What to do, what to do? First of all, I have to admit I've had this ARC for months -Read This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
3.75 out of 5 stars
What to do, what to do? First of all, I have to admit I've had this ARC for months - I won it in the First Reads program in 2011 - and just haven't gotten around to reading it. My bad GoodReads, you were right - this is a book for me, even if I'm not quite sure what to do with it. I'm torn about a lot of this fantasy novel - so much so that I couldn't even decide what range of rating I want to assign The Traitor's Daughter for a while after finishing - there's a lot to take in over the 415-page length.
Pro: excellent, fully original, alien, complex and layered worldbuilding. Con: very stilted dialogue, constantly weighed down with exposition or repetition Pro: strong, spirited, conflicted heroine (Jianna) Con: remote characterization, slightly stereotypical in voice/personality Pro: a unique and fresh idea as a 'source' (ha) for magic/ the "arcane ability" Con: the slow-moving first hundred pages before the plot fully kicks in, starting with the three-chapters long introductory infodump Pro: a greyly moral/complicated character in Aurest Belandor (his "kneeser" ways as opposed to his love and devotion to his daughter) Con: the overlong and very-articulated abuse of a main, though thoroughly repellant, character Pro: Overarching themes and unresolved plotlines that lead naturally to the next book (The Ruined City) without overextending the plot of book one Con: certain aspects of the 'arcane art' can come off as terribly convenient (the "Distant Exchange" and so on) Pro: it's a fantasy, but the love interest isn't the prince/Magnifico, and nor is the "romance" any sort of focus for the heroine (view spoiler)[He's got brains! He's a doctor! (hide spoiler)]
All in all, for a debut novel in a high/dark fantasy series, The Traitor's Daughter is uneven but highly imaginative. Without a doubt I have to credit the author for the scope and breadth of the worldbuilding of this book - it truly is the most impressive aspect of the entire novel. The writing is serviceable, if exposition-heavy but it is the thinly-Italian-influenced history (warring island city-states with languages overly fond of vowels, and the letter "z", the titles of "Magnifico/Magnifica" as form of address to nobility) of the Veiled Isles that intrigued me the most. Author Paula Brandon has a wide an creative vision for her strange land of men and "quasi-men" to inhabit, and once the ball gets rolling, it's fun to join her there. It does take a while, but the payout is rewarding through the twists and turns of Jianna's story,
This isn't a novel afraid to get dark, gritty and murdery. Though some of the advertising blurbs out there for this advertise "the walking dead" as a selling point, and they do play some (small) part in the events of The Traitor's Daughter, the main horror of the book are the torture scenes. This is a dark fantasy - there's the practical slavery of a "lesser" species, rape is hardly worth mentioning, women are required to be subservient, several characters die or are murdered, others are tortured as a matter of course. Jianna is a serviceable main character and the third person omniscient POV probably does her a substantial bit of favor - she comes of as spoiled and ignorant ((view spoiler)[the whole city hates her dad and she has no clue? Despite 18 years of living there, and according to Nalio, wandering around town unattended? (hide spoiler)]) - but it certainly would've been much worse to her overall impression had it been a first person perspective. To her credit, Jianna does gain a tiny shred of perspective through her prolonged interactions with Dr. Rione, but there's yards more to go.
I was surprised and impressed by the antagonist of the book - Yvenza. She uses her brain rather than force of arms to maneuver Jianna riiight where she wants her; it's formidable, especially in direct view of how her opponent operates. She's cold, calculating, intelligent and resourceful. I've said it before and it still holds true, a compelling and smart villain is miles better than a obvious and overdone stereotype. If I liked The Traitor's Daughter in spite of its deficiencies and flaws, the same could also be said for my opinion on the Dowager Magnifica. For all her hatred and cunning, she's at least reasoned out in her motivation, understandable at her desire to set right what has been taken from her. If her methods are harsh and cruel, so too is the world that turned on her and the man that did it. Her sons are bit more trope-ish and stereotypical - I didn't feel even a hint of individual presence from Trecchio and Ontartino was pure, unadulterated malevolence without his mother's cool intelligence to balance out his brutishness. Rione, too, for much of the novel is a bit blandly perfect (view spoiler)[ though he branches out against his patron eventually. (hide spoiler)] Besides the delightfully flawed Aurest and Yvenza, the cast is in much need of individual attention and diversification.
I found myself very surprisingly wrapped up in the events of The Traitor's Daughter; theories about the Inhabitants, the sequel and more abound in my head and prove that the good outweighs the bad for this one. I'll be continuing with the Veiled Isles trilogy and can't wait to see what Paula Brandon thinks up next for her sophomore fantasy effort. ...more
A sexed-up and steamy retelling of the classic fairytale Alice in Wonderland, Lord of the Vampires at first doesn't seem to present too much akin to tA sexed-up and steamy retelling of the classic fairytale Alice in Wonderland, Lord of the Vampires at first doesn't seem to present too much akin to the story that inspired its birth. In a series of four books penned by four different authors (Showalter, Jill Monroe, Jessica Andersen and Nalini Singh - she who has a blurb on the cover of this one, interestingly enough) Lord of the Vampires is the first and it centers around the Crown Prince of a mythical realm known only as Elden. When his parents are brutally murdered, Nicolai and his three siblings Breena, Dayn and Micah (the main characters of the three following novels) are saved by their parents' last act of magic and thus flung far from danger. In doing so, each parent instilled the credos of "Survive. Avenge." upon their children as they scattered to the wind, and lost their memories.
Nicolai awakes in enslavement to a horrid family of putrid women. Sold into sex slavery, but never completely mastered by his owners, Nicolai is a simmering explosions waiting for escape. . . . to finish this review, just click here....more
I am sadly DNFing this after 130 pages of hard-going. Either I am too tired or Umberto Eco and I just don't work that well together. This is the seconI am sadly DNFing this after 130 pages of hard-going. Either I am too tired or Umberto Eco and I just don't work that well together. This is the second of his novels (see also: The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana) that I've had to stop for sheer exhaustion. I think I am continually lured in by the premise of his novels and disappointed in the execution of his ideas. As I write this one of Eco's most famous novels Baudolino sits within my "bought-not-yet-read stack" and I now hesitate even more to try it. 0 - 2 in two years is a bad track record already and adding a third will just depress me.
So this is an 'unfinished for now' as opposed to a definite 'never-ever-going-to-finish-this' novel. I still like the idea behind the words, but am utterly unmotivated to endure the next 300 pages of The Prague Cemetery....more
A break-neck romp set in a world populated with gargoyles, nephilim, demons, and angels, Knight's Curse was a fun diversion for a couple days. An easy A break-neck romp set in a world populated with gargoyles, nephilim, demons, and angels, Knight's Curse was a fun diversion for a couple days. An easy read filled with action, different forms of magic/abilities, curses and female knights, this first adventure by Karen Duvall centers around the character of Chalice. Chalice is special, with unique abilities ("Sticks and stones may break my bones, but I'd see them coming before they hurt me. Maybe even smell them," she says in the first chapter) because she is the descendant of a human woman mating with angels. In this world of Duvall's, those women who mated with angels and bore their (apparently only female) offspring were of an order of Knights existing since the Middle Ages. Her mother was deliberately murdered and Chalice kidnapped at thirteen by an evil organization (think the mafia with mojo), she was cursed as a means of control- every three days Chalice must make contact with her gargoyle, Shui, or be turned into a monster like him for all time.
Chalice herself failed to engage me, or make me really care about her story. I wanted to like this character much more than I did. By all means, I should love her: she's smart, snarky, sarcastic, good with a blade, and fierce. Why don't I?
Fracture is a lot of story, condensed quite neatly and admirably well within its two hundred seventy-twRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Fracture is a lot of story, condensed quite neatly and admirably well within its two hundred seventy-two page length. For a debut novel from a beginning author, Fracture is certainly impressive across the board: real, dimensional, flawed human characters, a fresh hook in the unusual plot, and a refreshingly teen teenage romance create a read that is emotional, fulfilling, frustrating and above all, real. From the very beginning, with its vivid images and words, this is a hard novel to put down. Just a warning: for those expecting a full-on paranormal/supernatural tale, Fracture is most definitely not the novel for you. The fanastical element is very slight, an addition to the story, not the crux of the plot itself. This is a novel driven entirely by emotion, not by magic or the supernatural. This is an author I will be keeping a look-out for in the future: I'm very curious to see (and read!) where she will go after this type of novel.
Guilt is one unifying themes and a defining characteristic for almost all the characters within Fracture. Delaney, the main character of the book, has slight survivor's guilt plaguing her from time to time since her reintroduction to consciousness. Decker, Delaney's forever best friend and the best character in Fracture, has guilt over what happened to Delaney, why it took so long for him to retrieve her from the water. Even Delaney's parents have stress, worry, guilt coloring their actions in the novel from the outset. Like I said earlier, this is a very emotional book and every character reflects that throughout the story. With such an emotional tone and characters experiencing emotions all over the range possible, this is an edge-of-my seat read, personally. I was never entirely sure who was going to do what, with whom or even why. This lack of clarity caused a problem for me with Delaney herself. She is oftentimes inscrutable in her actions and thought processes and I had a bit of a disconnect with her character initially, though it didn't last long.
Speaking of Delaney, I wish she had been a bit kinder to her loved ones. Some attitude/problems are to be expected, even normal, but Ms. Maxwell's stubborn and withdrawn 'tude bordered on extreme upon several occasions. I had a bit of a problem really connecting and investing in Delaney as a character at the outset of Fracture, partially because of her aforementioned attitude. Once I realized that she has a lot to process and deal with, my empathy for her character grew quite a bit. I actually liked Delaney best around her parents (who saw that coming?), and was happily surprised to read about a real, functioning family unit in a YA novel. There is no tropic, cliched Random Missing Parent, or even a mysterious past with a "dead" loved one. Nope, Delaney Maxwell is the daughter of two loving parents in a healthy, though not perfect, relationship. I personally must give major book/author kudos to Ms. Miranda for resisting the temptation of introducing this overdone element into her debut. Delaney's relationships outside of her parents are bit trickier to get into. Decker is obviously a complicated subject, but I wish Delaney was a bit more decisive about what she wants, regarding Decker, Troy, Cam. I didn't like the mental vacillating between the boys, when she clearly only had chemistry with one. (Not that I am biased in any way. Clearly. coughDECKERcough.)
Obviously, I have a favorite from this novel and his name is Decker. He's not perfect - his temper is definitely his Achilles heel - but he is perfect with Delaney. These two, when/if they finally get their act right are among my favorite YA pairings: they complement each other well. There's a sense of give-and-take between the two, and a solid friendship built on trust that helps create a viable, tumultuous relationship that brings out the best in the female protagonist. I was let down by the only other teenage female character of import. Janna is the sister of a friend of Delaney's and initially, I thought she might have an important role to play within the framework of the plot - another friend for Delaney, a female counterpoint to Deckard for example. Unfortunately, the arc that the author takes Janna upon is one of my few real issues for Fracture. Her confrontation with Delaney feels forced and false in an otherwise very accurate depiction of teenage relationships. I wish the author had shown a smarter, kinder Janna at the end: blaming Delaney feels forced and almost silly - Delaney couldn't help that she survived her fall, nor is she to blame for an accident resulting from a KNOWN previous medical condition of another character. I thoroughly disliked Janna's evolution, and also felt unsatisfied by Troy's actions at the end of the novel. Like Janna, it seemed forced, an easy out to tie up the plot and wish a little more time and explanation had been devoted to his personal denouement.
I really wish more information and detail was explained about Delaney's accident: explicitly, I wanted knowledge about why she survived and what her ability/power means for her. Is this a thing that is going to persist her entire life? (If so, how absolutely morbid and macabre to always know when someone she loves is due to die.) Was Delaney saved by accident or by design? Was it a freak occurrence or a miracle? Unfortunately, Fracture doesn't provide any satisfactory answers any of these questions, hastily moving beyond the event itself to focus upon the repercussions of Delaney's survival. I had to lower my rating for this novel due in part to this wide-open aspect of the plot- it feels incomplete that we, as the readers, don't know the purpose/intent/reason for Delaney's astonishing survival.
Fracture is a great read. It's affecting without being overwhelmingly emotional. It's dramatic in the best sense of the word, but not full of superficial melodrama. Fracture can even veer into the "creepy" territory with thanks to Troy's. . . overzealous actions, without going overboard. This is an excellent, excellent eye-catching and original debut, one I recommend highly. If you are a reader that enjoys straight realistic fiction, I think this would still be a winner due to the very slight nature of the paranormal aspect. Similarly, paranormal/supernatural novel lovers would enjoy Fracture as well, as it is a great addition to trend of supernatural young-adult novels.
(And a big thanks to Aleeza for catching my egregious misspelling of one of the characters names.)...more
I'm of mixed feelings about this book. I want to "really like" this book and therefore awaRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
3.75 out of 5
I'm of mixed feelings about this book. I want to "really like" this book and therefore award it 4 stars, I do, I swear. But, I just can't do more than that 3.75 when I look back at the novel as a whole and how dissatisfied I was with aspects of it. What sticks out in my mind are both the good and bad. The not-so-good: frequent lulls in the beginning/middle-ish with Allison receiving infodumps training from her sire vampire or her alone and walking forevvver, and the cliched treatment of secondary characters. The good: interesting history leading up to the current post-apocalyptic scenario, a strong, believable female main character, strong fight scenes when they finally appeared, a novel in which vampires are monsters and not something to sigh over and long for. While this obviously wasn't the "YAY"-type start I'd hoped for with this new series, I also had a less-than-enthusiastic start with The Iron King but went on to love the sequels. Here's hoping.
The Immortal Rules certainly has a lot going for it on the surface: it's engaging, fun, appropriately full of horror and death, but I have Issues. My first issue is the whitewashing of the cover- I can't go on without mentioning how irritating and sad this trend is. Allison Sekemoto is Asian, and for everything else about her, a goddamn badass. She should be represented on the cover as such - not this generic, Caucasion-ish woman. Superficiality (or not...) aside.. There's not much that is new here, for all this being a mix of the vampire novel genre and post-apocalyptic/dystopia genre. Allison wrestles with her nature at least as much as her feelings for human love-interest Zeke, but it's been done before. The vampire system here is creative and relatively well-thought out but "humans as cattle required to be bloodbanks" idea? I've also read that idea before (Blood Rights and also The Morganville Vampires series.) Another predictable trend I was sad to see Kagawa use was the instant, useless and baseless "girl-on-girl hatred" side character Ruth exhibits towards Allie simply for being another girl. As a reader, I gather I'm supposed to hate Ruth; she's shrill and prejudiced against Allie and openly vicious <>and stupid for no real reason. However, to do so and dislike her feels like off-sides manipulation. I'm just bone-tired of girls in YA seeing one another as threats for mates boys' attention just for cliched drama. Ruth is needless, useless, cliched and ultimately, just underdeveloped and obvious.
I do have to admit that Julie Kagawa has proven she can definitely write much more than just her faerie novel series - The Immortal Rules is drastically different from The Iron Fey, in tone if not as much in the style. Main character Allison has her own unique and distinct voice, even if like Meghan, this is sole POV novel told from the perspective of a very special young girl. She lives in a dark, harsh world and the author isn't above taking out some characters to enforce just how cruel life (and unlife?) can be there. I also like that Allison frequently is the hero of the situation - both pre and post-vampirism. She helps her friends and herself, not waiting around for Zeke or any other male (or Prince. Sorry, Ash.) It's a nice change, like the use of a nonwhite race for main character. Though this is romantic-love-triangle free (whodathunkit?), there are multiple external pressures levered against Allison for motivation. She's constantly torn between being as "human" as she can with her intrepid band, or becoming what she sees as a true monster. (view spoiler)[ The choice becomes literal at the end of book one in the trilogy and the resulting decision has implications for the rest of the series. (hide spoiler)]
It can't be said that The Immortal Rules is lacking for many things when the ball finally gets rolling: atmosphere, anticipation, action... all there aplenty once Allison leaves the introduction and New Covington. Julie Kagawa is a rare author who can definitely write a tense, crisp fight scene. Though I'm often guilty of giving "Waif Fu" the side-eye, it becomes more understandable when it is a katana-wielding terror of the night. I may have issues and quibbles but I do have to give credit where it is due and the novel ups the ante late in the game, both action and character-wise. The last Part of the book is both the best and the most action-packed - rabid fights, vampire fights, roving biker gangs... Kagawa pulls out all the stops and ends her first Blood of Eden novel with (several) bangs and dead bodies.
So despite the fact that my expectations for this weren't quite met, I had a good time with The Immortal Rules. The good eventually outweighs the negative I took away from reading and I'm cautiously optimistic for the forthcoming sequels. Allison is a compelling narrator and her story obviously goes on, and I will be tuning in to see how the chips fall....more
This was a magical experience for me - one that was completely charming but not without depth or darker themes. It's a light and breezy read with an innocent tone for the most part - a (sadly) short-ish book that can easily be completed in a day but be warned; this novel about young love made my bitter old heart grow three sizes when I finished it. Vaclav & Lena is, at the heart of everything, a novel really all about love. Love between friends, lovers, parents - Haley Tanner made sure all types are shown; from the various ups and downs of lives of the two main characters, and through the cast of big-hearted and small-vocabularied Rasia, to the whimsical and adorable young-Vaclav, to the more remote but alluring Lena.
I mainly love this novel based on the strength of the complicated, endearing, realistic and lovable main characters, the eponymous Lena and Vaclav. Yes, there are several issues first brought to light by minds brighter than mine (Vaclav is not a Russian name, the iffy speech patterns, Rasia/her husband Oleg could be viewed as a sad stereotype of Russian emigres) but my overwhelming appreciation and love for these two made the rest worth it. I am not blind to the faults that will surely turn others off completely but for me this was always about the two kids and the rest was just atmosphere or set-pieces. Rasia is the most important secondary character but outside of one crucial act that changes everything, the reader's attention remains wholly on the would-be magician and his beautiful assistant.
Haley Tanner is a good storyteller, especially for a debut novel - I was hooked on this tale from the first chapter. The early sweetness of the beginning chapters really captured the feeling, the hope essential to both Vaclav and Rasia's and their hopes for life in America. The author's gift for descriptive, detailed prose sets all the scenes with atmosphere and feeling. For me, this was a beautiful, emotional and lovely read - a book with a lot of heart and promise. I was vastly impressed with the author and only the quibbles mentioned earlier (why must all ex-pat Russians drop pronouns and articles?) kept this from being perfect. Even so, 5 stars because of how beautiful Tanner's writing often was, and for my immense love for Lena and Vaclac, especially Vaclav. Wonderful.
"Lena is like an egg hitting the floor, she comes apart everywhere."
"Of course they were with each other the whole time. Even when they weren't looking, they never had to check. She was always there; he was always there. Outside her bedroom, somewhere in the darkness, like the moon."
"Vaclav has said goodnight to Lena every night since the night she went away. Out loud. In a whisper. [...] He filled the words with all his love and care and worry for Lena and launched them out to her, and like homing pigeons, he trusted them to find her."
"'What have you been up to?' She smiles; it is so strange to ask him what he has been up to. Like meeting the president and saying, 'Hey, how are you doing?'
'Same, thing,' he says, meaning still magic, still trying to take care of you with my mind, still trying to control events using supernatural powers."
"Lena's real mom, Emily, knew that this was not the truth, but she also knew that Vaclav was not lying. Vaclav knew that he was telling the truth. Lena knew that it was a lie, but she loved it and believed it, like a fairy tale, like a song, like a bedtime story, like a magic trick. She loved Vaclav until it became the truth and so it was."
I did it: I finished this loooooong, dry book full of flat characters, endless repetition and tons of oRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
I did it: I finished this loooooong, dry book full of flat characters, endless repetition and tons of of the hated "showing not telling" way of expanding the history. Though my experience with round two of this "straynge band of mysfits" was sliiiightly better than with its predecessor The Girl in the Steel Corset, I want to express this loudly and clearly: This series is not a good example of steampunk. Also, why I am just griping: whyyy the random, painful bastardization of "strange band of misfits"? (SPOILER for first in the series) If you've read book one, you know that "Jayne" is not in fact Finley's surname, nor does she go by it at all during this novel... So enough with the strange application of "y"'s. A lot of my issues from the first are present oce again here: Finley herself continued to be a bit of a disappointment and an erratic and brainless main character, continuing my lack of enthusiasm for her, most of the background characters remain flat and one-dimensional, and the villain/twist is telegraphed very early on in the book. This review might get a little long and spoilery, or even a lot, so keep your eyes elsewhere unless that's what you want.
Things I Am Vastly Tired Of Reading About In The Steampunk Chronicles:
Emily's "ropey" hair (what does that even mean? Dreadlocks? Braids?)
any kind of overwrought love triangle (Jasper-Mei-Emily or Jasper-Mei-Wildcat - either/or - no, thank you)
Sam surliness/moodiness (less of an obvious page-to-page problem than in book one, but still not redeemable)
How Finley's drawn to the darker side of life (it's been two books, countless examples [Felix, Jack, fights, Dalton] and something like 800+ pages - we get it already!)
Finley's worries about being worthy for a Duke (I'm pretty sure the boy that can be ~one~ with the Aether doesn't care about society, given that he already lives unsupervised with two young women of not exactly sterling repuation)
Griffin's "I-trust-you-now-I-don't" wishywashy bullshit with Finley + worrying over whether he is exciting enough for the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-ian girl he loves likes (Have some self-respect, dude.)
Anything involving the word Organites (including Darwin and this books misuse of his theories on evolution)
I think some of the problem with this series is that it wants to be X-Men but with a steampunk background. On the surface it seems to sort-of/maybe fit the mold cast by Charles Xavier and his motley crew: there are a bunch of mutated kids with special abilities like super strength and speed and healing, the ability to talk to machines, dual natures, etc. that all live together in a big mansion, owned by a family with a lot of money. But such a comparison starts to fall apart upon closer inspection - most aspects of this historical steampunk young-adult novel are rather run-of-the-mill and cliched, easy to find in slightly different forms all over the paranormal teen novel market.
Though this takes place merely a fortnight after the events of the first book, a lot of the superficial details have changed, including the cast of characters. At first I was, well, not really excited, but less apprehensive to start this based on the cover. For one - it's not a generic, whitewashed cover. Mei is an important part of the plot - in fact the whole book falls apart without her participation - and I'm really happy that an Asian young woman was selected to show and advertise for ya novel. But there's always a but, and here is no exception. Mei is a new character and her race makes her stand out in this largely English cast, but I'm bothered and disappointed that the author chose to name her "Mei Xing." As in the word "Amazing" - how awkward and shallow of a choice! But that was just the first of many character issues I found here. I also wish there had been more subtlety with her role in the plot (subtlety from the woman who named her main male character/love interest Griffin King? My bad) - while I wasn't sure at first, it's rapidly apparent what's going on. A lot little more authorial sleight of hand would make the unraveling of the plot and characters much more engrossing to read.
Main character Finley has been a problem from me since early on in the first chapter of The Girl in the Steel Corset and sadly, she is no better here in round two. Her previous problem of acting brainlessly and without thought for repercussion shows up early and often but good ol' Fin now drags her friend Emily into her messes. I know that the big 'deal' with Finley is constantly-battling dual nature, but the author's depiction of her lead's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-type tendencies is really over the top here. She's supposed to dance on the fence of morality and legality, but considering backhanding another girl for a look? That's extreme and just makes Finley look like a judgmental and unhinged maniac - not a fiercely protective and loving friend, which is I think what the author was trying to impart? I may have missed the finer point of it because Finley was devolving into an autocratic violence machine.
Once again I felt there was a superfluous amount of POVs used here - just like I thought for the first book; Finley's alone would be sufficient if grating on my nerves. So much of the text feels like repetition - even if it's Finley, or Jasper or Griff, they all think along the same lines. I mean, Jasper explains and re-explains his plans to hide a device multiple times. It gets old, quick. It must be said that Jasper's voice is the most identifiable, but that's largely because of his affected and annoying accent. (Also? Being from San Francisco and wearing a ten-gallon hat does not make one a cowboy. OK?) The lack of Jack Dandy is lamentable, but at least the love triangle tension and drama was slightly scaled down as well. The charming but fake Cockney crime lord is one of my few liked characters, even if Griff is slowly climbing his way up in my estimations to give him a run.
In the end, I'd have to say that The Girl in the Clockwork Collar is ultimately just as energy-sapping and time-consuming as its immediate predecessor. It's also just as frustrating to slough through for over 400 pages. It feels amateurish, characters haven't grown or evolved, there's too much focus on fripperies instead of potential awesomeness, and infodumps and love triangles run rampant. There seems to be some love-connection type resolution for Finley and Griff (until she gets back to London and Jack...) as well as the main storyline. With a rushed ending that was over veeery quickly, I can't say I'm sad to say "goodbye!" to this series - for forever - even if there's a book three. ...more
I went into this novel perhaps expecting a bit too much. I think I might have fallen in love with the gorgeous cover, and was waiting for a tour-de-foI went into this novel perhaps expecting a bit too much. I think I might have fallen in love with the gorgeous cover, and was waiting for a tour-de-force to knock me off my feet. The beginning introduction, an in media res glimpse at the world/monsters of the novel seemed to reinforce my notion: it was a genuinely creepy and intriguing way to introduce the reader to this world. Sadly, my hopes remained unfounded for the most part of the story, I will say I enjoyed this novel and had fun while reading it - I just never fell in love with it, nor the characters, nor the plot. Juliet Dark, an alias of the well-known author Carol Goodman, does a fine job of nearly all the elements in her premier foray into the supernatural/urban fantasy genre: I just never loved the story the way I wanted to. Set in Fairwick, New York, The Demon Lover is a first-person novel, told in the steady voice of associate professor twenty-six year old Cailleach "Callie" McFay (first quibble: "McFay"? Really? Obvious, much?) In Fairwick, as Callie quickly learns, the fae/faerie/brownies/vampires/incubi she believed to be entirely myth and legend are revealed as living, breathing, and often malicious beings.
Next to Love is a powerful novel, thankfully not in an obvious, over done and melodramatic way. No, Next to Love is a novel that manages to be sneakilNext to Love is a powerful novel, thankfully not in an obvious, over done and melodramatic way. No, Next to Love is a novel that manages to be sneakily insidious, grasping hold of your emotions almost before one realizes just how invested they are in the compelling story and just how powerful a writer Ellen Feldman proves herself to be in this WWII novel. I found it to be entirely emotional without being overwrought and constantly compelling. With three strong, though not always likeable, women main characters, author Ellen Feldman creates an enveloping tale of three best friends, dealing with life, love, and loss in one of the most desperate times in modern history. Their long story spans decades and is as complicated and humanly messy as it is poignant to read - with multiple points of view from various characters serving to create a rounded cast of characters with depth and personality.
Bernadette "Babe" was the closest I got to favorite character. I wish I could say that I loved and identified closely individually with the women of Next to Love but that is not the case. I was invest and compelled by their stories certainly, but there is a certain distance from all the characters of this story. Like with Babe, I wanted to love Grace and Millie but the removed third person perspective did me no favors with these three determined women. I certainly felt sympathy for each character at differing times (the scene at the pond stands out particularly in memory as very affecting) but I was never truly invested wholly. The present tense is used primarily and used effectively - everything that happens feels immediate and taut with emotions. I also enjoyed the authentic period details skillfully enmeshed into the larger narrative. Ms. Feldman is a smooth writer, with skill for depth and intimacy with resonating themes. I was impressed that the domestic life shown is just as compelling and riveting as the fighting - had it been written in the novel - would have been. This is an author that is remarkably adept, even with transitions in chronology others might stumble over. Ms. Feldman will occasionally flashback to a previous scene but it is always replayed from another perspective, always shedding more light about the plot.
I didn't just read Aussie author Cath Crowley's novel - I inhaled it. I read the entire two hundred sixRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
I didn't just read Aussie author Cath Crowley's novel - I inhaled it. I read the entire two hundred sixty seven page novel in just under a three hour period; I couldn't put it down to eat, play with the dogs or even move from my desk to the reading chair. It's gripping, consuming and alive in a way very few stories are - and more should be. I want to pull huge sections from the narrative to quote - my whole review would be quotes if I were clever enough. This is, simply put, a beautiful book - beautifully written, carried, developed and ended. Graffiti Moon is a young-adult novel that transcends the genre of its origin; all ages of readers who appreciate a deftly woven, compelling read would treasure this book. It's brilliantly descriptive and full of evocative and moving imagery. This book moved me.
The story begins and ends with Lucy, a teenage girl who just wants to find something real; a boy that she can understand, one that likes what moves her in her core: art. Out of a graffiti artist known only as 'Shadow', Lucy creates her dream guy - one that is perfect for her and utterly unlike the fellow from the one date she's ever had ("I spent the weekend after our date wishing I could stab him with my Fluffy Duck pen and staring at the phone hoping he'd call. Dating is a very tricky business.") Lucy is distinctive and an incredibly relatable character; almost every part of her narrative sent a wave of remembrance or nostalgia for my own teenage years into my head. Crowley captures the feel, the urgency and frailty of teens perfectly - Lucy is vibrant, delightfully individualistic (one character asks her, "Are you doing that thing where you stare at the stars until your problems seem insignificant?"), but also vulnerable. Also, she is hilarious and just different ("'I sit down next to him and concentrate really hard. 'What are you doing?' he says. 'Trying to bend the laws of time so I can get here five minutes earlier.'") See - told you I want to quote the whole book at you. Every line is perfect, every chapter moves at just the right pace, every character nuanced and interesting.
Ed, both the unbeknownst-to-Lucy Shadow and the one she would desire to stab with a pen for the bad date, was my absolute favorite character. I loved Lucy, but Ed came alive for me as a reader. He's the secretly creative, artsy guy, hiding behind the stereotypical 'tough guy/hard case', when he's truly something much more. Being a typical teenage girl, Lucy does not see the wonderful, deep man in front of her, only seeing the hard edges and the wall around his heart. The only way Ed can express himself is through his painting ("See this, see this, see this. See me emptied onto a wall."), and boy does he. The descriptions of Ed's art were animated and alive. It's almost a compulsion Ed cannot stop; after losing Lucy, his father-figure Bert, and his mom-supporting job, Ed has only painting as an outlet for his pain. He sees himself as a "painted ghost trapped in a jar," one of the more revealing self-portraits Ed paints. Ed's quiet but intensely personal heartbreak and desperation are in sharp contrast to Lucy's more stable life, though her need to belong draws her to Shadow.
The two main background characters, that of Lucy's best friend Jazz and Ed's cohort in crime/best friend Leo were also pleasant, if not as fully developed. Jazz was a splash of whimsy and crazy, and Leo was a more romantic exploration of the same problems as Ed. I appreciated the functional, healthy friendship depicted between the two girls (and another, Daisy). I grow very tired of the catty teen girl in fiction, and this kind of believable and genuine bond is a nice change of pace. As for Ed's best friend/occasional roommate Leo, I liked him well enough, but I must admit his (admittedly rare) poem POV's were the weakest parts of the novel. I had a favorite poem of "Poet"'s (Here, p. 242) but on the whole, I wished the POV had been limited to just Ed and Lucy. The "villain" of the novel is much reduced and serves as a mere plot point for the real story: that of looking beyond the exterior and seeing the beauty within. Since the novel takes place over a single night, the book moves at a brisk pace, but one that is extremely easy to fall into.
The final chapter is moving and beautiful - happily, without veering into saccharine territory or overt teenage melodrama. It's hopeful, without being absolutely definite and final. Lucy and Ed will go on - maybe with each other, maybe not, but hopefully together. While the pairing off of three couples might strain my credulity, one minor gripe against the face of all the awesome --- this is a book not to be missed. Major kudos from me to Ms. Crowley - this is something special, this is a novel I'm going to love forever. I received the NetGalley eBook, but when this is republished in February I will be buying my own copy to treasure and love....more
I've luckily been on a streak of reading some very excellent novels lately (knocks on wood) and happilyRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
I've luckily been on a streak of reading some very excellent novels lately (knocks on wood) and happily, Wanderlove continues the trend.
From the unforgettable characters to the lushly described scenery to the whimsical and detailed drawings (by the author herself, no less) Wanderlove is (or will be, in March) a hit. I had very few complaints and whole lot of love for this fish-out-of-water coming-of-age novel. Bria Sandoval, the main character and also someone I'd like to hang out with, is an eighteen year-old, determined, funny, artistic girl and on her own in Central America. Following a mysteriously bad and viscerally painful breakup and lack of travel commitment from her "friends", Bria solely sets out on an unexpected and revealing journey. Escaping her ex-boyfriend/her hostile home life/her unreliable friends for freedom and change, Bria is a wonderfully flawed and complex young woman.
Bria was fun to read. She didn't annoy me with her idiosyncrasies (in fact they felt genuine and part of her intrinsically quirky personality), and she didn't act too perfect either. Though there is minimal information provided about Bria and her life, hints are slowly doled out throughout the novel, building a less than picturesque home life. I appreciate the restraint of Ms. Hubbard's slow revelation, which allowed both my curiosity and empathy for the character to build naturally.
In experiences ranging from comical to hysterical to kinda gross, Bria emerges as the type of girl most young women want to be: capable, talented, smart and self-aware. Not to say that she is irritatingly perfect; the typical teenage disillusion with responsibility is obvious, along with a quick and agile temper. Bria's flaws only serve to make her a more complete character, and I liked her all the more for her rough edges.
In her diverse travels, Bria meets up with the two most important characters of her experience down south: Rowan and Starling. From their slightly-off names to their wonderfully unique attitudes, the laid-back Ro and Star were a nice foil for the more straight-laced California girl. While their introduction to the novel's storyline and motivation for being around Bria aren't completely believable, both were dynamic, different and interesting characters. Clearly Rowan, as the tortured-by-his-past bad boy love interest was featured more prominently than his la vie boheme half-sister, but the relationship between the two struck the right chord between caring and overbearing older sibling.
Rowan himself, though I liked him and found him appealing for the most part, overdoes the whole "bad guy with mysterious, off-limits past." His extended "mysterious aura" part was too withholding for my own preferences. Which is a shame, because the other aspects of the character were ones I loved (his hidden kindness, protectiveness, love for water, etc.) The whole "secret" was dragged out a bit too long, and caused my opinion of the boy to decline somewhat. I focused more on the obvious negative than the positives exhibited in the character as the novel went. I did like how the revelation about Rowan was handled - quietly, and maturely before the real problem was revealed.
The setting - or more correctly, the settings, for there are several differing locales - were all popping with vibrancy and life in Hubbard's easy-to-fall-into prose. I loved that a destination novel was not about Europe, or even Africa, but rather the neglected and ignored Central American region. Belize, Laughingbird Caye, Guatemala - all were important (and not cliche!) and different locales featured in this half-novel half-travel guide. (It's not really like a travel guide, but no other book has had me longing for a Belizean/Central American vacation like this one did!) The scenery and life of the islands/countries absolutely popped with life and color; Hubbard's history as a travel writer is apparent and wonderfully fills the novel with the genuine minutiae and attitudes of true travelers.
The drawings/sketches and the settings were among the top reasons I loved this novel so much. It's an easy novel to sink into; the atmosphere is enveloping and total for the whole period of Bria's explorations.
This is well-written, interesting and unique novel. I loved most of it, want to read it again, and also fully plan to pimp it out to friends and family. My minor issues were just that -minor. This is a novel where so much is done so wonderfully, I cannot wait to read another book by this impressive author. I think that in March, when this is officially released, it will be another must-read hit along the lines of the author's Like Mandarin....more
Though Mercy Lavinia Warren Bump Stratton, better remembered as "Lavinia/Vinnie Warren" or "Mrs. Tom Thumb", was a diminutive woman, she had a huge peThough Mercy Lavinia Warren Bump Stratton, better remembered as "Lavinia/Vinnie Warren" or "Mrs. Tom Thumb", was a diminutive woman, she had a huge personality and dreams that could not be contained in her thirty-two inches of height. Though not always likable or even particularly kind, Vinnie refused to be defined by her height ("My size may have been the first thing people noticed about me but never, I vowed at that moment, would it be the last.") With far more determination and strength-of-will than many believed her capable of, Mrs. Tom Thumb defied society's expectations and rules in a time of rigidity and routine in order to live the life she wanted. Melanie Benjamin's version of a real-life woman is captivating and hard to put down; I was never bored with Vinnie or her life back in the 1800s. In fact, when I reached the last page (40 years before the titular character's death) I wanted more about this interesting performer.
Lavinia Warren was a complicated woman. By turns inspiring, infuriating and confusing, Vinnie never fails to command attention on the page. One thing you could never call this strong, ferocious woman is boring (though apparently her real notes for an autobiography were quite dry). In a time when women were either married or a burden on their families, Vinnie chased her dream down the wild Mississippi River before the outbreak of the Civil War. Benjamin does a fine job of balancing Vinnie's desires for freedom with the traditional beliefs and ideas that tie her to home; the bond between Vinnie and her sister Minnie is particularly well-developed and one of the more compelling relationships of the novel. Vinnie's upbringing in rural Massachusetts is difficult and casts the girl in a sympathetic light from the beginning; between the not-so-hidden shame of her family and the pressure to conform to society's whims, Vinnie emerges as a forward-thinking and acting young woman. I wish I could say I liked Vinnie all the time; by the latter part of the novel (probably in the last one hundred pages) Vinnie's hard edges and unforgiving attitude lost some of the glow her earlier self had gained. It seems the more Vinnie traveled, the more she lost herself near the end. Her disdainful attitude and high opinion of herself took her from my favorite character in the novel (the first 300 pages) to my third favorite, after Minnie and P.T. Barnum. She's a complex woman, certainly. It seemed interesting to me that Vinnie was so determined to live her own life on HER terms, but she regards any other "dwarf person" almost as children (her sister, her husband Charles, Commander Nutt, etc.) almost as if Vinnie herself has forgotten she is just the same.
On the note of the side players, a few really stood out from the multitude in Vinnie's life. Sylvia, a performer from Vinnie's earliest days, serves as a cautionary tale for Ms. Warren. She demonstrates that life in showbiz is not all it's cracked up to be. Minnie, her younger sister from back home, is a nice contrast to Vinnie's steadily increasing ego. Kinder, simpler and much less jaded than her sibling, Minnie simply stole the show whenever she appeared. The relationship between Minnie and her husband was also one of the few genuinely caring relationships presented in the novel. Every other relationship was shown as troubled or unhappy: even Vinnie's eventual marriage to the famous General Tom Thumb would be devoid of genuine love or affection. P.T. Barnum, the infamous American huckster was an important figure in the real Vinnie's life and no less so here in the fictionalized tale. I really enjoyed the dynamic Benjamin created between Barnum and Vinnie: he was the only character who could/would challenge her intelligence and he was the only nonfamily she loved. Their whole relationship was one of intellectual soulmates; each seemed to find in the other a kindred spirit of the mind found nowhere else on their travels. Vinnie even states of the circus entrepreneur: "[It was] as if he were the sharpening stone and I the edge of the knife." An affair of the brain, if you will, is what I would call the chemistry and feeling between the two. There's certainly more pop with Barnum and Vinnie than with Vinnie and her actual husband Charles. The main antagonist, Colonel Wood, seems largely a cat without claws, though he does liven up the segments of the novel which take place up and down the river.
The style of the novel is fairly simple and very easy to read. Told in a direct tone, with Vinnie occasionally breaking the fourth wall to address the reader directly (".... Reader ..."), The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb covers the most salient and interesting exploits of Vinnie's long-lived life. Interspersed with this fictional tale of a real-life woman, are newspaper "notices" such as the ones Vinnie would collect about herself. These snippets of news and notes adds an air of atmosphere to the novel that the narrative itself lacks. My complaints are small: I wished the end had been closer to Vinnie's real end - 40 years uncovered seems like quite a bit missed. I also noticed a few "key" phrases that were repeated a bit too often ( variations along the lines of: "tiny/small/delicate/manicured/hands") and disrupted my reading flow. I also wish Charles had been a more rounded character, rather than being presented as just a simple imitator with no real opinions of his own. He was the character I felt for the most - his rough and uncaring treatment from his wife was one of my least favorite aspects of Vinnie. This is an easily readable, avidly interesting novel that manages to remain (mostly) historically accurate without sacrificing interest, humor or wit. Melanie Benjamin is a clearly gifted storyteller and writer: there is absolutely no denying her Vinnie was alive and almost tangible, even if not wholly likable.
This was won in a goodreads firstreads drawing. This in no way affected my review....more
Pressia Belze lives in a harsh and hard world, a world wracked by wars and detonations, separations and hatred. Outside of the Dome that protected thePressia Belze lives in a harsh and hard world, a world wracked by wars and detonations, separations and hatred. Outside of the Dome that protected the city and people inside from the world-ending Detonations of nine years before, everything is warped, twisted, fused, changed. Pure is definitely a striking and original dystopic debut: twists, turns and betrayals come and go and always turn out different than expected, harder parts of life are not glossed over, and the omnipresent feeling of danger and being watched all lend themselves to an engrossing, enveloping and often disturbing read. Pressia and the story of her struggles are one of the better examples of these two genres (dystopia and post-apocalyptic) I've read and is a promising beginning to a series. Through its occasional and minimal stumbles, Pure's plot is addictive and striking: this is not a novel that you will want to put down and continue later.
One of the things I liked best about this novel and author was that Pure is a very developed and thought-out novel. This is a world that is utterly destroyed and ripped apart in a frighteningly possible way, very alien to our current situation and yet it doesn't take too much of a stretch of imagination to believe in Baggott's harsh and unyielding future. The dystopic elements of the darker novel aren't just for show or used as an accent like curtains on a window. No, the controlling forces and people within Dome/the militaristic OSR outside are the main driving forces for the plot and the events throughout Pure, and are happily used well within the frame of the story. This is one of those young-adult novels that features a romance by-plot: it doesn't stop the show to focus on the touchy-feely emotions of the teen leads. I just wish it had been a first person novel: the events of the past, the action, the characters all feel slightly removed thanks to the third person perspective used. With so many shifting, main perspectives floating directing around the story (at least five that I can remember), and with several of those feeling rather unnecessary in the first place, it's hard to feel a concrete connection to all the goings-on at times.
Pressia herself is likeable, if distant for the reasons mentioned above. She's strident and tough: a survivor in a harsh reality where millions simply vanished, or were horribly affected by the Detonations. I also really like that Pressia isn't perfect: not in looks, not in attitude, not in her actions. She fumbles, she falls, she makes basic mistakes, but Pressia does not give up or give in: this is a protagonist to respect. What made me happiest is that she is never a stagnant character: she grows, matures, learns and adapts to new information and situations. At sixteen, Pressia is on the run from the violent and bloody leaders of the people outside, Operation Sacred Revolution, her own government. Being in her narrative is a constant whirl of emotion and thought: Pressia is not one to sit idly by - ever. Take her conflicted relationship with the "Pure" Partridge: it's a constant flux of guilt, curiosity, anger, shame, jealousy, and opportunism. It's real and believable. Forced by her own "government" to kill or be killed, Pressia is a girl with limited to no options given to her, so she does what few do and creates her own path. What resonated with me most about Pressia and her life was the unique but clever treatment of memories from Before as currency: I thought that spoke rather elegantly and ingeniously of each characters individual wish and desire for better times, a reminder of hope and love in this dark painful life to get them through the Dusts/Beasts and other terrors.
The Rook is an interesting and innovative novel, combining favorite aspects from various genres into onRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
The Rook is an interesting and innovative novel, combining favorite aspects from various genres into one odd 500 page gem of weirdness. If you were to mix up the most prevalent aspects of some of the most popular books and movies out there today, The Rook is likely what your mixture would spit out as an end result. Take, for instance, the school for only British magically/supernaturally gifted kids - much like Harry Potter's Hogwarts with a dash of UK-only X-MEN thrown in. Add to that potent mix a female Jason Bourne-type with amnesia but the added ability to kick some serious ass when provoked and this novel is the result.
Sounds a bit mad, doesn't it? And to be quite honest, The Rook is quite mad to read, but in an absurd and absorbing way. The initial chapters will pose the most problems for readers and is the biggest hurdle to climb in the book; The Rook is basically the story about one woman, in two different time periods. Letters from Myfanwy's previous self to her current self comprise a lot of the bulk of the beginning and most of it is exposition and worldbuilding to reinforce the large framework O'Malley has envisioned for his alternate world full of unnatural things and an MI5 for supernaturals. The letters illuminate the complete, detailed secret history and lore of the Checquy more than cast light on the character of Myfanwy herself; the present-day portion of the novel reveals much more about Myfawy the person and less about Myfanwy the Rook of the Checquy Court. Much like there are two Myfanwys contained in the novel, there are two different main plots for each woman. The first Myfanwy is all about preparing and planning for what she knows is coming, and the second Myfanwy is all about kicking ass and taking names.
Myfanwy is a distinct and well-rounded character, with the added bonus of a truly original name (she pronounces it "Mif-un-ee", rhymes with 'Tiffany') to set her out immediately from the crowd. I have to admit that for about 90% of the novel I was completely confused as to who she was in the present-tense. Was Myfanwy II the same person as Myfanwy I, but with no memories? Or was she an entirely new person shuttled into Myfanwy's skin? While that may seem like a loaded question, it's well within the frame of abilities of this book. The original Myfanwy was timid in personn, but strong with her policies - an interesting combination of contrasting behaviors. The newer, betrayed Rook isn't afraid of her powers and is bold both personally and professionally. I liked Myfanwy in both versions, but the latter's sense of dry, very British-esque humor ("Gentlemen, please try not to jostle my interrogational gynecologist.") was what sealed the deal and kept me going past chapter one. And how rewarding that decision was - the book evolves into a humorous, creative and unique vein, as does Myfanwy herself. I don't want to spoil her character arc or development since the mystery at the heart of her problems is hard to guess, but this is one of those characters - the ones you remember long after reading the book. I also really appreciated how romance-free ths book was - the strongest relationships shown here are friendships. Between women. In fact, in a happy surprise for me, outside of main character Myfanwy, my two favorite secondary characters were strong, intelligent and capable women (Shantay the sassy black envoy from America's Checquy, the Croatoan and Ingrid - who "possessed no inhuman powers apart from an abundance of common sense and an ability to keep this organized". Think a female Alfred, but a secretary and AWESOME).
The Checquy is the highly regimented government organization that Myfanwy runs - or the one that ran her, back before the events of The Rook. The Checquy is a large, sprawling and hidden organization that protects the UK from all manner of unnatural threat - like I said, it's an MI5 for the paranormal. While the idea of a secret government paranormal protection agency isn't exactly revolutionary for the UF/PNR genre, how O'Malley utilizes his Court of Pawns, Rooks, Chevaliers and Bishops is. From the design of the Court on, it's obvious that O'Malley's version of government-sponsored paranormal entity is both unique and mysterious. As is immediately obvious from the sheer amount of detail provided on the Checquy and its modus operandi, O'Malley has certainly planned out intricately how this 'part school, army, prison, research facility and arm of the government' will operate and affect his characters and novel. The beginning suffers the most from the info-dumps used to introduce the hidden agency, but once the reader has a grip on what they are reading about, the info-dumps don't seem as bad and progress to interesting on their own merit. O'Malley's version of an England with the Checquy in power since Cromwell's day is neither beyond the scope of imagination nor reminiscent of any other I've read.
The mystery at the heart of the novel (What exactly happened to Myfanwy? Who is behind it? Why was she targeted? Who knows her secret?) is complex and not easily guessed. Luckily for me, the overall BigBad wasn't obvious from the outset, or telegraphed to the reader long before the end and thus, I had the privilege of being shocked by the reveal and the author's impressive narrative sleight-of-hand. This book has a healthy dose of the absurd to make the gore more palatable but I wasn't surprised for how.... violent... parts of this was. While it's not true movie-type gore with bodies and parts flying about wildly, there are disquieting scenes with faces ripped off, people being eaten and general deadly, gross mayhem.
While it's been coming up all roses this far into the review, but I did have some slight issues with The Rook. The Big Bad falls victim to what I am calling the Syndrome Syndrome - the inexplicable need that a winning/succeeding villain feels to explain every last action and decision on the road to the final conflict/proselytize their own ideas to their victims for lengthy amounts of time. I also had issues with the family plotline introduced late into the novel; though it gives Myfanwy an additional layer of depth and a reason to accelerate the 'panic' she feels, it feels unneceasy and superfluous. It could be easily excised and the pace that began to flag would bounce back easily. Bronwyn, though likeable if not very defined, doesn't do much or add much to the overall story, besides slowing the speed at which everything happens.
I was both impressed and somewhat surprised at how tidily everything herein was wrapped up. There were so many various threads and plotlines throughout the novel, I had sincerely wondered if O'Malley could possibly pull it off with any degree of satisfaction, or I was going to left holding the bag, so the speak, as a reader. Against my fearful and increasingly worried expectations, since the resolution is left until the very last 25 pages of 500, he did so, and with humor and aplomb. O'Malley is a very gifted storyteller that gets caught up perhaps a bit much in his own creativity but finds a way back to the compelling story at the heart of his monsters and magic run amok in England. ...more
Three stars and a 'read' tag because I made it almost to 60%; it just shouldn't require this much effort to read. As is indicated by the three stars iThree stars and a 'read' tag because I made it almost to 60%; it just shouldn't require this much effort to read. As is indicated by the three stars instead of a 1 or a 2 as I was tempted, there are several redeeming aspects to The Printmaker's Daughter. The relationship between Hokusai and Oei is more important and complex than any other in the novel (in fact, she defines herself by him/his work as is hinted at in the title), the city of Edo itself is vibrantly drawn and realized, from the Corner Tamaya bordellos to the markets. But on the other hand are the weird and somewhat random accents and 1990's California-valleygirl speech patterns of 1800s courtesans, the interminable stretches where nothing happens, and awkward, jarring transitions between third and first-person narration. I wanted to love this; I'm halfway there thanks to the cover alone. I may try this one again, in the final version, but the ARC I had wasn't working for me. I was entranced for 50 pages, then bored for 220 before calling it quits. Longer, disappointed diatribe to follow....more
Mostly enjoyable, if lacking in certain areas, Ladies in Waiting is a more than adequate young-adult hiRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Mostly enjoyable, if lacking in certain areas, Ladies in Waiting is a more than adequate young-adult historical fiction. I will complain a mite about the title as there are technically no ladies involved; the story revolves around three young Elizabeths, each a maid-in-waiting for Queen Catherine of Braganza. Eliza, Beth and Zabby each differ from the other in status, wealth and dreams. Eliza, bright and dramatic, aims to use her father's wealth to achieve freedom, Beth longs for true love to set her free, while Zabby seeks knowledge more than anything else in the world. Each girl represents a different chance at life in restoration England under King Charles II: one has wealth, one has beauty and one has brains for which to make her way in the court. The three split perspectives of severely differing circumstances had a lot of potential to show a more rounded version of life within the kingdom at that time. I had hoped for a more vivid portrayal of the Court and England itself; the novel focuses fairly narrowly upon the three Elizabeths and fails to provide a rich setting or background for the characters to occupy. I was left feeling rather "blah" at the end of the story, as none of the storylines grabbed me as truly original or as doing something truly creative with this era of history.
Eliza Parsloe, she of the extreme wealth and lineage of dirt, is a "provincial heiress" out of the country. Because of the dying wish of her mother, Eliza has what many girls of her time and age do not: the ability to approve of her husband before marriage. With such an unexpected and unlikely power for a woman of the 1660's, Eliza has the rare opportunity to dictate her own life on her own terms - or so she thinks. Sent to court to ostensibly wait on Queen Catherine but in reality dowse out a husband for her commoner father to use and exploit, Eliza finds herself in a situation she thought would never happen. Eliza is strident and willfull; at times the character was so irritating and unthinking I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop upon the poor playwright. Instead of inspiring sympathy for her plight with her deceitful father (he even plots to use her unwanted, previously rejected suitor to "rape her into marriage") I was simply eager for any protagonist besides Eliza to appear.
Elizabeth "Beth" Foljambe is the daughter of the syphilitic Countess of Enfield. With the pedigree that both her friends lack, Beth must catch herself a rick, noble husband in the vipers nest of Charles' court. Born of a Royalist family, Beth is only as important as her chastity; Beth's mother repeatedly tries to use her daughter's virginity to try to accumulate power. The sheer focus on Beth's worth as completely dependent on her purity was a harsh but sadly historically accurate portrayal of a woman's worth during the time. Beth is possibly the most sympathetic character of the story, with only Queen Catherine running her a close second. Beth is sweetand kind, and perhaps a bit too widely-eyed naive to survive for how long she has in the court. Her viper of a mother is a scene-stealer whenever she appears, though the scope of her character could have used some widening.
Zabby Wodewose, the final player in our trifecta of Elizabeths, hails from Barbados. She can be seen as a harbinger of change - a stranger from a strangle land with new ideas and theories. Returning to England with her beloved father (this is the one example shown of a healthy, functional relationship between parents and offspring of the three girls) after a number of years, Zabby's drive in life is to learn. Through a random happenstance, young Zabby saves the life of the King and her life is affected forever. Zabby started out easily as my favorite character, but the development and changes that occurred throughout the novel eroded my affection. She's spunky and truly clever, but becomes way too enamored with the King to focus: I disliked this revelation because knowledge is the love of Zabby's life not the King. Perhaps the point was to illustrate just how alluring the King was or how susceptible Zabby was to his charms, I am not sure. I just prefered the initial version of Ms. Wodewose. The relationship between the three maids shows far more camaraderie and love than any of the other women in the court do. It feels like a viable friendship, one that builds and grows as the girls go through trying experiences with one another.
The novel works, if it does not exactly excel. The writing can veer into too much showing very easily (and frequently), but it manages to engage the reader, thanks to agreeable, if not stellar, characters. The background characters do a fair job as well, and I found myself surprisingly fond of a number of the bit players (the vicious but cunning Lady Castlemaine was probably my favorite character to read/read about). Sullivan's Charles II does a nice job of continually stirring the pot, fearing conspiracy and seeing rebellions everywhere to keep the Court's - and the reader's - tension running high. Catherine is both sympathetic and also aggravating, but provides a nice change from the relative immaturity of POV for the teenage girls. It may be a bit simple and bland, but falls far short of the worst historical fiction I've come across in the last year. I had just hoped for more from this particular novel. The lack of atmosphere and setting did the most to lower my expectations, but I'd recommend this to someone looking for an easy, simple historical fiction set in the 1660....more
Tankborn surprised me. What I initially assumed was simply a run-of-the-mill, churn-'em-out-quick youngRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Tankborn surprised me. What I initially assumed was simply a run-of-the-mill, churn-'em-out-quick young-adult dystopia, Tankborn emerges as a strong novel with compelling adult-ish themes about defining what humanity and beauty mean to every individual. Clocking in at a nice length of almost 400 pages, Karen Sandler creates a distinctive, dark and utterly readable world with her science fiction gem. I would put her indie-published Tankborn up there with The Hunger Games and The Demi-Monde: Winter as the best young-adult dystopias I have had the pleasure to read in 2011. Simply and best put: Tankborn is an all-inclusive novel that is not one to miss for any reader that appreciates well-rounded plot, outstanding and three-dimensional characters within an alien but totally interesting location.
The beginning of the novel does suffer a bit from a rushed introduction to a large variety of terms, places, people, scientific ideas. The book very quickly dispenses with needed information and details, and Tankborn is quickly a rewarding and interesting read. This is a standalone novel that doesn't stint on imagination: from vocabulary to flora and fauna, Karen Sandler left no stone unturned in creating her highly-realized and almost tangible Loka (I also wondered if the name "Loka" was a statement that the way of life on the planet was well . . loca. Sorry, I make bad jokes.) With both ominous and interesting-sounding names like sewer-toads, droms, seycats and (eeugh!!) giant spiders known as bhimkay, Loka is a wild tangle of creative, and very original plots and threads that mesh very well together. Over and over, I both felt that this was a book that was crafted so believably and so intricately as well as being very impressed by the effort of the author. It felt probable in a way I had had not anticipated for a youg-adult science fiction novel about gene-spicing and engineered people. It helps that the "science" of the novel is basic and minimal, without missing out on specificity or indulging in ridiculousness.
Kayla, the main character and my personal favorite of the varied lot, is a 14th-year GEN - otherwise known to everyone on the planet of Loka as a Genetically Engineered Non-human. In the 400 years since humans left earth, "gene-splicers" have mixed animal and human DNA, ascribing certain skill sets to each individual GEN. Within her very intricate, detailed and striated society because if this DNA and her tank-origin, Kayla represents the lowest of the low on the entire planet of Loka. Marked with identifying facial tattoos, Kayla's caste is reminiscent of both the "untouchables" of real-world India's infamous social pyramid mixed with the downtrodden Jewish population of Nazi Germany. I really liked Kayla through the course of her struggles; this is a girl considered less than human, but one that genuinely empathizes and sympathizes with a trueborn even on her worst day. I do wish the novel had shown her with her tanksister and fellow main character Mishalla, but Kayla does not disappoint on her own. It's also refreshing to once again read a character of color, without her skin tone becoming her defining characteristic.
I can't say too much about Kayla's tanksister Mishalla. One of the few issues I had with this delightful read were with this particular character. She lacked initiative and in such a situation as she was in - it just drove me crazy for her to just sit and worry for 250 pages. I also felt her romance with the rarely-seen Eoghan was completely unrealistic. The reader sees them together maybe three times before the ending, and I never bought into their "love". Also (view spoiler)[ - her and her husband adopting the lost children? Also just: Mishalla getting married at about 15!?!?! - so obviously too much about this character didn't work for me. (hide spoiler)]. Now, lets talk about Kayla's love interest Devak. I liked him infinitely more than Eoghan and Mishalla, and thought his rounded personality of hedged kindness, curiousity and sheer arrogance presented a very real face/name for the readers to root for redemption. He's a bit naive, as is Kayla, in that these two believe so much of what they are told and do not question authority at all. I did like Kayla's and Devak's approach to their "relationship": it was mature, it was giving and especially at the end, it was surprising.
Echoing the earlier Nazi-vibes with the facial tattoos/identification of Kayla and the rest of the GENs, is the party saying, "Work Will Make You Safe" for the lowest of their rigid and regimented society (Nazi's used the infamous "Arbeit macht frei" meaning "works makes us free" above the concentration camp of Aushwitz.) This omnipresent saying is both a reminder of the GENs own mythology of work ensuring happiness and reward after death from their deity The Infinite and also serves as a subtle threat from the government. The message is simple: the GENs existence is only suffered as a work force. If a GEN doesn't work, it is useless and will be "reset", or "realigned" out of existence. I love the multiple facets of real-world hatred and oppresion were worked into the framework of the soceity within Tankborn. From the allusions to Nazism and the "untouchable" aspect akin to India mentioned earlier, I also felt an echo of the United States slavery and continuing racial issues into the 1960's. Like blacks and whites of Earth before the Civil Rights Act, the GENs of Loka cannot share a water fountain, a seat with a trueborn: immediate action and punishment would follow were they to even try. Human suffering and oppression are universal, sadly, and Ms. Sandler's sad, but entirely apt homage to that fact only reinforces the solidity of her science fiction creation.
(Warning: Slight spoilers ahead) All that praise written above is not to say I did not have a few quibbles with Tankborn. I sometimes felt that Kayla's neverending search for understanding and answers seemed a tad drawn out... especially when the man with literally ALL THE ANSWERS has both had illicit and seditious coversations with the main character as well as living less than 100 feet away. If a little time had been trimmed off her to-and-fro'ing, it would've been a more seamless (and sensical) read. I also wondered just why the gene-splicers are having issues creating new GENs - if they've had no issues the first 50 years of the experiments, why all of the sudden there is an issue? Still, these are two very minor issues waving in the face of much more win and awesome, so I didn't fixate on the irritations.
With an open ending that manages to both fulfill open-ended questions and leave a possibility for more in this complex world, Tankborn is a win. I will be on the constant lookout for more books from this author, set in this world/series or not. Karen Sandler is most impressive with her science fiction, young-adult dystopia set in a world far far away. It's a relevant and insightful look into racism, young love and burgeoning independence. ...more
Oh man, did I have fun with this book. A teenage girl vampire with a conscience? A vampire stabbed throRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Oh man, did I have fun with this book. A teenage girl vampire with a conscience? A vampire stabbed through the heart by a unicorn's horn to gain said conscience? Yeah - I admit I was sold by the premise alone. Far too many authors take their vampires/werewolves/superantural/paranormal creatures far too seriously, and Ms. Durst's snarkily humorous take on the monster was fresh and above all, fun. Somewhere between the characters themselves and the randomly frequent snarky/snide allusions to Twilight, I found myself having more fun with a vampire story than I have for quite a long time.
In this very complete world of Ms. Durst's, vampires are both born or made from humans. Pearl is a born vampire, meaning she's never been human, never been in the sunlight, and never had a conscience. Durst stays true to the most original interpretation of the nightwalking bloodsuckers: they're sensitive to Holy Water, repelled by garlic, flammable when exposed to the sun and they do not sparkle. Hunters in every sense of the word, Pearl's Family is a powerful clan aiming to increase their sway through the upcoming Fealty Ceremony. Since the type of vampires in this novel can be born not just made("turned" is the vocabulary here), the induction into a full-fledged vampiress is an important one; indeed, one that the powerful and bloodthirsty King of New England vampires will be present for, and observe closely.
Pearl, the before mentioned young female vampire, within the first chapter is stabbed through the heart by a unicorn. This supposedly mythical creature's actions start to change Pearl from the typical prototype vampire. She feels emotions, guilt even, and thus is the only one of her kind to do so. By a fortuitous disaster, Pearl also learns she is the first "daywalker" of her kind: the stabbing the caused her consicence to grow also allows her where no other vampire can go. Thus the young Pearl is selected to "hunt" in the high schools in order to provide a feast for the hundreds of vampires planning to descend on her town for the Fealty Ceremony. Underneath this immense pressure, Pearl emerges as a believable teenager; one I grew warmer to (ha) the longer she remained in the sunlight. I really enjoyed Pearl and reading from her perspective: not too whiny, not too boy crazy and just the right amount of bad-ass, ass-kicking female. Pearl is by far the highlight of the novel: both my favorite character and consistently the most interesting person on the page. I want to read more stories about Pearl now.
The characters besides Pearl were also mostly enjoyable, personable and vivid. From wannabe vampire hunters cum comedic duo, Matt and Zeke could be counted on to make me snort with laughter each time they appeared. Bethany, though perhaps a bit too wide-eyed to be entirely real, was a nice counterpoint for Pearl's harsher attitude and perspective. Evan, the love interest, manages to stir up real chemistry with Pearl while maintaining an aura of mystery and keeping his distance. He remains a separate character; one not dependent on Pearl. Once again, I cannot impress upon you how HAPPY it makes me when a real relationship is charted, and matures through the novel. Pearl and Evan don't immediately "fall in love forevaa!!" nor spend three hundred pages pining for one another. It's a nice change from some YA paranormal stories.
The interesting set-up, the time-limit and unique proclivities of Pearl make the pace of this novel fly by. It's one of those books a reader picks up to peruse for a minute and is immediately lost within. It may drag on a bit long (in my opinion) after Pearl gains her conscience and before the King arrives, but that is a minor quibble. The secret "twist" about the unicorn was also a bit heavy-handed and obvious but far from the worst offender I've come across in that regard. Ms. Durst has crafted a very-well planned and thought-out alternate universe in which her characters can play; from new ideas on the prevalent-in-literature vampirism ("blood heists", "blood drunk" and of course the crucial, plot essential "Fealty Ceremony") to amusing and rarely used mythical creatures (when's the last time you read about a unicorn in fiction?) this is a novel that should be read and enjoyed by many people. I highly enjoyed this novel, and I think it will find love from a widely varied audience.
If you see it on a bookshelf in your near future, buy it, read it, love it....more
No rating because I simply couldn't finish this. I can usually enjoy (and legitimately looove) young-adult novels, but this came across as much youngeNo rating because I simply couldn't finish this. I can usually enjoy (and legitimately looove) young-adult novels, but this came across as much younger. I think kids from about the age of 10-14 would enjoy this. It was far too dramatic, simplistic and superficial; just not a novel for me. ...more
An imaginative and unique supenatural/"preternatural" novel, though with its share of flaws, I enjoyed Every Other Day moreDefinitely a 3.5 out of 5.
An imaginative and unique supenatural/"preternatural" novel, though with its share of flaws, I enjoyed Every Other Day more than anticipated.
Every Other Day tells the unique tale of Kali D'Angelo, a half-Indian teeange girl with supernatural (which are called "preternaturals" in this novel, though that just makes me think of Gail Carriger's Alexia Tarrabotti, but I digress) abilities every other day. When she is "Other" Kali is an indestructible monster-killing machine - and I always thoroughly enjoy an ass-kicking female lead. Kali's unique abilities provide a nice dichotomy day-to-day between the powerful hunter and the normal teenage girl. She's a lonely and isolated young woman, which gives her a "hero complex" in order for others to see her. When a practical stranger named Bethany is marked for death - while Kali is human - Kali decides to try and save her while in her human, and thus much weaker, form. I had to wonder, is Kali performing a selfless act of kindness, or does she have a death wish? I liked a lot about this novel right from the set-up: from the kick-ass girl lead, a fair amount of snark and sarcasm, an unusual magical creature as an antagonist and a non-white protagonist. Unfortunately not everything in the novel lived up to my expectations for the story, but I will say I had a great time reading this.
The Butterfly Clues has a lot going for it - an engaging and different heroine, a convoluted murder mysRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
The Butterfly Clues has a lot going for it - an engaging and different heroine, a convoluted murder mystery and a teenage romance with real chemistry and feeling that doesn't become saccharine or overwrought. With an intriguing beginning and a simple, easy, almost sparse style of writing, this is a novel that sneaks up on you and can be devoured in several enveloping stints of reading. With much more emotion and feeling than I had expected, Ellison wove a spellbinding tale of Penelope "Lo" Marin and the multiple mysteries surrounding her melancholy existence. This more than exceeded my expectations: I was looking for a quick read time-filler and I found a heartfelt mystery with a great, intrepid lead character. Though not perfect - I called the murderer pretty early on in the story - I will definitely be on the lookout for more novels by this author.
Lo is definitely a likeable protagonist: I felt an affinity and rapport with her from the first page. Highly individualistic, Lo has enough personality to fill the pages she graces. The first person is an excellent medium for Penelope Marin (I want to add the extra two on here for her sanity: Penelope Marin, Penelope Marin) to express her story, from her very distinct perspective. She suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and certain things (like saying her name three times in a row, or tap tap tap bananaing before entering a new room to ensure her safety) and rituals are the cornerstone of her life. A mysteriously dead brother named Oren, and two extremely removed parents create loneliness and sadness in abundance for Lo ("I've learned to live without anyone" she says early on), and sympathizing/empathizing with her was never an issue for me. Though Lo has her less-than-perfect side (one of her compulsions is an unswervable need to steal an object when she feels threatened/lonely/scared) she always remains relatable. Moving a lot has a left a feeling of impermanence for most of Lo's life, and her theft is an attempt to feel attached to something if not someplace. Ellison does a great job of humanizing Lo's multiple issues and odd compulsions without judgment. She's definitely human and real, showcasing common teen issues ("I didn't think anyone really saw anything I did, barring incidents of incredible embarrassment,") along with her less common problems (Oren, parents, witnessing a murder.)
Sadly the other characters, though mostly likeable, had none of the verve of Lo. The closest to matching her fire is Flynt, her mysterious, apparently vagrant love interest. While I do weary of the hackneyed and overplayed "sexy boy with a dangerous but mysterious past" in YA fiction, Flynt was a well-drawn "loose" personality, nicely contrasting with Lo's rigid routines and rules. The dynamic between the two works really very well: she only relaxes around Flynt, and he can be serious with her. While a love triangle is hinted at among them and another teenage character, it's quite obvious that the only match for Lo is with Flynt and the author doesn't descend into melodrama and angst for Lo to figure that out: she's self-aware and smart enough to make her own decisions. Tellingly of her parents, Lo's mother doesn't even appear for about 170 pages and event hen she's more of a shadow than a character. I can understand that the mom is grieving over her lost son, Lo's brother Oren, but the depth to which she abandons her daughter is astonishing and sad. I couldn't find much initial liking for Lo's father as well: burying himself in his work, and his uncontrollable anger with Lo over her unavoidable counting make for a less than perfect dad. I will say that I did find some redemption and hope for a few characters I'd given up on, later on down the line.
While the plotting can be a bit obvious and hard-to-believe lucky (Lo's discoveries of the butterfly/horse almost immediately after the report? Unlikely), I found myself not minding overmuch. Ellison reaches a bit for some connections in her story, but in the end the payout reaps the benefits and more than makes up for any lack of subtlety. I guess I would say: the end more than justifies the means the author went to in order to achieve it. The disparate and compelling storylines keep the suspense high and my interest higher for the entirety of the story. I found myself postively racing through the final quarter of this novel: eager for resolution for Lo, for Flynt, for Oren and even for the murdered girl at the center of the mystery. I was never bored, and always guessing how the author would tie up all the loose ends. I did think the author had too many threads going at the same time, but I will say I was proved wrong in the end. Ms. Ellison manages to combine multiple disparate and seemingly random elements into a wrenching and touching finale. I was surprised by the strength of the emotions I had while reading this book, particularly the end. It was an impressive end to a book that captivated me from the beginning. I also have to add - how striking is that cover? It does a nice job - very evocative - of advertising the novel. Pick this one up. ...more
Actually a 2.5 out of 5. I wish I could rate this higher but unfortunately...
I'm sad to announce that I didn't really enjoy this novel nearly as muchActually a 2.5 out of 5. I wish I could rate this higher but unfortunately...
I'm sad to announce that I didn't really enjoy this novel nearly as much as I had anticipated. Sheridan Wells is a 16 year-old cake decorating savant, with a mysteriously missing mother, and a charming best friend that helps her to search for her mother. This is a novel that will make you hungry; either the frequent descriptions of Sheridan's fondant creations or her father's restaurant repertoire will get you, one way or the other.
I only wish the characters had gotten under my skin and into my head the way the food did. I never felt truly connected or concerned for most of these characters; only two, a bit player named Lori and a love interest named Jack had me invested in his future in the story at all. I just felt that the book, on the whole, was lackluster: I didn't have much to takeaway from my time spent in Michigan with these characters.
With one of the few prologues that has excited me rather than dismayed me, Crave was an. .Read This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
2.5 out of 5
With one of the few prologues that has excited me rather than dismayed me, Crave was an. . . experience from start to finish. This supernatural young adult novel is a very hard beast for me to categorize within my usual systems. One one hand, there were so many cliches and unnecessary elements that felt like filler, but on the other hand I had fun reading the novel and was intrigued by the lore/mythology of this supernatural world. Melissa Darnell's Crave has had several ratings from me in the day of reading and two days of analyzing I've had with it. From a 3, rationalized to a 2, again rationalized to a 2.5 out of 5 as the fairest I can do for this novel with my extreme mixed emotions. Savannah and Tristan's stories from the first in the Clann series made me intensely want to smack them both, separate them, laugh at them. . . and ultimately want to read its sequel, Covet, as soon as I can get my grabby, contradictory hands on it in 2012. The only thing I can say is that it's like a bad movie: so bad it's good and you can't help but enjoy the often ridiculous, but hard-to-stop ride.
As said earlier Crave is all about two teens: Savannah Colbert, the "social outcast" of her high school and "golden boy" Tristan Coleman. The reader gets in both characters heads quite intimately with the switching, dual POV chapters from each. While I liked the switches between the views of Sav and Tristan, they came much too frequently in the flow of the novel and often without seeming to really need to change to the other's mind. With such a slow plot, with little to nothing happening (seriously the most exciting "event" in the first two hundred and fifty pages is some creepy guys and one guy grabbing Savannah's wrist) the shifts just exacerbated the problems already present. What kept me most interested was the lore and mythology of the Clann, it's secretive ways and just why the two kids were separated at such a young age.
Savannah was an okay protagonist, I suppose. I enjoyed her after a while, but she definitely didn't jump off the page in a burst of life and vivacity or anything, for me as a reader. She was a nicely rounded-out character, one who actually (amazingly, astoundingly) had a group of female friends with brains. I especially loved her friend Anne: protective, sarcastic and smart she was instantly relate-able to me in a way Savannah just wasn't. But, as more and more is revealed about Sav as the novel progressed, I warmed to her. Slight spoiler: especially when Sav was revealed as a half-witch, half vampire/succubus with powers! Tristan was more of a hit with me, though he too was far from ideal. I liked his struggles with his family and their expectations for him and his life -I feel that is something a lot of kids go through and Tristan's issues came across as genuine. He was a charming and even kind kid, apparently a rarity in this town/school. His overtures with Anne showed a lot about his personality and he helped me to warm to his girlfriend. I did laugh that his dream was to play in the NFL, but hey, he's a teenage boy. I did think idolized Savannah a bit much, as well. He constantly narrated, commented on, was angered by how saintlike and giving and perfect she was. We get it - we got it two chapters ago - move on, dude..
One thing I hated about both Tris and Sav: their relationship is practically Twilight but with witches and a part-succubus. Their teenage relationship is chock full of insta!love (no, being best friends in 4th grade does not negate years of independent growth/change/apparent hatred for each other with no communication - Sav and Tris do NOT know each other after reuniting, at least, not enough to be so "deeply" in love), "protectiveness" on part of Tristan that is borderline controlling and stalking, and of course, Tristan's blood is Sav's perfect cocktail (what, does he smell of lavender and freesia, maybe?) - so much so she is always aware whenever he is near. While happily Savannah does have dating experience other than her soulmate, I just had to knock a star off for this ridiculous relationship. It's laughable and like I said, been done before, many, many times. There's also no explanation just why it is Tristan, out of all the Clann, appeals just so much to Miss Savannah. If it's power, Tristan stated both his sister and father were stronger and more dedicated than he was with the magic, so it seems like unnecessary addition. I also wished for more from the vampire side of the novel: from Sav's dad to ominous Council, they seemed to swoop in randomly and then be ignored as part of the novel for quite a while.
I also soon realized just why the prologue was alluring, danger-filled and exciting: it's because the rest of the novel isn't. At all. This is a 400+ page novel with a plot consisting for the first 300 entirely of an old Friends trick: will they or won't they, can they, should they date? Seriously. It's all build-up and "oh no, I'm not allowed to date her!" "I can't be with him, it's against the rules!" when all along everyone - the characters, the reader, the author - all know it's a long-gone, foregone conclusion that they will. Ms. Darnell just dragged this unnecessary dating-or-not-dating drama out for far too long and other concerns that should have been pressing and important (the bloodlust, the council) are relegated to the back until the last 100 pages. For the first half, clueless me sat there wondering, "where's the action? When are the vampires, The Clann, anyone at all! going to do something/anything besides threaten and lurk offscreen?" This is a slow read, and if I hadn't been particuarly zealous the day I read it, I would probably still be struggling through the four hundred page length of the tome. There's no impetus to read besides finishing the novel, because there's no climactic build-up or suspense. Even the end of the novel lacks suspense or real excitement. Maybe Miss Darnell can fix these issues with the second, but I know I will be reading it regardless...more
Though I've often heard Maria V. Snyder's name bandied about as an author to watch out for in both fantRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Though I've often heard Maria V. Snyder's name bandied about as an author to watch out for in both fantasy and young-adult genres, Touch of Power was my first novel from the author. I did not immediately fall in love with this novel - it took about seventy-five pages before I entrenched in Avry's story, with no urge to extricate myself. I have to admit I was so taken with this young-adult fantasy novel that the day I finished it, I went out and bought Ms. Snyder's entire first published series, and by far the most popular of her four. Touch of Power does have a few minor and not-so-minor problems that keep it from my "best-of-2011" lists and from being "great" instead of just "really good", but this was a thoroughly delightful fantasy read. Touch of Power is definitely a young-adult fantasy novel: the themes and "magics" used are basic, if interesting, though I can see easily that this would be a novel that held appeal for other, older fantasy-genre lovers out there.
Avry of Kazan is the main character, and while she may not top my lists of all-time favorites for characters (or even favorites for this novel itself coughBelenFleacough), she is genuine and occasionally very likeable. Her reticence to ever explain her motivations/beliefs got wearying, especially when it was revealed Avry was justified in said action/nonaction/thought- it just took too long to explain why and ended up costing the character some affection from me. In particular, I think that her reasons, besides health-wise for her aversion to Ryne, in particular, felt like they should've been divulged much earlier in the narrative. Avry's hounded life for the three years since the devastating plague that ruined the Fifteen Realms is left largely to the imagination, but what details are supplied only add more valid reinforcement to Avry's world-weary attitude. She might veer into misery and self-importance a bit too often for me to love her, but as the last Healer in her world, it's not un-understandable. She's a fairly grounded character, for all the guilt, worry and fear stacked upon her shoulders. If I didn't exactly love her, I certainly felt more than a semblance of a rapport with the dry, wry twenty-year old.
The supporting cast is what got to me first, before Avry or Snyder's deceptively readable prose. From the bear-like Belen to the, well, flea-like Flea, this varied group were lovable, amusing and perfect comedic timing for Avry's downcast perspective (the monkeys!) I defy you not to find either Belen or Flea or Quain or Vinn at least mildly amusing. This is a group with definitely chemistry and the book works best when all the gang, with leader Kerrick of Alga, is together. While Kerrick took longer than the others for me to invest in as a character, especially with his overdone and sadlyy obvious Mystery Man Who Is Clearly More Than He Seems act, but I liked the no-bullshit attitude he had, as well as his harder-to-find gooey center. I also liked the dynamic between Kerrick and Avry: two supremely stubborn, smart people refusing to give into the other - it allowed for some amusing and revealing dialogue, especially on the long treks the company partook. Belen is definitely my over-all favorite; Poppa Bear may not be the most developed character, but what is shown is more than enough to cement me in his fanbase. I did wish there was more than one female character traveling in the marauders, in order to contrast with Avry, but this a very male dominated novel.
I wish that the world-building of the Fifteen Realms had been as strong, even if flawed, as Avry is presented. For a fantasy novel, I found the almost complete lack of world-building to be a major flaw in Ms. Snyder's design. Besides basic information, like the Fifteen Realms title for the continent, barely any details about the cities, history, etc. are meted out for the reader to digest. I was thoroughly disappointed in the lack of atmosphere, setting, information Ms. Snyder failed to provide - there is a lot of potential in this vibrant world with its mix of monarchies, presidencies, republics - and the grey areas are detrimental to the colorful world otherwise in existence. Thankfully for the Fifteen Realms themselves, and happily for me as an insatiable reader, there are to be sequels in this series and world, and I have confidence that the next one (Scent of Magic is due out 2012), will pick up certain areas of laxity that were present in the first. I also hope that included along in the more detailed information about the realms, Scent of Magic will explain some of the seeming anachronisms present in the novel. In a novel that comes across as mostly/vaguely medieval, word-drops like "president", "syringe" ,"toxins", and "sociopath" don't seem to fit within the vernacular of the world. It disoriented me when Avry would so casually reference a scientific advancement and no explanations left me frustrated with the where and the when of the novel.
Touch of Power is fast-paced, action adventure. It - and Mrs. Snyder - don't hesitate to throw the characters into many and varied adventures as they race the clock: events such as jailbreaks, rebellions, plagues, and a myriad of magical problems dog the heroes all the way across the Nine Mountains. Even characters beloved and clsoe to my ehart sadly weren't safe, though their losses were effecting and overall necessary to the plot. I can also say I was impressed with the seemingly-random plotlines, events, ideas that Ms. Snyder managed to pull together almost effortlessly. Everything works for this novel, plot-wise: event plants I had assumed irrelevant came back later int he novel with genuine twists and turns I never saw coming. I had no issues with Ms. Snyder's easy, readable style in Touch of Power, in particular her deft and descriptive hand for fight scenes and combat keep the stakes high without overdoing the bloodshed and deaths.
I wished for more depth from the villain of the novel, as well. First off-screen and whispered about, then on-screen and somewhat chilling, Tohon of Sogra is a capable big bad, but I find his motivation for everything to be rather. . . simplistic. He's explained and introduced as such a smart, devious, creepy man that I expected much much more for the raison d'etre of his madness and his plans. Like with other, previously mentioned details, it just seemed less than the potential the character had. Don't get me wrong: he's very effective and entirely believable in his role how he is presented, I just felt there was an opportunity for more. I just couldn't buy his too-easy reasons.
Touch of Power wraps up its action-packed pages with a decent, nice ending - definitely not the most riveting, but ensured my full attention and worry. Various prevalent and mysterious elements from the story were combined believably, without coming off as a deux-ex-machina. I ended this novel practically itching to get my hands on the next - and I think that is the most telling thing about this novel. As frustrated and irritated as I was over some bits and parts, I NEVER considered not continuing this series the minute the next book is available. I can't wait to join Avry, Kerrick, Belen and the monkeys as they continue their adventures all over the Fifteen Realms. ...more