more of it, are devastated when it ends.
So it’s a good thing Dreams of Gods & Monsters, the third (and final?) installment of this series will be released in only a few short weeks. Are you ready?
First of all, when I requested this book, I didn't realize that it was published by Thomas Nelson, which is a Christian imprinReviewed by: Rabid Reads
First of all, when I requested this book, I didn't realize that it was published by Thomas Nelson, which is a Christian imprint of HarperCollins. If I had known, I probably wouldn't have requested the book, b/c I don't like being preached at when I'm reading recreationally, BUT . . . I am happy to report that it wasn't an issue. SO if you thought you might like this book, but held off, b/c, unlike me, you were in the know about Thomas Nelson, worry not.
If you have an issue with the book, I seriously doubt that will be it.
I'm quite vocal about choosing YA that doesn't feel like YA. YA in which the characters come across as older, wiser, more experienced than their numerical ages. I can't actually recall being told Nym's age, but whatever it is . . . it's YA.
Nym is an orphan and a slave. She is also an Elemental. In her world, Elementals are killed at birth, except, also in her world, Elementals are universally male. We are never told how Nym manages to be both female and an Elemental, two things that we are assured are mutually exclusive. In fact, it's not even really addressed at all, except to add to her super special snowflakeness by pointing out the impossibility of her existence.
But Elementals, male or female, are not the only creatures of magic in Nym's world.
There are five (I think) nations, all with their own specific type of magic user. We are not given a reason for the existence of magical creatures, and it is not explained why the type of magic depends on geography.
It just does.
The world-building left a lot to be desired.
Also . . . I'm too bloodthirsty for this book. My favorite characters are assassins and thieves and mercenaries. I don't want them to be killers without conscience, but if someone needs killing, then by golly, they had better be up to the task.
But Nym doesn't want to kill anyone. EVER. Her country has an enemy that far outclasses it in weapons, has airships, is bombing and destroying whole villages--men, women, children, the elderly, the sick, it doesn't matter, they are all being killed indiscriminately, but that's not Nym's problem. She's the one who has to be able to look at herself in the mirror, and she will not be turned into a weapon. *sniffs*
How she can look at herself, knowing she could have prevented all of that indiscriminate death if she'd put on her big girl panties and killed them first, doesn't come up, apparently. Or if it does, she acts her age, digs her heels in, and refuses to hear that which she does not want to acknowledge. Tra-la-la.
So is Adora, the crazy noblewoman who purchases Nym from the slave market.
Adora, we are told, is the most powerful person in the kingdom. After the king, of course. She's so ridiculous, she's a caricature of a villain. She dresses in ghastly and extravagant (animal-themed) costumes. She may or may not literally keep a harem of strapping young men, but of course, she wants, more than anything else, the young man whom she cannot compel to sleep with her, and is very seriously rumored to have killed a kitchen girl (or two), simply for looking at said young man.
She's the biggest property owner in the kingdom, and she sits at the king's right hand on his "Counsel" (whatever that means<------AGAIN, we are not told), and is his most trusted adviser on the war effort . . .
A position . . . we can only infer, she inherited . . . b/c we, for once, are told that her father had held the same position, as had his father before him . . .
Well, sure, why not? If the monarchy is hereditary, I supposed the positions of those who advise in a strategic capacity can be as well. Just train them up the same way you would a prince or princess. B/c that always works so well . . .
There were also numerous little inconsistencies like man-eating horses that didn't turn on their exhausted riders.
I suspect that were I ten years younger, a lot of these things wouldn't bother me. Or at least they wouldn't bother me quite as much. However, I am not ten years younger, and I am much too cynical to embrace Nym's kill-them-with-kindness approach to warfare. This wasn't a bad book, it just wasn't a good book for me. And despite my numerous issues, there were still parts that I enjoyed. If you're an optimist who longs for a heroine who doesn't resort to violence to make a difference, then STORM SIREN could very well be the best book you'll read all year. You know your preferences better than I ever could....more
When I was in college, I CLEP-ed out of Survey of American Literature. I did this b/c I HATE American Lit. I hate Henry James,Reviewed by: Rabid Reads
When I was in college, I CLEP-ed out of Survey of American Literature. I did this b/c I HATE American Lit. I hate Henry James, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Meville, Hemingway, Faulkner, I hate them ALL.
There is one exception . . .
Edgar Allen Poe.
As much as I hate the others, I love Poe.
I love Poe so much that for the first time ever, I felt like I had a legitimate reason for picking one football team over the other in the Superbowl a couple of years ago . . . the Baltimore RAVENS (b/c Poe lived in Baltimore).
It's as good a reason as any, right?
While Poe's THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER isn't my favorite of his short stories, I'm familiar with it, and I appreciate it. And more importantly it's the kind of horror I can get down with, the more cerebral kind of horror. It's written from the POV of Roderick Usher's boyhood friend, who has come to visit at Usher's request. The setting is exceedingly ominous, and someone is inevitably buried alive.
So when I saw THE FALL by Bethany Griffin, it was a no-brainer. How cool would it be to use Poe's original story as the foundation of an entire novel, told from to POV of Roderick's sister? SO cool.
SO cool, in theory, anyway.
I rarely read horror (b/c chicken). That being said, when I do read horror, especially when it's October, Autumn (my favorite season) is creeping in, and Halloween is looming in the distance, I want to be, at the very least, seriously creeped out.
The creepiest part of this book was the expectation of a taboo brother/sister relationship, which is, yes, seriously creepy, but it was not the kind of creepy I was looking for.
I wanted sinister, I wanted malevolent, I wanted foreboding . . . and I didn't get it.
Maybe that's on me, maybe it isn't. I don't know.
But that wasn't the only problem.
Roderick and Madeleine Usher are twins. They are the only children in their household, so it's no surprise that they are very close. Even as children, there were hints of something more between them (ICK), but they're separated when, in their mother's attempt to stave off the family illness from her favored offspring, Roderick is sent away to school, leaving Madeleine alone.
Alone except for the house that has chosen her as its heir.
Okay, so that's sufficiently creepy.
But while the idea itself had a definite creep factor, the overall feel of the book, the setting, many of the evidences of the sentience of the house . . . did not. Which is surprising, b/c given the scenario, it should have been like shooting fish in a barrel.
And that's not the worst of it.
When Roderick goes away to school, Madeleine decides to start a garden. We're told that both the house and the surrounding area are cursed, and specifically that the curse causes every growing thing on the grounds to become diseased and/or rot, yet Madeleine is inexplicably able to grow healthy ivy. AND not just any ivy, ivy that can ultimately counter the evil of the house.
And sure, I suppose that in a world where a house and family can become cursed, there can be other types of magic as well, be where this alien ivy magic comes from is never revealed.
There is also no explanation for the survival and reappearance of a certain proper noun (sorry, can't tell), presumed dead, after sacrificing itself to save Madeleine from the friendly neighborhood KRAKEN (or monster octopus/squid/whatever--it's unclear, so I went with KRAKEN) that lives in the noxious waters of the House's tarn (a small mountain lake).
Then there was the open ending. *sighs*
But despite all those things, it wasn't all bad. Dr. Winston was a superbly diabolical character, and many of the other characters and situations that were merely hinted at in the original were fleshed-out beautifully in THE FALL. I'd recommend this anyone who thinks they might like horror-lite, or who doesn't get hung up on things like understanding why and/or how the villain is defeated....more
Violet Lasting is a Surrogate. She lives in a world where blue bloods can no longer produce viable offspring. BUT. Before they begin to die out, a doctor discovers a genetic quirk that (fortuitously) exists most frequently in the lowest caste of their society . . . a quirk that allows the girls who have it to carry a royal child to term . . .
And so it is mandatory--on pain of death--for every girl to be tested for this quirk upon reaching puberty. If the girl is a Surrogate, she is taken from her family to be raised, groomed, and educated for life in the Jewel.
But being a Surrogate means more than simply having a womb capable of playing host to a royal baby:
The first time I coughed up blood, I thought I was dying. But it stops after a year or so. Now I only have the occasional nosebleed.
Being a Surrogate also means being able to manipulate the three Auguries: color, shape, and growth. Having command of the first (and easiest) Augury means being about to change the superficial aspects of something like . . . wait for it . . . color. Same goes for the shape and growth Auguries, but the interesting thing here is that the royals who purchase their Surrogates at the Auction intend for the girls to use their gifts specifically on their child.
Kind of cool. Kind of creepy.
Kind of dangerous for the Surrogate . . .
Or at least that was my early impression. Anything that causes severe headaches, nosebleeds, and coughing up blood cannot be good for you. BUT. Like I said, only the lower class has this ability, and everyone knows poor people have no power, so the upper classes are free to use them as they see fit.
I actually thought this was a clever premise. Anyone who has taken any kind of History of England (or any Western European country) knows about the weakness and illness that began to plague the royals, b/c of all the inbreeding. And in this inexplicably dystopian, presumably post-apocalyptic (b/c “Lone” city) world, who’s going to stop them from abusing their power and exploiting the peasants?
No one, that’s who.
There were lots of interesting little details that made this story stand out for me:
1. Iron bars in the shape of roses on the windows of the facilities where the girls lived until it was time for their Auction.<——beautifully ironic.
2. The use of real folk songs—I cannot hear or read the lyrics of “The Water is Wide” without getting goosebumps.
3. The flashback to the girl getting her head chopped off for trying to escape becoming a Surrogate gave me goosebumps too:
The girl was wild, long black hair tangled around her face, framing eyes of a brilliant, almost shocking, blue. There was something fierce and untamed about her appearance. She couldn’t have been more than a few years older than me.
She didn’t fight of struggle against the two Regimentals restraining her. She didn’t cry, or beg. She looked strangely peaceful. When they put her head on the block, I could swear she smiled. The magistrate asked her if she had any last words.
“This is how it begins,” she said. “I am not afraid.” Her face saddened, and she added, “Tell Cobalt I love him.” Then they chopped off her head.
4. Violet’s first cello performance . . . YEP, more goosebumps.
5. I’m sure there’s probably some female version of the male occupation of “companion” in this world, but in this story, it’s the male version in the spotlight, which is still terrible, but also refreshing somehow.
6. I saw that twist at the end coming, but it was still a very cool twist.
BUT . . . there were even more things that were either strangely familiar, or did not work for me at all:
1. The “inexplicable” and “presumably” parts of the world-building. We’re given no explanation for the lack of any other cities, or how this one manages to have marshland in concentric rings with the rolling hills and vineyards of farmland. Mighty convenient that . . .
2. Violet’s eyes are violet. This is a personal peeve of mine, b/c NO SUCH THING. No, not even Elizabeth Taylor. Her eyes were very, very blue, NOT purple. So. Unless it’s an alien or some type of Fae creature, if it has violet eyes, I’m going to roll mine.
3. If a noun isn’t named for exactly what it is, or some obvious attribute—industrial part of the city is called Smoke, farm part of the city is called Farm, Violet has violet eyes, etc.—it’s named some other animal, vegetable, or mineral. Raven and her twin brother Crow. The royals are all named after precious gems, or in one case, rare and expensive wood—Ebony. It’s weird and distracting.
4. Lucien is Violet’s very own Cinna. And yes, I realize that “Lucien” is not an animal, vegetable, or mineral, but he is also property, and I have suspicions about what his real name is.
5. The Surrogates have their own version of District Twelve’s three-fingered salute.
6. The “It only takes one small stone to start an avalanche,” and, “one crack spreads until the whole wall crumbles,” lesser versions of, “It only takes a spark.”
7. For a smart girl, Violet is incredibly dense sometimes. (view spoiler)[Ash is a freaking “companion.” What does she think he’s doing with Carnelian? AND how does she not consider the possibility that she could be pregnant with her own child after her shenanigans with Ash? ALSO, she doesn’t seem to pick up on the fact that the girl whose head she saw get chopped off was Lucien’s sister. (hide spoiler)]
8. The insta-love. It’s not as bad as most, but it is still, undeniably, insta-love.
So yeah, there were problems. But overall it was an entertaining read with a great premise—I finished it in an afternoon—and I’ll definitely read the next book. Amy Ewing’s THE JEWEL is a solid first installment in her THE LONE CITY series. It combines fantasy and dystopian elements to create an interesting new whole, so if either of those sub-genres are your thing, I’d check this one out.
I'm kinda at a loss for what to say about this book. I could have very easily put it down 15% into it and never touched it again. Something, however,I'm kinda at a loss for what to say about this book. I could have very easily put it down 15% into it and never touched it again. Something, however, made me keep going. I liked it, but it was so bleak. Most of the time. Then there were the rare shining rays of hope. Those tiny glimpses of hope pulled me along, kept me reading and I'm mostly glad I didn't give up on it, but I'm also emotionally exhausted. ...more
After reading the first two books in this series back-to-back, I was reminded of something that often happens while I’m reading a book by Richelle Mead. I’ve already admitted to loving her, and I do, but oftentimes something, normally just a single thing, keeps me from love, LOVE, L-O-V-I-N-G whatever it is that I’m reading.
In Vampire Academy, the books were YA Urban Fantasy, and that brought inevitably adolescent issues. In Georgina Kincaid, it was the whole, “I’m a succubus, and I can’t EVER turn it off,” thing, in Dark Swan it was Eugenie’s last Big Decision that made me see nothing but tears and recriminations in her and Dorian’s future when what she did inevitably came to light, and in Age of X . . . well, in Age of X, I can’t quite put my finger on the problem. Maybe it was the drastic turn the religious observations took from general to specific. Maybe it was the dissatisfaction I felt at the state of Mae and Justin’s relationship when the book ended.
I just don’t know.
And it’s weird, b/c I REALLY liked this book. A lot. Like couldn’t put it down.
The Immortal Crown opens with Mae and Justin checking out an alleged Voodoo priestess in the Bahamas. The priestess is in fact the real deal, recognizes Mae as a fellow Elect, and spouts nebulous and vaguely threatening warnings about a War of the Elect. Mae and Justin head back to their hotel room where they’re attacked by BUGS. Not just any bugs either—SCARAB BEETLES.
They return to where the priestess is holed-up, thinking her responsible for the attack, only to discover that she is moments from death, having suffered an attack herself. She spouts more warnings about Elect attacking Elect and future wars among the gods, and then dies.
Cue ominous music . . .
Mae and Justin return to RUNA only to almost immediately depart again for Arcardia, having been maneuvered into the trip by the politicking Lucien, who’s convinced that a successful peacemongering trip there will seal his election win.
And once again, EVERYTHING is connected.
This is where Mead excels. She flawlessly weaves together a story in which seemingly isolated incidents, casual interactions, and what appear to be coincidences are anything but. And again, she’s subtle. So the most you can come up with on your own, is that something is not right, there’s more to that person then what appears on the surface . . .
But you have no clue what’s actually coming.
I love that, incidentally.
As far as the world-building goes, the most development takes place in Arcardia. We learned in Gameboard of the Gods that Arcardia is RUNA’s neighbor with whom they hold a merely tentative peace. There are constant border skirmishes, and the threat of war looms heavily in the background.
And this is where I begin to have problems.
Mead states very clearly in the early part of the book, that present-Arcadia bares no similarities with past-southeastern US. That Arcardia is purely the result of a land area turning to religion rather than science in the aftermath of the disease that killed-off half the world’s population, but this simply isn’t true. Arcadia is a horrifically exaggerated version of the pre-Civil War south with some puritanical principles tossed in for fun. And just so there’s no confusion:
Pre-Civil War South + Puritan value system = NEGATIVE fun.
And of course with Mead there’s no smooth path to romantic euphoria. NOPE. We need to appreciate what we’re given, and by golly, nothing that comes easily is worth having.
I’m just hoping Mae and Justin work out their stupidity BEFORE the last book in the series.
Please, Richelle Mead? Please, PLEASE, can we have a happy couple before the very end? You can even throw all kinds of crap in their happy, little path. As long as it, for the love of the gods, gets RESOLVED, I don’t care. Just let them be TOGETHER.
The Immortal Crown is this year’s follow-up to the brilliant debut Gameboard of the Gods in Richelle Mead’s Age of X series. There was more of everything—more gods trying to gain a toe-hold, more places to explore, more secondary characters to love, more sinister villains, more kick-assery from Mae, more brilliant manipulations from Justin, just MORE.
And I don’t see it winding-down anytime soon.
I still highly recommend this series to anyone interested in mythology-based and futuristic Urban Fantasy. This is one of the good ones. And with so many UF series wrapping-up recently, or in the near future, we all need to be aware of the good ones!...more
This series is a 5 star series. It's seriously the best fae-centered urban fantasy I've read in a long time, maybe just the best period. So why did IThis series is a 5 star series. It's seriously the best fae-centered urban fantasy I've read in a long time, maybe just the best period. So why did I only give it and the previous book only 4 stars?
It's not Pamela Ann grammar/syntax terrible, but it was enough to consistently interrupt my focus. The sentences didn't match up sometimes. It wasn't incomprehensible, just distracting. Things like changing the original word from (maybe?) "tears" to "crying" and then in the next sentence referring back to "crying" as "they." Like I said--not incomprehensible, just distracting. Incomplete sentences. Misuse of semicolons. Sigh.
Which is really a shame b/c content-wise The Fae Chronicles is amazing. ...more
2.5 stars. This book was mediocre at best. The MCs (Myra and Dylan) and their interactions were unbelievable at times. Also, they weren't terribly lik2.5 stars. This book was mediocre at best. The MCs (Myra and Dylan) and their interactions were unbelievable at times. Also, they weren't terribly likable--Dylan was mostly a jerk with anger management issues, and Myra was a spineless ninny. Yes, N-I-N-N-Y. I don't think I've ever called someone a ninny in my entire life, but that is what she was.
BUT, the characters weren't the biggest problem for me. I have this pet peeve about books . . . it only seems to happen in indie books (at least I can't recall it happening in a traditionally published book). Anyway, this pet peeve concerns when a major question presented at the beginning of a book is still unanswered at the end of the book. I. Hate. This. I'm not talking about will they/won't they (live HEA?). I don't particularly care for that either, but at least that's somewhat expected, especially if the book isn't a stand-alone. But no, I'm talking about the fact that Dylan has been traumatized by something in his past, and this trauma is the root of his behavior. The root that explains his thus far inexplicable behavior. The root that brings the story full circle, so that you can look back and understand the. whole. fricking. story.
Yeah. That question doesn't get answered. It's set up to be answered in the next book in the last few pages of this book, but can you really trust that? I mean, it seemed like the author was setting up for the answer at least half a dozen times (that's the only reason I kept reading), but never actually got around to it. Maybe she'll just keep putting it off in the next book too. Who knows? ...more
I had serious misgivings about reading The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken.
I started reading Brightly Woven (Bracken’s YA FReviewed by: Rabid Reads
I had serious misgivings about reading The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken.
I started reading Brightly Woven (Bracken’s YA Fantasy stand-alone) a few years ago, and I just wasn’t feeling it. I didn’t mark it as DNF b/c I wasn’t totally writing it off. I was just putting it aside for later. WAY later. So when people started talking about The Darkest Minds last year, I didn’t pay much attention.
Then one of my favorite writers reviewed it as THEBESTBOOKEVEROMG!! So I bought it when it came out. And it sat on a shelf for a year.
Then a bunch of bloggers started reviewing it. A year later. And they’re all THEBESTBOOKEVEROMG!! So I just had to jump on that bandwagon to see what I’d been missing.
*throws book at wall*
The Darkest Minds is about a generation of youth who are born with superhero-like abilities. The additional abilities are jump-started at the onset of puberty. The kids who don’t die when their brains basically EXPLODE, are bused to government camps where they are “rehabilitated.” There are five divisions of abilities:
Green: super smarts Blue: telekinesis Yellow: manipulation of electricity Orange: mind control Red: fire starters
Greens and Blues are safe, Yellows are in the middle, and Oranges and Reds are frickin’ dangerous. Ruby (our MC) is an Orange, but she gets placed with the Greens (which is good b/c Big Brother starts killing off Oranges when they can’t be “rehabilitated”). If you’re wondering why I keep putting “rehabilitated” in quotations, it’s b/c I still don’t know what it’s supposed to mean. Lots of things are alluded to in reference to the camps and what happens there: scientific experiments (electro-shock therapy style), isolation, sensory deprivation, rape-as-punishment by the a**hole guards, but all of those things are in reference to studying/exploitation, not “curing” an “illness.”
And I don’t know about you guys, but sometimes when I start reading a book, I immediately have issues with it. In The Darkest Minds, my first issue was that there is a line that you can point to (like B.C. and B.C.E.) and on one side you have normal kids, and on the other side you have mutant freaks. Every single kid. BUT . . . wait for it . . . only AMERICAN kids.
Because last time I checked, Americans (myself included) were a bunch of mutts. The fact that I know I’m 25% Lithuanian is HUGE. Hardly anyone is a full quarter of anything in America. My other 75% is half a dozen different nationalities THAT I KNOW OF. If it were kids of Western European descent or Eastern European or Asian, etc. I could maybe buy into the whole idea (but it would still be hard b/c these things happen over time, NOT immediately), but it’s not. It’s just Americans.
Willful Suspension of Disbelief only works if the subject is remotely believable.
So that was a huge problem for me. Almost as big as the previously mentioned rape-as-punishment allusion. Not cool ever. REALLY not cool in a YA book. A girl covers for her friend and mouths off to the guards which results in the girl getting gang-raped for two days.
*retrieves book to throw it at wall again*
And then there’s the triangle. The only reason I picked up on the “interest” between Ruby and Boy1 was b/c all of a sudden someone’s staring at someone else’s lips. But that wasn’t terrible. I liked Boy1 and once I knew what was going on, I was cool with it. But then there’s Boy2, and you would have to be an absolute idiot to not immediately know that Boy2 is the BAD GUY.
But somehow there were enough twists and turns to keep me reading. Up until the point where I was 50 pages away from finishing the nearly 500 page book, anyway, and then I just kept going b/c I’m STUBBORN.
And I really wish I hadn’t. I really wish I had quit b/c those last 50 pages made it impossible for me not the read the next book. Sigh . . .
HOWEVER, all of this doesn’t necessarily mean that you will also hate it. I wasn’t crazy about The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey either, so I would suggest that if you liked Yancey’s book, you’ll probably like this one (to me, both books had a similar overall feel). My biggest objection was only alluded to, and very briefly at that. And maybe there’s a perfectly rational explanation for why only American kids mutate and I’m to obtuse to see it. It wouldn’t be the first time. So if SciFi/Dystopians are your thing, give it a shot. But if they aren’t . . .
Seriously!? We have to wait for another year? After that cliffhanger?? Really!!?
Despite the unsatisfying ending, Crown of Embers is just as good as ThSeriously!? We have to wait for another year? After that cliffhanger?? Really!!?
Despite the unsatisfying ending, Crown of Embers is just as good as The Girl of Fire and Thorns. Elisa continues to grow and mature into her roles as queen and bearer of the godstone. It seems that she finally has the confidence to take charge of her own destiny. I guess we'll find out. Eventually ;)...more