Review: Tell The Wind And Fire

Tell the Wind and FireTell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a city divided between opulent luxury in the Light and fierce privations in the Dark, a determined young woman survives by guarding her secrets.

Lucie Manette was born in the Dark half of the city, but careful manipulations won her a home in the Light, celebrity status, and a rich, loving boyfriend. Now she just wants to keep her head down, but her boyfriend has a dark secret of his own—one involving an apparent stranger who is destitute and despised.

Lucie alone knows of the deadly connection the young men share, and even as the knowledge leads her to make a grave mistake, she can trust no one with the truth.

Blood and secrets alike spill out when revolution erupts. With both halves of the city burning, and mercy nowhere to be found, can Lucie save either boy—or herself?

Celebrated author Sarah Rees Brennan tells a magical tale of romance and revolution, love and loss.

Full disclosure, I have never read A Tale of Two Cities. I KNOW, I should, and I’ve lost some Brit Lit cred in your eyes. This book is a fantasy retelling of the Dickens novel, set in an alternate future where Dark and Light magic have torn society apart, to the point that the two cities are vastly different parts of New York.

The protagonist, Lucie, differs from the Dickensian Lucie Manette in that she is the central figure and the narrator. She also has a lot of dark secrets. For being 17 in the book, Lucie is incredibly mature, and very socially adept. She is famous on both the Light and Dark sides for being “The Golden Thread in the Dark,” a symbol of hope and devotion, and also of resistance.

The romance between Lucie and Ethan Stryker, the son of one of the most important men in the city, is a constant source of conflict and drives most of the plot. Despite this, the emotions she carries didn’t become cloying, in my opinion, although it did seem a bit unrealistic that a 17 year old could be so steady and self aware.

I would recommend this book to anyone who has read A Tale of Two Cities, and those who have not but would be interested in a female protagonist with an unwavering focus.

Review and Rant: Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop

Daughter of the Blood (The Black Jewels, #1)Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I visited the main branch of the Denver Public Library this week, so naturally I left with armfuls of books. Bless you, library card. One of the books I checked out was Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop, the author of The Others series, which I adore. Daughter of the Blood is a markedly different type of novel, more high fantasy, but I quickly noted one very similar characteristic of Bishop’s writing.

*Spoiler alert* Both central protagonists in the series are young girls who have suffered physical and sexual abuse at the hands of depraved men and this hampers them from developing their powers and forming friendships, familial bonds, as well as romantic and sexual relationships with the intended love interest of their respective series, all of which are much older than their object of romantic and sexual desire, and take the role of guardian, mentor, and at times, paternal figure.

It bears mentioning that I stayed up all night long to read this book. It is good, but I do find the choices made in regard to character development a bit disturbing, mostly because I recently encountered it while reading nearly the entire published works of author Connie Suttle, whose female protagonists are, without exception, victims of mental, physical, and sexual abuse. Notice I didn’t say survivors. The abuse is continual throughout the entirety of their story arcs.

When I examine my reaction to the use of abuse as a plot device and character development, most of the aversion comes from the fact that it is extremely common in Western Literature. Anne Bishop herself makes reference to the archetype of Cassandra, Princess of Troy, who in the myth was punished by Apollo, the Greek god of light and music, for refusing him as a suitor. Cassandra was cursed with prophesy that no one would heed, and was later captured by the Greeks during the Trojan war and sold as a slave. In Bishop’s The Others series, the cassandra sangue is a female seer who prophesies through self-mutilation, which will ultimately kill them. In addition *spoiler alert* the majority are enslaved and used for sexual pleasure in addition to having their visions sold for profit.

Daughter of the Blood starts in a world that is tenuously clinging to a magical and political matriarchy that is slowly being dismantled by a tyrannical female ruler bent on complete domination of her world, at the cost of killing every woman with enough power to challenge her. She’s enslaved the most powerful living men of the Blood (a magical nobility) and as a result the entirety of their magical lineage is declining. The book centers around a young girl, Jaenelle, who is a, or the, Queen of the Blood. She is only seven years old at the start of the series, but already possesses the power of the Black Jewels, which are a combination of indicators of power and also like magical power banks.

The entire plot line of Daughter of the Blood revolves around three powerful men who are determined to shape her future to become the Queen the realm needs. Their names are Saetan, Daemon, and Lucivar. I am not kidding. Only Saetan and Daemon have much of a part to play in this first installment, but the enslavement of Daemon and Lucivar is a major plot device, in that both are fitted with “Rings of Obedience,” magical metal cock rings controlled by the women (witches) who command them as sex slaves. The men take great pleasure in killing the witches, and do so many times throughout the story, and the sense I perceived was that the reader was expected to condone their homicide as justifiable because of the cruelty they experienced in being used as sex slaves. Many, many times throughout the book the term “shave” or “shaved” is used to refer to genital mutilation. It is used as a form of entertainment by the more despotic members of the Blood. This practice is reacted to with much more horror than that of sexual assault, with a subtle implication that the value of the person lay fully in their sexual commodity. Daemon is repeatedly noted to be impotent, and experiences no small amount of self-hatred because of it, even going so far as to compare his lack of sexual arousal to being shaved, though it is made clear that his flaccidity is due to his contempt and hatred for the women who use him.

Throughout the book, the men often express a desire to serve a worthy Queen, but every single adult witch of the Blood introduced is either cruel (those who use them), or a victim of sexual or physical abuse. Tersa, the first character introduced, has slid into madness because of a violent rape. Bishop uses the euphemism “spearing” to describe the act of rape, and witches of the Blood may be “broken” and lose their powers as a result of rape. This is problematic given the removal of agency of the women, many of whom possess powerful magic, but only until the loss of their virginity. Without exception, none of the rape survivors are able to mentally or magically recover from their assault. Whether this was intended to underscore how severely the culture of this world has backslid in terms of gender equality, or Bishop deliberately constructed the nature of the female power this way is unclear in this book. Perhaps this will be further developed in the series. I doubt this however, given that one of the major point of view characters, Surreal (yes, that is her name), a high-end prostitute, is repeatedly told her profession is shameful and immoral, and despite being powerful and well educated, she is looked down on by her society, including by men who patronize her services.

Another troubling element is that Jaenelle is a child throughout the entire book, making her first contact with the three men at age seven and then for the majority of the story at age 12. Daemon, as previously mentioned, feels no arousal with any of the women in the books, except for this child. He repeated chastises himself for his sexual attraction to a child, but continues to think of her sexually and romantically throughout the book. He is territorial and jealous of the other men who pay her any attention, despite the fact that Jaenelle is the bastard child of a man who refuses to claim her, to the point where Jaenelle is punished for revealing her paternity to her mother, grandmother, and uncle. In addition, the unprecedented acquisition of enormous power at an unheard of young age sends the major players in her world scurrying to form some sort of authority or control over her. Even the most benevolent characters, in terms of Jaenelle’s mental and physical well-being, Saetan and Daemon, both step into roles of mentor-ship, the former more paternalistic than the latter, given his romantic and sexual desires. Both set rules and chastise her for her behavior, while acknowledging how beyond their knowledge and control she is growing, refuse to give her the information she might use to make determinations for herself, such as explaining innuendo or the nature of romantic and sexual relationships, and about the dangerous consequences of misusing her enormous powers. This contrast is troubling because the male characters often note that they find her oddly precocious, and that her stare seems “ancient,” yet they make many attempts to retain her perceived “innocence.”

The penultimate plot point is that the hospital where Jaenelle has spent much of her childhood is discovered to be a front for many of the male antagonists to gather female children, under the guise of treating them for emotional disturbance, and then sexually assaulting and killing them. Jaenelle is drugged and brutally raped, and it is inferred that this particular assault, the loss of her “virginity,” though her innocence was probably lost years earlier, will cause her to slide in to madness if her body doesn’t succumb to the mortal wounds she has suffered.

Rape as a plot device is unfortunately common point of character development in fantasy. The fear of rape equally so. I don’t say this to downplay the horror of such an act, but to point out how misogynist it is that the ultimate violation is that of being treated as a sexual object. Women can be equally traumatized by other violence, but the continual removal of agency, and the fact that in this case and many others the female characters are never able to overcome the circumstances that led to this trauma paint the characters as intrinsically weak.

That is not to say that I didn’t enjoy this book. I did. I stayed up all night reading it. I devoured all of Bishop’s The Others series, and I have read numerous other books that employ the same tired tropes, and enjoyed them. But I do find it concerning that modern writers are still writing for medieval readers, no matter how well they do it.

Thanks for reading!

Sci-fi vs. Reality and Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies Series

Uglies (Uglies, #1)I don’t think I’m the only person who gets books stuck in their head like songs. I’ve had Scott Westerfeld’s YA series stuck in my brain for years, and I think a big part of that is because it is so prescient about modern society and the direction human nature is taking us.

The series is set in a future North America where at a certain age privileged teenagers undergo cosmetic surgery to erase all of their flaws. The books go more into the philosophical and ethical consequences of this, from the personal level to that of government, but I think even at the surface level it’s an interesting question to ask yourself. If you could become “perfect,” would you?

In Uglies, Tally Youngblood, the protagonist, spends her free time thinking about what her future face will look like, comparing the symmetry of either half of her face. When I read the books years ago I thought about it myself, but today as I was scrolling through a makeup group I follow on Facebook, a user had posted a set of photos of herself, one unedited, one retouched, side by side, and I was inspired to try it.

I picked a photo (left) from a day I thought my makeup looked really good.

img_2809 img_3350

Surprisingly, the right side of my face when doubled looks more like the original photo. I am right handed, so the features on the right side of my body are all slightly larger. I prefer the photo on the right, which is my left side doubled. You can tell because I have a freckle under the pupil on my left eye. My face is narrower and my forehead is smoother, but despite this I wouldn’t ever voluntarily have a symmetry surgery done, like in the books.

I made my face symmetrical using a free app called Square Instapic. It’s available on both Android and IOS img_3351platforms. I mostly use it for fitting an entire rectangular photo in a square for Instagram, but it makes nice collages too.

With so much emphasis on cosmetically and surgically changing the way we look these days, it’s no wonder Uglies  popped into my head. I’ve seen so much lip lining and contouring and general makeup brujeria recently. Not to mention actual surgery, and photo retouching; the premise of Westerfeld’s book isn’t far off.

I don’t see anything wrong with changing the way you look to feel like your most authentic self, but I think the underlying warning of both the book and my own opinion is that the single-minded focus on image can make humans blind to other, very important things.

Extras (Uglies, #4)However, in a society that is becoming much more like the last book in the series, Extras, image is everything, including livelihood, for a growing number of people. In Extras,  Aya lives in the same world as Tally, but in a different culture, where everything is filmed and broadcast, and social status and resources are allotted by popularity. Sound familiar?

Thousands of people have gained notoriety, sponsor-ships, and sometimes even fame and fortune from popular photos on social media, or viral videos. Some people come to it by chance, and some work very hard and almost single-minded-ly toward these goals. There are tons of marketing and traffic growth experts who have spent years developing know-how and web techniques to create viral content. Marketing is a cornerstone in the American economy and I can imagine it will only grow bigger and more essential as society and technology grow together. It’s exciting and a bit scary to think about, no?

Thanks for reading!

And, just in case you’re wondering, yes, Scott Westerfeld does have an Instagram.

Review: The Raven King

The Raven King (The Raven Cycle, #4)The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The final book in a wonderful series. I loved the first three books, and I cannot recommend Maggie Stiefvater enough as a writer. That said, I wasn’t as enamoured with this book as the first three. I think it was well written and there were still things to be learned and twists and turns that I enjoyed.

Without going into spoiler-y detail, I will just say that the end of the series was fitting, consistent with the whimsy and horror of the world that was created in The Raven Boys.

I highly recommend this series to anyone who enjoys a good story.

View all my reviews

ARC Review & Blog Tour for The Guardians by T. M. Franklin + Interview!


The Guardians (More, #2)The Guardians
by T.M. Franklin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Published November 7th 2013 by TWCS Publishing 

Ava’s life is . . . complicated.

After all, it’s not every day a girl learns she’s not entirely human, or unlocks hidden powers strong enough to make even the First Race sit up and take notice. After surviving an attempted kidnapping and standing up to the Race’s Ruling Council, Ava Michaels returns to college and what she hopes is a normal life. But Ava quickly realizes that for her, normal may not even exist anymore.

In fact, the Council wants her under their control, and they’re not the only ones. The mysterious Rogues have a plan of their own, and it turns out Ava’s a big part of it, whether she wants to be or not.

On top of that, her new relationship is tested in ways she never expected. Her boyfriend, Caleb Foster, has disappeared—accused of betraying the Race—and Ava herself stands implicated in a crime she didn’t commit.

Clearing their names will mean uncovering a web of deceit and intrigue with Ava woven right in the center. To unravel the strands, she joins forces with some unlikely allies; a Protector who once haunted her nightmares, a young girl with secrets as unexpected as Ava’s, and a group of rebel Guardians who have their own fight against the Council.

Together they stand in a battle to find the truth, bring Caleb home, and secure Ava’s freedom—not to mention save her life.

More Information | Goodreads | The Guardians Book Trailer

Review:

After racing through More, I was really excited to start The Guardians. Ava is a likeable character, and I really enjoyed how her relationship with Caleb developed in the first book; no insta-love, a not-super obvious attraction (aside from Ava’s roommate being a little pushy), and totally self-aware semi-creepy stalking.

One of my FAVORITE things about this book, and the series in particular, is the idea that this superhuman race are separate but entwined with humanity throughout history. The powers that the First Race have reminded me a bit of the movie “Push” actually, if only in the way they are named. They’re powerful, but Franklin keeps the narrative on course, without exploding it into a Bruckheimer-esque overdone too-big situation.

In The Guardians readers find out more about Ava, her background i.e. being adopted, and why/how, and get to see more of Caleb, but more importantly, TIERNAN.

Why am I so partial to him? He’s kind of unlikeable in the first book. In fact, he’s the BAD GUY for the greater part of it. I think I have a soft spot for meanies who get softened down by the protagonist. Like cats, once you win them over.

Will he be a love interest? Won’t he? (see my interview with T.M. Franklin below, where I ask her this question.)

To be honest, I won’t be too sad if he isn’t, the love triangle is kinda tired in YA, in my opinion. Tired, but somehow still engrossing enough that I yearn for it?

All in all, this book is a very good follow-up to the first in an excellent series. A fast-paced, quick read, with a sort of fantasy-meets-science-fiction premise that is accessible to fans of both genres. It’s blended enough that science nerds won’t be tripped up by technobabble, and fantasy fans get kick-ass characters with fantastical powers.

View all my reviews | buy at TWCS | Barnes and Noble | Amazon
 

Author Bio:
T.M. Franklin started out her career writing non-fiction in a television newsroom. Graduating with a B.A. in Communications specializing in broadcast journalism and production, she worked for nine years as a major market television news producer, and garnered two regional Emmy Awards, before she resigned to be a full-time mom and part-time freelance writer. After writing and unsuccessfully querying a novel that she now admits, “is not that great,” she decided to follow the advice of one of the agents who turned her down—write some more and get better at it. Her first published novel, More, was born during National Novel Writing month, a challenge to write a novel in thirty days.
She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, Mike, is mom to two boys, Justin and Ryan, and has an enormous black dog named Rocky who’s always lying nearby while she’s writing. Whether he’s soothed by the clicking of the computer keys or just waiting for someone to rub his belly is up for debate.
In addition to More and The Guardians, Franklin penned the Amazon best-selling short story, Window, as well as another short story, “A Piece of Cake,” which appears in the Romantic Interludes anthology.

Connect with T.M. Franklin: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Interview:
MORE  was a NaNoWriMo novel, right? I love to see NaNo novels in print. What kept you in Ava’s world during those 30 days?
NaNo was so good for me. I really needed the daily accountability to keep myself writing. NaNo really emphasizes that you should just keep writing – and not go back and try to edit at all. That was really hard for me to do. In the end, though, it helped a lot. I was able to get about 2/3 of the book done during the month of November. They key, for me, was my outline. It allowed me to keep writing and avoid those times when you just don’t feel inspired. Since I knew where I was going, I just focused on getting the words down and going in the right direction. I went back later to clean it up and make it better.
Do you have any tips for WriMos getting bored with their stories (coughmecough) or having trouble with discipline and writing every day?
Ugh. I’m one of you this year! It’s really difficult to focus on writing when I’m so deep in promoting my new release. I don’t have any great tips other than the old Nike adage – just do it. Even if you put your novel aside and are writing something else. Just write something.
 
I creeped on your NaNo profile a little bit, and I noticed your working title for book 3 of the MORE trilogy is Twelve. Will readers get to meet all of the Twelve?
Yes, to a certain extent. Some you’ll get to know more than others.
You’ve mentioned before that you get to know some of your characters as you write them. I love Tiernan, his character, his internal conflict between being a loyal Protector and his loyalty to his friends. How was getting to know Tiernan for you? Did anything surprise you? (I laughed out loud when Ava said that under his Veil he looks like Michael Cera/Jesse Eisenberg, I did NOT see that coming, but I loved “Zombieland”)
I’m so glad you enjoyed him, because I loved expanding on Tiernan’s character in The Guardians. That was probably the most fun I had writing the story, along with developing the relationship between him and Ava. I always knew he’d play a bigger role in the second book, and that there was more to him than initially met the eye in MORE, so I don’t know if I’d say anything about him was surprising to me. I would say that I smiled a lot while writing his scenes, however. I like him a lot.
Speaking of Tiernan, in the first part of MORE, Ava mentions to her roommate Lucy that she finds Tiernan attractive, even though she was terrified of him at the time. You’ve decided to avoid the love triangle route (thank you), but is the book completely closed between them, or is it possible the attraction will resurface later on?
Ava knows who she’s meant to be with. As for Tiernan, well, he’s a bit broken from a past relationship, so we’ll just have to wait and see how he deals with that and what his romantic future looks like.
You wrote Ava’s heartache with Caleb so well! I haven’t felt a YA rocky relationship so deeply since (don’t laugh) Stephenie Meyer’s New Moon. Ava’s situation in The Guardians is so much less…pathetic because she empowers herself to find him. Did you write the situation with that in mind?
One of the things I like about Ava is the way she deals with all the craziness that’s thrown at her. Instead of whining or falling apart or relying on others, she keeps pushing forward. She may not always make the right decisions, but she really tries to do what she thinks is right. An important aspect of the whole trilogy is that it’s not all about Caleb rescuing Ava – sometimes (to quote Pretty Woman) she rescues him right back. 
I’m a mythology nerd, and I love the idea that mythological figures like the Titans of Greek mythology and the biblical Nephilim were actually members of the First Race. Can you talk a little bit about your inspiration for that? Will readers get to see any historical or mythological connections in the final book of the trilogy?
I had all of this backstory in mind about the Race when I was writing the first book – all of these characters in myth and history that either were Race or Rogues or Half-Breeds. For example, maybe Attilla the Hun was a Rogue who was trying to seize power for himself, but was taken down by the Council. Or that Jonas Salk’s assistant was Race and he was the one who actually pushed him in the right direction to develop the polio vaccine. Maybe Medusa was a Half-Breed whose power was uncontrollable, so she had to be stopped – that kind of thing. A lot of it has fallen to the wayside because it just didn’t seem to fit anywhere. There’s a possibility some of it may come up in the final book, though – perhaps the true history of Merlin and King Arthur. 
What inspired the characteristics and abilities of the First Race, and how did you decide which abilities (such as tele- and pyrokinesis) to give them?
I sat down and thought of all of the cool powers I could think of (and then Googled some more!) Then I sat down and connected powers to characters. Protectors, like Tiernan, Katherine, and Caleb needed to have gifts that would aid them in their jobs, of course, so tracking and shifting made sense for them. Same for the Council, which I talked about more in The Guardians.

The powers for the Twelve were even more of a challenge. I don’t want to say too much about that yet, but it should be fun to see some of those revealed.

Will readers see more variety of abilities in the next book, such as, I don’t know, flight, or underwater breathing?
Maybe not those particular gifts, but yes, you’ll see a lot more.
Could the First Race be responsible for mythological creatures like angels and mermaids?
Yes, that was kind of my thought process behind the Race in the first place – that maybe these mythological creatures weren’t really what you think. I hinted at that a little in MORE in describing some of the Race who couldn’t leave New Elysia because they were just too beautiful. People could easily mistake them for angels. Maybe mermaids didn’t really have fish tails but could swim really fast and breathe underwater – and the storytellers added the fish tails along the way.
Ok, last question: if you could cast a TV series for the trilogy, who would you cast, and would you go cable or primetime network, say, the CW vs. HBO?
Oh wow – this is a hard question! I mean, this is so far beyond what I could hope for, but if we’re dreaming, let’s dream big, right? Lol!
I think the most important thing to me would be that whoever made it had the budget for the special effects – in particular, the Veil would be a concern for me – the rest shouldn’t be too difficult. So whoever could do that I’d be happy with.
Odette Annable
Sarah Roemer

As for a cast, I think I’d prefer an unknown for Ava – someone who could make the character her own. But Sarah Roemer has a good look for her. Or one of my readers suggested Odette Annable, who is beautiful and would also be a good choice.

For Caleb, I’m kind of torn between Christopher Gorham (Ugly Betty, Covert Affairs) and model Mark Ricketson, who was suggested by another reader. (Although who knows if he can act? LoL!)

Christopher Gorham
Mark Ricketson

 I’d love Charlize Theron for Madeleine and Billy Burke for Gideon. A bald and scarred Colin Egglesfield for Tiernan, Asli Tandogan for Katherine, and there’s a Japanese actress named Maki Horikita who has the right look for Emma.

But a lot of that’s based on looks alone – to be honest, I’d be happy with a cast of new actors to try and bring the story to life. Actually, I’d be thrilled if anybody anywhere ever wanted to actually see it as a TV show! Lol!

Thanks for reading!

And thank you to The Writer’s Coffee Shop for the ARCs, and to T.M. Franklin for being generally awesome!

Review: A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, #1) by Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, #1)A Discovery of Witches
by Deborah Harkness
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Published 2011 by Viking Penguin
ISBN 0670022411

A richly inventive novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together.

Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.

Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos. This smart, sophisticated story harks back to the novels of Anne Rice, but it is as contemporary and sensual as the Twilight series-with an extra serving of historical realism.

This book had a LOT of problems. Really kind of troubling problems. I liked it anyway. Sit down, I’ll tell you why.

I’ll start with what I loved with this book: the settings were excellent. I love coming to know a place through a book. I’ve never been to Oxford but I think I caught a sliver of it through the narrative. I loved the academic parts of it, and I loved that I learned things about history from it. I always enjoy picking up tidbits of practical knowledge from fiction. The premise of the book was interesting. And here is where we run into my issues.

This book is disturbingly like Twilight. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Twilight, despite my better judgment and its many flaws, but this book is supposed to be a book about a witch and her personal struggle against fate, or the underground political struggles between the supernatural races. This would have worked out in a really interesting way if not for one thing: homegirl falls in love with a vampire.

There is something about [male] vampires in urban fantasy acquiring the power to utterly ruin any story the minute the heroine falls for them. It doesn’t happen every time, see Sunshine or Rachel Morgan, but it seems to tap into this dark well of perverse desire to be absorbed entirely into someone else’s life in certain authors of certain books. The relationship turns into this black hole that seems to swallow everything else. Granted, relationships often do, but you can’t realistically let your life be subsumed into that of a really old dead guy when you are just beginning your own journey of self discovery without your readers thinking you’ve lost your damn mind. Which is pretty much what happens here.

Luckily this guy is ptherwise pretty interesting and you get to go to France and find out a buncha stuff. But the original plotlines suffer for this.

Don’t even get me STARTED ranting about the whole alpha male/pack business. We get it, vampires are animalistic. Let’s just go ahead and disregard all feminist social progress. Because he just can’t help himself. EYE ROLL

I really enjoy reading books about witches. Unfortunately, this book was almost entirely hijacked by vampires from the beginning. I really would have liked to learn more about Diana’s parents and her Bishop lineage. I would DEFINITELY liked to learn more about daemons. Not the secrety things, just more about what they are like and what differentiates them from…well, mentally gifted and disturbed humans. Because aside from being savants, I can’t pinpoint a single thing.

All in all, a good/ruthless editor with a scalpel and an aversion to vampire hijacking would have done this book a world of good. It was about a hundred, maybe two hundred pages longer than I expected it to be (ebook), and about the same length stretched out/overwritten. Despite all of my issues and opinions to the contrary, I did really enjoy this book and can’t wait to read the next one.

I know. I’m hopeless.

View all my reviews

Reviewed: The Madness Underneath (Shades of London, #2) by Maureen Johnson

The Madness Underneath (Shades of London, #2)The Madness Underneath
 by Maureen Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Published February 26th 2013 by Putnam Juvenile
ISBN 1101607831

After her near-fatal run-in with the Jack the Ripper copycat, Rory Devereaux has been living in Bristol under the close watch of her parents. So when her therapist suddenly suggests she return to Wexford, Rory jumps at the chance to get back to her friends. But Rory’s brush with the Ripper touched her more than she thought possible: she’s become a human terminus, with the power to eliminate ghosts on contact. She soon finds out that the Shades–the city’s secret ghost-fighting police–are responsible for her return. The Ripper may be gone, but now there is a string of new inexplicable deaths threatening London. Rory has evidence that the deaths are no coincidence. Something much more sinister is going on, and now she must convince the squad to listen to her before it’s too late.
In this follow-up to the Edgar Award-nominated THE NAME OF THE STAR, Maureen Johnson adds another layer of spectacularly gruesome details to the streets of London that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.
—from Goodreads

I honestly feel there is no way to write a review on this book without referring to THE THING which is very spoiler-y, but I am going to try.

The Madness Underneath is the sequel to Johnson’s 2011 The Name of the Star, which was very good! The Madness Underneath was good, but not quite as good as the first, which was about a copycat Jack the Ripper murderer in present-day London — lots of history, mystery, and thrills. And ghosts!

I definitely recommend you pick up a copy of the first book! Though, having read the sequel so long after reading The Name of the Star, I was a little fuzzy on the details, and I was too impatient to re-read before starting this book, so I can say with relative certainty that it can stand alone.

Overall the story was decent, though the characterization was a bit weaker than the first book, which is odd, because the focus was placed more so on the characters’ inner struggles than the actual crime/mystery. I think this is the only aspect of the story that was lacking. Maureen Johnson did a really very excellent job writing Rory’s PTSD (if it was that) and anxiety. Having gone through a similar bout of anxieties about school (without any paranormal fatal injury), I was able to connect with the character very well, almost to the point where it was painful to read. This was personal, but I think any reader will be able to really get in her head.

So if you like ghosts and a really strong sense of setting (way to make me want to move to London, MJ, the weather is HORRIBLE there), I definitely recommend this series. Hopefully Book 3 will be even better!

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Emilie and the Hollow World by Martha Wells

Emilie and the Hollow WorldEmilie and the Hollow World
by Martha Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Expected publication: April 2nd 2013 by Strange Chemistry
ISBN 1908844493
 

While running away from home for reasons that are eminently defensible, Emilie’s plans to stow away on the steamship Merry Bell and reach her cousin in the big city go awry, landing her on the wrong ship and at the beginning of a fantastic adventure. Taken under the protection of Lady Marlende, Emilie learns that the crew hopes to use the aether currents and an experimental engine, and with the assistance of Lord Engal, journey to the interior of the planet in search of Marlende’s missing father. With the ship damaged on arrival, they attempt to traverse the strange lands on their quest. But when evidence points to sabotage and they encounter the treacherous Lord Ivers, along with the strange race of the sea-lands, Emilie has to make some challenging decisions and take daring action if they are ever to reach the surface world again.  —from Goodreads.

I’ve never read a book by Martha Wells before, and generally Journey to the Center of the Earth-type novels aren’t my cup of tea, probably because mole-people don’t interest me and I have an aversion to the dark. Emilie and the Hollow World sounded just different enough to be intriguing.

That said, after I received the ARC from Angry Robot on NetGalley, it took me forever to start reading, which I regret, because I really liked it! However, I was a bit prejudiced, given the YA marketing & cover design, and I thought, going in, this book was probably going to be quite fluffy. Well, I overestimated the fluff (minimal) and underestimated (or misread) the age of the protagonist, Emilie. I read the first few pages assuming she was a plucky 11 or 12 year old — not so. Emilie is 16, and further, some of the elements of her backstory (and of the beginning of the sequel if there will be one) are more northward in the YA spectrum than an 11 year old character might have. But only slightly. One or two degrees northward. Still appropriate and not at all shocking for any middle-grade fiction reader. So despite being even older than the intended audience than I’d expected to be, I still enjoyed the story.

Very steampunk, great world-building (in an aquatic way, a personal favorite), and likeable characters, especially Emilie and Miss Marlende. Sort of like the child protégé of Gail Carriger’s Alexia Tarabotti, though much less prim and chatty. I also quite liked how Wells describes the non-human characters.

 I would recommend this book to middle-grade readers and older who like steampunk, The Swiss Family Robinson (do kids still read that?), Robinson Crusoe, Disney’s “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” (this especially! A favorite of mine), and Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series.

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p.s. I went back and read some reviews on The Swiss Family Robinson and I am completely unsurprised to find out how much many adults hate it. I’m glad I read it and saw the movie as a child. I remember really liking it, but given all the criticism about how much senseless animal shooting goes on, maybe it makes sense I grew up to be a vegetarian.

F*ck! I’m in My Twenties by Emma Koenig the book!

So earlier today I blogged about not having any desire to read or review anything. Then I got this in the mail and everything changed.

F*ck! I'm in My Twenties F*ck! I’m in My Twenties
by Emma Koenig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Published August 22nd 2012 by Chronicle Books
ISBN: 1452110530

I started following Emma Koenig’s Tumblr blog sometime in early 2012. She would sporadically post these incredibly funny, heart/gut/brain-wrenchingly astute hand-drawn comics about her life and I would like and reblog them and generally run around holding print outs and screaming, “Me, this is ME!” hoping people would have some kind of insight into my life.

When I heard she had a book coming out, I couldn’t have been happier, because a) I think her work is hilarious and b) clearly this is a windfall she needed (hope you took care of that mice prob, girl).

Even though I’ve seen many of the graphics in the book before, for free, on her tumblr, I bought the paperback and still got at least three solid belly laughs out of it. Which, when you’re in your fucking twenties, don’t come around as often as you need. And if you’re in your twenties you should probably read this book (or at least check out her blog).

I can’t wait to see what she does next, writing-wise, because I think she’s got a lot to offer. (Also she lives in LA, or did, and I never knew we could have been bffs bb, and ignored each other when we were too busy but been totally understanding about it because F Our Ls call me)

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Review: Lord’s Fall (Elder Races, #5) by Thea Harrison

Lord's Fall (Elder Races, #5)Lord’s Fall by Thea Harrison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The best of Thea Harrison’s Elder Races books so far. Revisiting Dragos and Pia wasn’t at all tedious like I’d expected it to be. In fact, I liked both characters much more than I had when I read Dragon Bound. Maybe it was due to my familiarity with the world at this point – far less info dumping. However, it probably had more to do with the fact that both characters were more rational and less annoying. Dragos wasn’t stalkery-controlling (as much) and Pia wasn’t wimpy and….irritating.

The premise is that Dragos is staging a massive competition to replace two Sentinels, in the style of a set of gladiator-esque Games. There is something about competition brackets that I love. I can’t explain it but it probably has a lot to do with my also OCD obsession with lists. I live for lists.

Anyway, while this is happening the dragon’s mate, Pia, is traveling to the Elves to negotiate the end of a trade embargo. The embargo/trade parts (and really any of the practical business related bits) make no sense, but the book had to have some weaknesses. Everything else was pretty strong, including the cast of characters only just introduced in this book. There is even a pegasus. And a kraken for crying out loud. A KRAKEN. Stop it Thea Harrison. You are making me gushy about a romance novel that features pregnancy bits (vom). Stop it right now. p.s. next time moar kraken pls.

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