Fed up with her wild behavior, sixteen-year-old Lex's parents ship her off to upstate New York to live with her Uncle Mort for the summer, hoping that a few months of dirty farm work will whip her back into shape.
But Uncle Mort's true occupation is much dirtier than shoveling manure. He's a Grim Reaper. And he's going to teach Lex the family business.
She quickly assimilates into the peculiar world of Croak, a town populated by reapers who deliver souls from this life to the next. But Lex can't stop her desire for justice - or is it vengeance? - whenever she encounters a murder victim, craving to stop the attackers before they can strike again.
Will she ditch Croak and go rogue with her reaper skills?
Have you read Croak? If not, you should probably do so ASAP because it is all kinds of awesome.
You may not be aware, but she has some pretty high standards (much higher than mine) and excellent taste, so I went in with high hopes. As you can see, I was not disappointed.
Croak is one of those excessively witty books that you either wholeheartedly respond to or end up feeling like it was tediously overdone. It felt kind of Sarah Rees Brennan-ish, but with more rage (which I, personally, respond to.)
As you may have gathered from the summary, Lex is a speshul snowflake. But her speshul snowflake-ness manifests itself in a delightfully unusual way. A formerly kind, sweet girl, Lex presently finds herself continually overcome with massive amounts of anger for little to no reason. She deals with it like so:
Except, instead of a punching bag, it’s the nearest face. I found this to be a hilarious, welcome twist on a time-honored plot device. I mean, violence isn’t cool and all that jazz, but I thoroughly enjoyed this atypical heroine behavior.
Anyway, after Lex punches one person too many, her parents tie her to a chair (no joke, they have a set of bungee cords specifically for this as it is apparently the only way to get Rage!Lex to hold still and listen without attacking them. I’m telling you, this girl is a massive asshole in the beginning and it tickled the shit out of me) and explain they are sending her to a little town in the middle of nowhere to work off some of her anger management issues on her uncle Mort’s farm.
But then, PLOT TWIST! Uncle Mort (an amazing, ridiculous, motorcycle-riding, I-play-with-forks-and-electrical-outlets-and-that’s-why-my-hair-looks-like-this, mad scientist conundrum of a character) isn’t a farmer, he’s a Grim Reaper and so is Lex!
Turns out, not only is Lex a Grim, she’s a really, really good Grim and here’s where the fun and shenanigans begin.Croak has a very Dead Like Me vibe to it, a well-balanced mix of quirky humor and serious plot. (If you don’t understand that reference, please get yourself to the nearest video streaming service of your choice and watch Dead Like Me–the show, not the movie–RIGHT. NOW.) In addition to meeting the wacky cast of characters residing in Croak (a town full of all the deathly puns a gal could ask for) Lex is quickly embroiled in a murder mystery that threatens the entire world she has only just discovered and come to love. Together with Mort and her partner Driggs, Lex must try to stay one step ahead of the killer and figure out just what the hell is going on.
Now, you may not have noticed, but I am a bit of an amateur shipper (I wouldn’t dare dream to call it more than a hobby, I am nowhere near as dedicated as some) and Lex/Driggs?
From the moment they punched each other in the face, I had boarded and declared myself captain of their ship. (Yes, there was mutual punching, but before anyone gets all ‘boys shouldn’t hit girls,’ I agree with you. But I also think if you want to run around indiscriminately punching people in the face, it’s only fair for them to punch back and either way, Gina Damico makes it work.)
The hate-to-love dynamic is a tricky beast. I adore it when it’s done right and it drives me bananaballs when it falls short. Lex and Driggs are hate-to-love done right. Their sniping and USTy-ness was adorable and I wanted to smash their faces together and force them to make out.
Basically, here’s Croak in a nutshell: A weird set of circumstances that Damico skillfully weaves together with black humor and eccentric details. There were probably parts of the story that were imperfect, but honestly? I was too busy LOLing all over the place to be bothered by them. If this sounds in any way appealing to you, read this book. Read it now.
Abby Barnes had a plan. The Plan. She'd go to Northwestern, major in journalism, and land a job at a national newspaper, all before she turned twenty-two. But one tiny choice—taking a drama class her senior year of high school—changed all that. Now, on the eve of her eighteenth birthday, Abby is stuck on a Hollywood movie set, miles from where she wants to be, wishing she could rewind her life. The next morning, she's in a dorm room at Yale, with no memory of how she got there. Overnight, it's as if her past has been rewritten.
With the help of Caitlin, her science-savvy BFF, Abby discovers that this new reality is the result of a cosmic collision of parallel universes that has Abby living an alternate version of her life. And not only that: Abby's life changes every time her parallel self makes a new choice. Meanwhile, her parallel is living out Abby's senior year of high school and falling for someone Abby's never even met.
As she struggles to navigate her ever-shifting existence, forced to live out the consequences of a path she didn't choose, Abby must let go of the Plan and learn to focus on the present, without losing sight of who she is, the boy who might just be her soul mate, and the destiny that's finally within reach.
Parallel, I’m sorry, I haven’t been fair to you. We got off on the wrong foot, I went into this relationship thinking you would be like Pivot Point due to the parallel universes thing. In hindsight, I recognize how ridiculous this was on my part, just because two books share a plot device doesn’t mean they will be anything like each other.
Unfortunately for you, it took me awhile to realize you weren’t going to live up to my expectation of a cute, quirky, funny read and that may have colored my initial impressions. You weren’t what I was expecting and I think if I had realized you were going to be so wistful and serious, I would have tried again later in a different frame of mind.
I don’t want you to feel bad about yourself, you had so much going for you. You had a good message, one you some up quite nicely here:
We’re all just a decision or two away from destroying the relationships that are the most important to us and the people we love. And most of the time, we never even know it.
I think it’s important to remind people not to be assholes to each other and the whole entanglement theory-based vehicle for your message was pretty neat as well. I like theoretical physics and am quite taken with the idea of multiple realities (granted, I can’t totally keep up with most people who talk about them because my brain naturally rejects scientific terms, but as far as I can tell, you broke it down nicely).
I mean, okay, if we’re being honest this isn’t an entirely clear cut ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ situation. As interesting as the parallel realities thing was, the way it shifted back and forth was a little disorienting. Mostly it was the out of sync timelines and way the past reality could change the present that had me pinching my nose in frustration. Abby spent so much time playing catch-up, trying to figure out what had changed about her life, that it meant a lot of the meaningful relationship building between her and the love interests happened off camera. I felt distanced from the story and didn’t connect much until the very end and at that point, it was too late, you were almost over.
While I’m on the topic, love interests? Really? It was a new take on the love triangle in a number of ways, I’ll give you that, it didn’t bother me too much at first. However, in the end it came with it’s fair share of MAJOR OUT OF THE BLUE PROBLEMS and didn’t end up seeming like it needed to have happened like that.
Another thing, Abby kind of bugged me. She spent a lot of her time whining about her parallel and being mad at the choices she was making. I also couldn’t help but feel that she spent more time worrying about the choices for the wrong reasons. I get that which college Abby ended up at, who she dated and whether or not her friends were dating were important issues to her, but what about her other life stuff? There was the whole thing about acting versus journalism that was never really resolved AT ALL. It was in the sense that she ended up with one of them, but it wasn’t a decision she ever really made, more like a side effect of the resolution and felt disappointingly passive.
I’m sorry, let me take a step back, I’m not trying to throw blame around, we’re both at fault. I wanted you to be something you’re not, you deserve someone who will get wrapped up in your romance, it’s the bulk of your substance. I am not that person. As much as I like the idea of soulmates, I think it’s weird when people actually call each other that.
Maybe one day I’ll feel differently. Until then, I hope we can still be friends.
This review also appears on Cuddlebuggery.
The epic conclusion to the USA Today bestselling trilogy.
The horde is coming.
Salvation is surrounded, monsters at the gates, and this time, they're not going away. When Deuce, Fade, Stalker and Tegan set out, the odds are against them. But the odds have been stacked against Deuce from the moment she was born. She might not be a Huntress anymore, but she doesn't run. With her knives in hand and her companions at her side, she will not falter, whether fighting for her life or Fade's love.
Ahead, the battle of a lifetime awaits. Freaks are everywhere, attacking settlements, setting up scouts, perimeters, and patrols. There hasn't been a war like this in centuries, and humans have forgotten how to stand and fight. Unless Deuce can lead them.
This time, however, more than the fate of a single enclave or outpost hangs in the balance. This time, Deuce carries the banner for the survival of all humanity.
To any authors trying to figure out how to end their series, I advise you to talk to Ann Aguirre because that lady knows what she’s doing. If I had to sum up my feelings in a gif, it would be this:
I imagine Horde feels similar to a satisfying run. (As I am the kind of person that goes out of her way to avoid that sort of activity, I wouldn’t know firsthand but I’ve read about it.) Your adrenaline’s up and your blood is pumping, you’re in that magic zone where everything’s a rush and you haven’t started to feel the fatigue. It has all of the best bits of the previous Razorland books (action, danger that feels real, character growth and subtle, heartwarming feels) minus the self-righteous assholes running around saying the monsters will eat you if girls wear pants.
Deuce continues to be, hands down, one of my favorite YA Heroines. She is the most kickass of the kickass females and my number one draft pick for my zombiepocalypse team. (To hell with fantasy football, can we make fantasy apocalypse teams a thing?)
She is the definition of never gives up, whether it’s a fight or a personal problem. She’s not perfect, she fails from time to time, but she never stays down for long before she’s up and trying a different approach. She never lets other people influence how she feels about anything. The way she calls everything exactly how she (sensibly) sees it is an incredibly welcome breath of fresh air.
One of the lovely things about Horde, and really the Razorland trilogy, is how little time Ann Aguirre wastes on pointless drama. This isn’t to say there isn’t any, that would be unrealistic, but what drama there is she wraps up in a timely fashion. The characters don’t need invented personal problems when they are constantly running and/or fighting for their lives and I like that they are, for the most part, rational enough to realize this.
Besides, why waste time on personal drama when there’s fights to the death to be had? If you’ve made it this far in the Razorland trilogy, then you know violence and gore are a major part of this world. It is a dangerous, unforgiving future this cast has found itself in, very much the strong survive and each book has amplified that conflict a little bit more. Ann Aguirre does not skimp on the action-packed fight sequences. Maybe this comes from being raised on Buffy the Vampire Slayer with an appreciation for martial arts, but I do so love a good fight scene and this book delivers in spades. I picture Deuce and Fade fighting back to back and imagine poetry in motion, a kind of capoeta-like dance I wish I could see in real life.
Speaking of Deuce and Fade,
I ship it.
Their relationship is a thing of beauty. Their mutual respect and trust warms my heart. When they fight, they fight about things that matter and do so with the understanding that they’ll work it out and be stronger for it. If you guys haven’t picked up on this yet, I HATE petty personal drama, especially in survival scenarios.
As amazing and satisfying as Horde is, it is not a perfect book. There’s a lot of going in circles as the characters prepare for the final conflict and it dragged a bit in the middle. The much-appreciated straightforwardness sometimes crosses the line into blunt and awkward. That said, these qualms are relatively minor and didn’t get in the way of my overall enjoyment.
This trilogy isn’t for everyone, the world Ann Aguirre has created is harsh and uncompromising and, especially in earlier books, the characters don’t always make good choices. One of the things I like so much is how Aguirre builds on that. She seems to be saying that we can be more than we’re taught to be, everyone makes mistakes and can grow and change beyond them. Our faults and limitations don’t have to define us and we can all become better people if we care to.
If you haven’t read Enclave or Outpost and are looking for a new series, I highly recommend this one. It’s grim and dark in a way dystopian zombie futures should be contrasted by bright moments of hope and love. It’s exciting, action-packed while still being thought-provoking. The romance is beautiful and realistic without ever overshadowing the plot. I can sit here all day and list enticing adjectives,
But that’s going to get old after awhile so just trust me and check it out.
This review also appears on Cuddlebuggery.
A decade in the future, humanity thrives in the absence of sickness and disease.
We owe our good health to a humble parasite - a genetically engineered tapeworm developed by the pioneering SymboGen Corporation. When implanted, the tapeworm protects us from illness, boosts our immune system - even secretes designer drugs. It's been successful beyond the scientists' wildest dreams. Now, years on, almost every human being has a SymboGen tapeworm living within them.
But these parasites are getting restless. They want their own lives...and will do anything to get them.
I was incredibly nervous about reading Parasite. Not because it was a supremely creepy subject matter (anything having to do with the inner workings of the human body makes my palms sweat) but because I love Mira Grant’s previous work so, so very much, if this book was anything short of amazing I was going to go cry myself to sleep in a gallon of ice cream.
I’m pleased to report that while not as unbelievably fantastic as Feed, (take this with a grain of salt, if we’ve ever talked at all you may have noticed that I am a huge, unapologetic Newsflesh trilogy fangirl and I strongly recommend starting there if you want to get an idea of the damage Mira Grant can do with your nervous system) Parasite was an intense, horrifying look at where society’s quest to tinker with everything we can get our hands on could lead.
The thing that makes this book so damn scary is how possible it all is. Mira Grant intersperses the chapters with clips from interviews, articles, case studies and lab notes (the earliest of which are dated 2015) that slowly reveal how a medical R&D company called SymboGen initially developed a parasitic intestinal implant to replace medications and regulate chronic conditions and then convinced the world’s population to embrace it.
A number of you are probably rolling your eyes and scoffing. Thinking things like: That’s ludicrous, I would never knowingly allow someone to stick a genetically engineered tapeworm in my gut, ’tis laughable. To which I say, are you sure? I hate to break it to you folks, it’s one of those unpalatable truths that we try to ignore, but people can be convinced of damn near anything given enough time and the right combination of soothing words said in a confident and trustworthy manner.
Don’t believe me? There’s a myriad of available examples of this phenomenon. Let’s look at Lasik surgery. It has become a completely commonplace procedure, considered so minor you can get it done one day and be back at work the next, but when you really think about it, it’s freaky as hell (skip ahead if you’re squeamish.) While the patient is awake and aware, doctors slice an opening in your eyeball and shave tissue off of your optical nerve by shooting lasers into your pupil. If they are off by a fraction of a millimeter, best case scenario: goodbye clear vision, hello migraines for life. But hey, everyone does it, it’s totally safe, no big deal. I’ll bet by the time 2027 (the time frame for this book) rolls around, there will be something equally as mind-boggling as parasite pills being peddled as the medical marvel of our time and we’ll all be saying ‘yes please’ without knowing exactly what we’re asking for.
And that’s what makes Mira Grant so brilliant and terrifying. She knows enough about human nature and scientific progress to recognize that the possibilities for disaster are huge. In the words of the main character’s boyfriend, Nathan:
“Science doesn't always play nicely with the other children.”
The main character, Sal, is dealing with a writhing mass of issues I can’t even begin to imagine. When the story opens, Sally Mitchell lies comatose in the hospital following a massive car wreck that left her brain-dead and unlikely to ever wake up. But then, miraculously, she does! (Completely thanks to her miracle parasite, SymboGen is quick to claim because hey! why let a young woman’s near death experience and resulting trauma get in the way of an excellent PR opportunity?) The thing is, she remembers nothing from before the accident. Like, nothing nothing. The kind of nothing that means she needs to relearn everything, from how to walk, how to talk all the way to it’s not polite to drop trou and pee in front of a room full of people.
After establishing Sal’s situation, the plot jumps ahead 6 years. The reborn version of Sally Mitchell is slowly trying to claim her own identity independent from the previous self she still has absolutely no recollection of being. While I could see her sporadic childishness getting a little annoying, I thought it made sense. Wouldn’t you be a tad belligerent if you were surrounded by a bunch of people either trying to use you for their own mysterious means or anxiously watching and waiting for the person you used to be to reemerge? The exception to this being the aforementioned Nathan, her charming, adorable boyfriend. Sal and Nathan make an excellent team and it’s refreshing to see an existing, stable relationship in play.
The other characters fantastic, I would expect nothing less from Mira Grant. She has this incredible ability to write people who are so vibrantly alive, you instantly develop feelings about them. For real though, if anyone wants to write some Tansy/Sherman fic, I will read it. I also greatly appreciate the diversity, we have a healthy mix of races and sexualities, all casually depicted as though non-straight, non-white people are a thing that happens in everyday life (sarcasm in that last bit, if it wasn’t clear.)
Where the Newsflesh trilogy stabs you in the face with brutal emotion, Parasite has it’s own kind of creeping horror. The tension slowly builds as the plot twists and turns its way to an all-hell-is-breaking-loose-and-oh-shit-are-those-zombies? conclusion that has me frantic for the next book. Though a number of those twists took me by surprise, the big final reveal wasn’t a total shock. It makes me wonder if Mira Grant intended for the reader to see it coming, causing them to experience the characters’ growing dread and denial for themselves because believe me when I say, if she wants to surprise you, she will.
Bottom line, read Parasite. It’s exciting, informative, well-written and deep without being obnoxiously heavy-handed about it. The subject matter and release date make it an excellent Halloween read. I know it’s unfair to judge a book by the previous and unrelated works of the author, so I’ve tried very hard to look at Parasite for what it is, which is a promising first half to what is sure to be an excellent duology. It delivered most of what I hoped it would and I’m very glad about that because drowning my sorrows in more frozen dairy than the human body is meant to absorb is a good way to make sure I feel like hell the next day.
This review also appears on Cuddlebuggery.
One choice will define you.
What if your whole world was a lie?
What if a single revelation—like a single choice—changed everything?
What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected?
The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.
But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.
Told from a riveting dual perspective, Allegiant, by #1 New York Times best-selling author Veronica Roth, brings the Divergent series to a powerful conclusion while revealing the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of readers in Divergent and Insurgent.
So, this book happened.
(Nathan Fillion sums up my feelings exactly)
You know the phrase ‘be careful what you wish for?’ It should have been the tagline, but I don’t mean that in the way you might think. I imagine you have questions, so I am going to pretend I know what they are and answer them. ONWARD!
Dual POV! How could it not be awesome with dual Tris/Four* POV?
Yes, technically it was dual POV, but Four’s voice is basically identical to Tris’. Without the chapter headers, I don’t think I would’ve been able to tell them apart. As far as I can see, the only point to having dual POV is so you can see what’s going on when Tris isn’t in the room. Supposedly (according to Veronica Roth) Four’s more of a sharer but I didn’t really see it.
*I continue to think of Tobias as Four because the name Tobias makes me picture furry bald men in denim short shorts (thank you Arrested Development.)
But you’re in Four’s head, how can that not be magically delicious? Don’t you fall even more in love with him?
Um, no. Quite the opposite, in fact. You know how in Insurgent Tris was all mopey and suicidal, running around making dumb, impulsive decisions? Four’s kind of like that. His character seems to do a complete 180 from the tough, insightful, bad ass guy he was initially presented as in Divergent and it was incredibly disappointing because I don’t understand why. Remember how his whole thing was that he didn’t want to be defined by the faction system? He wanted the freedom to be who he was and not force himself into someone else’s definition of who that should be? Turns out all you have to do is tell him he’s damaged and back it up with official looking paperwork and he folds like a soggy napkin and spends half the book running around like a moron. It seemed completely out of character in the worst way.
That’s disappointing. What about Tris? She’s back to kicking ass right? That whole mopey thing wasn’t working for her either.
This is true, and mopey Tris is a thing of the past. However, it’s kind of like in her rush to portray Tris as awesomesauce on toast, Veronica Roth forgot to back it up with reasons. At some point Tris apparently picked up this super human level of intuition and is now incapable of being wrong for more than half a page. At one point she gets in this huge fight with Four because she thinks they should do one thing (with no kind of factual reasoning, just gut instinct and the surety that she’s always right) and he disagrees. Then things blow up and Tris was right all along and basically throws a fit of ‘I told you so’ using ‘you should have listened to me because you didn’t before and I was right then just like I was right now’ as her cornerstone argument. Here’s the thing about being right in the past, by itself all it means is that you were right in the past. Yes, maybe this should give people a reason to listen to you, but if you can’t support your arguments with any kind of evidence beyond ‘I’m right, dammit’ and a foot stomp then you can’t blame them for not listening to you. She backs everything up with the equivalent of ‘because I just know’ and it gets old, quick.
But she’s divergent, that’s more or less superpowers. Isn’t that enough to make her a worthy leader?
Hahahaha. Yeah, about that, it turns out Divergent doesn’t really mean what we thought it meant and I’ll leave you to decide how you feel about the reality of it. Personally, I thought it ended up being pretty pointless.
Ok, well, what about the other characters? The remaining gang’s all there right? Christina, Zeke, Uriah, Cara, Peter, etc?
Ummmmm, yes, they are, in fact, characters present in the book. But, much like Four’s POV, I can’t really see the point. It’s like the only purpose they serve is doing what they’re told and being there for Tris and Four to have conversations with so they (Tris and Four) can come to internal realizations. Peter is especially frustrating because, once again, he shows signs of having the potential to be an interesting character but it never amounts to anything. Christina is back to being Tris’ lackey (although I forgive her because she comes through at the end of the book,) Zeke is barely there and don’t even talk to me about Uriah. I like that Cara’s part of the group now, but again, why bother?
Right, so, characters are not a thing, but this is the third book, the characters have been developed, this is all about the action right?
Well, yes. There is a lot of action. So much action that it feels like you’re just being thrown from one calamity to the next with just enough pause in between for Tris and Four to fight and/or make out. It’s tiring.
Make outs! There are make outs! At least there’s that, gotta love some Four/Tris action!
Yes, there is a bunch of making out. I do appreciate the continued lack of triangles and that this trilogy is one of few series that shows couples working through their petty drama in a functional and semi-realistic way. I like that Veronica Roth takes the time to point out that relationships aren’t always easy and sometimes you have to choose to be with another person despite a whole bunch of crap, but, for me, Tris’ character assassination in Insurgent and then Four’s in Allegiant has taken some of the magic out of this ship.
*sigh* I’m getting discouraged. Let me guess, outside of the wall was a let down as well?
Yup! I didn’t think it would be possible for me to actually appreciate the faction world but good god, can we go back to that? Veronica Roth is making an important point about the stupid reasons people find to judge one another, but she’s making it by smacking you in the face repeatedly with the Shovel of Metaphor (read that as though Charlton Heston is saying it using his God voice.) It manages to be overdone and somehow still unclear all at the same time. The outside world is filled with the same, narrow-minded people making the same short-sighted decisions, attempting to correct complex problems. If you hoped that leaving the city would add something to the story, let go of that hope now, it only serves as a change of scenery while our intrepid heroes deal with more of the same.
What about the end? I’ve heard rumblings around the fandom and I’m nervous.
From what I can tell, I am one of few that are actually good with the end. If you look back, you can clearly see that the whole trilogy was building up to this and I appreciate that sort of thoughtful, deliberate plot weaving. Veronica Roth did a hard thing and I admire her bravery because she had to know going in people were going to be mad as all hell. Truthfully, the ending was my favorite part of the book.
So, what’s the verdict? Is it worth reading?
If you liked the first two, this is absolutely worth reading (or, alternatively, if you hated them and want to do a hate read, you will find plenty of fodder.) I think part of my problem is Divergent was one of the first books I read when getting back into YA and at the time I thought it was the bee’s knees. Since then I have read a whole bunch of YA and come to realize that there are many books out there that I like a lot more. Up until the end I was considering giving Allegiant two stars (I was so fed up you guys, you don’t even know) but the last couple chapters made me reconsider. Veronica Roth did a brave thing and (IMO) it was the right thing and that’s completely worth an extra star.
So there you have it.
Can’t say it better than that.
This review also appears on Cuddlebuggery.
Before: Reena Montero has loved Sawyer LeGrande for as long as she can remember: as natural as breathing, as endless as time. But he’s never seemed to notice that Reena even exists…until one day, impossibly, he does. Reena and Sawyer fall in messy, complicated love. But then Sawyer disappears from their humid Florida town without a word, leaving a devastated—and pregnant—Reena behind.
After: Almost three years have passed, and there’s a new love in Reena’s life: her daughter, Hannah. Reena’s gotten used to being without Sawyer, and she’s finally getting the hang of this strange, unexpected life. But just as swiftly and suddenly as he disappeared, Sawyer turns up again. Reena doesn’t want anything to do with him, though she’d be lying if she said Sawyer’s being back wasn’t stirring something in her. After everything that’s happened, can Reena really let herself love Sawyer LeGrande again?
In this breathtaking debut, Katie Cotugno weaves together the story of one couple falling in love—twice.
Before I begin, a hearty THANK YOU to Christina over at A Reader of Fictions who sent me with this book.
How to Love made me me feel the whole rainbow of feels, Katie Cotugno’s writing is gorgeous. She captures the poignant details of a moment with prose that reads like poetry and wraps itself around your heart, tugging it back and forth.
"The hideous thing is this: I want to forgive him. Even after everything, I do. A baby before my seventeenth birthday and a future as lonely as the surface of the moon and still the sight of him feels like a homecoming, like a song I used to know but somehow forgot."
Don’t lie, that gave you feels.
The story is told in alternating timelines that work like chocolate and peanut butter. Before tells the story of how Reena and Sawyer fell in love and the After shows Sawyer’s return and the shockwaves he sends through the life Reena put together in his wake. This sets up an incredible amount of reader tension, you see how sweet they were but always know it’s going to go horribly wrong. It kept me on the edge of my seat, wondering how everything was going to unfold, desperately flipping pages to find out.
Reena is a fantastic character. She’s smart, funny and tragic in a way that’s wistful as opposed to martyred. BeforeReena is a shy, slightly naive overachiever on track to graduate early and dreaming of the day she can head off into the world. AfterReena has become skittish and guarded, and turned her focus to creating a life for herself and her daughter. I loved that while she has an undeniable weakness for Sawyer, she doesn’t excuse and forgive him. She sticks to her guns and doesn’t let him forget that he screwed up (well, mostly, but everyone’s allowed a slip or two, right?)
Sawyer, on the other hand, is a hot mess. Initially portrayed as an enigma, as the story goes on you come to realize that he’s a troubled kid with mad parental issues. It’s annoying that you never really find out why beyond the standard ‘my parents don’t think I’m good enough’ sort of deal, but this isn’t ultimately his story, so I’ll let it go. AfterSawyer is all about redemption. While he never quite reaches an appropriate level of remorse, he’s working to prove he is a changed and worthy person.
The other characters are mostly bit players, but that doesn’t stop them from seeming like real people wandering in and out of the book. Shelby is hands down my favorite. She’s the snarky, no-nonsense best friend who stands in as the voice of reason when Reena gets dragged into Sawyer’s orbit and I wish she were real so I could stalk her into hanging out with me. Favorite quote:
“What about you, Sawyer? Can I offer you a strong alcoholic beverage to help take the edge off of being yourself?”
Their daughter, Hannah, isn’t a huge presence in the book which is a little strange looking back on it because it seems like she should be an enormous part of the plot. I like that she’s not, she could easily be a fall back plot device but the way Cotugno does it is far more layered. While Hannah’s a big part of the picture, the real story is about Reena’s emotional journey, accepting the past and beginning to hope for the future.
Tl;dr: How To Love is thoughtful, sad, and beautiful, absolutely worth checking out if that’s your sort of thing. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go obsessively search Katie Cortugo’s blog for any mention of WIPs.
They called it the Thorn Hill Massacre—the brutal attack on a once-thriving Weir community. Though Jonah Kinlock lived through it, he did not emerge unscathed: like the other survivors, Jonah possesses unique magical gifts that set him apart from members of the mainline guilds. At seventeen, Jonah has become the deadliest assassin in Nightshade, a global network that hunts the undead. He is being groomed to succeed Gabriel Mandrake, the sorcerer, philanthropist, and ruthless music promoter who established the Thorn Hill Foundation, the public face of Nightshade. More and more, Jonah’s at odds with Gabriel’s tactics and choice of targets. Desperate to help his dying brother Kenzie, Jonah opens doors that Gabriel prefers to keep closed.
Emma Claire Greenwood grew up worlds away, raised by a grandfather who taught her music rather than magic. An unschooled wild child, she runs the streets until the night she finds her grandfather dying, gripping a note warning Emma that she might be in danger. The clue he leaves behind leads Emma into Jonah’s life—and a shared legacy of secrets and lingering questions.
Was Thorn Hill really a peaceful commune? Or was it, as the Wizard Guild claims, a hotbed of underguild terrorists? The Wizards’ suspicions grow when members of the mainline guilds start turning up dead. They blame Madison Moss and the Interguild Council, threatening the fragile peace brokered at Trinity.
Racing against time, Jonah and Emma work to uncover the truth about Thorn Hill, amid growing suspicion that whoever planned the Thorn Hill Massacre might strike again.
Pop culture is my native language, so let me break it down for you like this: The Enchanter Heir is basically X Men populated with Tolkienesque characters, running around playing an urban Parkour version of Clue. The plot is a multilayered political murder mystery. Everyone seems to have a different agenda and is playing their cards close to their chests. You have ambiguous villainous types, luthiers (guitar-makers, yay for learning new words,) zombie ghosts and a ninja assassin strike team operating out of a boarding school.
Doesn't this looks awesome?
You should know going in that this is a reboot of a trilogy and though it’s helpful to have read the previous books, it’s not totally necessary. Cinda Williams Chima recovers the important facts, so don’t be afraid to dive in. Unless you’re nuts about spoilers, because it will reveal how some of the plot-lines were tied up. For those of you looking for a refresher, Cinda has a pretty helpful guide to the series on her website.
Cinda has a knack for making her worlds come alive and The Enchanter Heir is no exception. The book is set in Cleveland (C-towwwn! It’s my hometown, I can say things like that) and she works the grungy, midwestern, post-industrial vibe like a native. Much of this book is set in the Flats, an area that I often refer to as a Scooby-Doo ghost town and the perfect setting for an urban fantasy. After reading this book, I could not 100% guarantee you that there aren’t secret evil-fighting commandos operating out of the area, that’s how convincing she is.
Sidebar, my personal favorite part was this quote:
Jonah scarcely remembered the drive from Cleveland Heights to downtown…just that it seemed to take forever and cars kept getting in his way.
In the middle of a tense scene, Cinda Williams Chima takes a moment to side swipe Cleveland drivers. Having had my blood pressure driven higher than it was ever meant to go by the East side suburb to city center commute, it tickles me that she would take the time to call that out.
Though Jonah and Emma aren’t my favorite of Cinda’s characters, they banter like champs so I’ll mostly forgive them their flaws. They’re both a bit of a conundrum. On the one hand, Emma is fantastic. She takes care of her business and runs around refusing to take BS from anyone. On the other, she’s completely in the dark on a lot of what’s going on and makes a couple of questionable moves that don’t seem in line with how she claims to operate.
Jonah’s no different. He’s a tortured hero type with the power to kill with a touch and an empath on top of that. This makes him understandably standoffish but he’s still hard to get a read on. He definitely hates his power and the fact that it doesn’t allow him to get close, but he has zero problem using it as means of extricating himself from sticky situations. He also has an annoying tendency to leap to conclusions when it comes to whodunit and it’s going to get him in serious trouble, especially when combined with his favorite problem solving method.
The only major downside to The Enchanter Heir is that it is very much a first book. All of the things are introduced, plots set in motion, epicness is set up and then BAM. OVER. It is entirely possible this wouldn’t have bothered me as much as it did if the last three pages hadn’t thrown out a terrible cliff hanger. (It’s not technically a cliffhanger, no one’s hanging from a cliff in mortal peril, but everything abruptly went to hell and it feels metaphorically cliff-like all things considered.) It left me feeling like the book was mostly foreplay with an underwhelming climax and it’s a tad frustrating when that happens, amirite?
Reading this book is kind of like watching Pirates of the Caribbean, (the first one, before they got complicated and weird) there isn’t a whole lot to it but you get swept up in the adventure before you know what’s happening and end up totally immersed and enjoying yourself.
There’s never the wrong time for a gratuitous Johnny Depp gif.
P.S. In between writing and posting this review, I got to meet Cinda. She is super nice, hilarious and generally fantastic. She says she’s sorry about the ending but never fear, she’s working on the next installment and it’ll be out Fall 2014. Also, to all the doubters, there absolutely are salt mines underneath Lake Erie. Go buy her books because I want her to keep writing forever.
This review also appears on Cuddlebuggery.
The moral: read a book. (And I'd like to say "exercise some discretion in who you listen to", but I won't.)
A proud non-reader of books huh...
Well I guess that's why he and Kim thought North West would be a good baby name...
In the words of Tyrion, The (p)Imp "A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge."
Gwyneth Shepherd's sophisticated, beautiful cousin Charlotte has been prepared her entire life for traveling through time. But unexpectedly, it is Gwyneth, who in the middle of class takes a sudden spin to a different era!
Gwyneth must now unearth the mystery of why her mother would lie about her birth date to ward off suspicion about her ability, brush up on her history, and work with Gideon--the time traveler from a similarly gifted family that passes the gene through its male line, and whose presence becomes, in time, less insufferable and more essential. Together, Gwyneth and Gideon journey through time to discover who, in the 18th century and in contemporary London, they can trust.
I’m sorry you guys but I did not like this book. I tried, I really did. It came highly recommended and I went in with a good attitude but the best intentions in the world wouldn't have been enough to make Ruby Red work for me.
I found Ruby Red to be incredibly frustrating. The plot felt like something straight out of the Fast and the Furious school of writing, i.e. we need something to happen! Quick, insert a shoddily constructed plot device! The twists were obvious, I’m 99.9% sure I’d figured out what seems intended to be a major plot reveal later in the series by the end of the first chapter. I kept finding myself spacing out for entire pages, a bad enough sign by itself, but then it didn't even matter because anything of significance was repeated over and over again just in case the reader failed to miss its importance the first, second and third times whatever it was came up.
Most of the characters were flat, one dimensional stock versions of people. They all have one defining trait and work it relentlessly all the way through the book. Best friend Lesley is keen, cousin Charlotte is snooty, Aunt Glenda is bitchy, Gwen’s mother is vague, Dr. White is a total assface, etc.
Gwen and Gideon weren't any better. Maybe I've read a few too many mushy YA books, but I thought the romance was completely formulaic. There was a hate/love dynamic in the beginning, but the hate wasn't particularly hateful and so it only seemed like a waste of time. From the moment Gwen’s all ‘ooh, he’s attractive, but such an arrogant ass’ you know exactly where its going to go. Within a chapter he will call her a stupid child or the equivalent (he did), she’s going to tell herself she doesn't care because he sucks but then continually notice how hot and awesome he is (she did), he will probably express nicer feelings toward someone else, showing that he’s actually a good guy, just not to Gwen (he did) and blah blah blah, ZZZZZZZZ.
My biggest problem, however, was the time travel. This is not a good book for people who like their time travel to be anything other than a thinly veiled plot vehicle. Or explained. At all. It started off promising, the idea that the ability to time travel is in your DNA sounds super interesting right? What a unique approach, how does that work? Well, there’s a jeweled clock and if you carry the gene, you put your blood in the clock and poof! Off you go!
Say what now? Personally, I prefer a little less fluff and more stuff (ha!) in my sci fi.
There were contradictions all over the place. For example, they (the shadowy time travel secret society) stress how important it is to not upset the continuum (the natural flow of events) which makes sense, right? Any time travel scenario is incomplete without addressing the dangers of paradoxes. But it’s totally cool for Gideon to pop back in time and tell the head of the time travel club about this major betrayal that’s going to screw up all of his plans and that the responsible parties got away with it because no one thought they would do such a thing. Except now everyone knows they would do such a thing 200 years before they do it. I don’t know which is more upsetting, the part where they blatantly broke their own rules about doing anything that could affect the natural flow of events by saying something or the fact that nobody does anything with this highly useful information. They don’t even say ‘it’s a damn shame we can’t do anything to prevent this because of the continuum.’ (It really says something about this book that such an obvious line wouldn't have stuck out.) They’re just like ‘Ugh, I can’t believe that’s going to happen, how annoying and unfortunate. Let’s have tea!’
I’m giving Ruby Red two stars because I can see it’s potential and the rest of the series may pick up (in the last few chapters it seemed like something interesting was finally going to happen but then the book abruptly ended.) Unfortunately, I didn't connect even a little bit and I don’t see myself continuing. It’s too bad, I wish I did like it, my natural state is fangirlish enthusiasm, so this has left me extremely out of sorts. But you know what they say, if wishes were horses…actually I have no idea how that’s supposed to end. We’d all get hit with a rampaging herd of Palominos every time we wanted anything? Maybe it’s for the best then that wishes aren't horses.
A masterful, twisted tale of ambition, jealousy, betrayal, and superpowers, set in a near-future world.
Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.
Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?
In Vicious, V. E. Schwab brings to life a gritty comic-book-style world in vivid prose: a world where gaining superpowers doesn’t automatically lead to heroism, and a time when allegiances are called into question.
Whaaaaaat did I just read? What was that? You guys, Vicious is fascinating. It's like a Rubik’s cube and a graphic novel had an illicit affair and this is their love child.
It has been a long time since I've read a book that has made me feel as mentally engaged on so many levels. I don’t even know where to begin breaking the book down. On the surface you have the obvious comic book trope: crime-fighting hero matched against the villain, his personal nemesis. Former friends turned enemies as the result of a dramatic series of events that left someone dead, one man with a mission and another man with a one way ticket to prison, both of them with superpowers. It's impossible to describe without sounding overly dramatic.
Don’t mistake my meaning here, the tropes worked for this book. Probably because Victoria Schwab intentionally introduces them and then immediately throws them out the window. What if the hero wasn't really the hero? What if the villain only appeared to be the villain because he was trying to take down the guy everyone thinks of as the hero? (Confused yet? But, wait! There’s more!)
The paper called Eli a hero.
The word made Victor laugh. Not just because it was absurd, but because it posed a question. If Eli really was the hero, and Victor was meant to stop him, did that make him a villain?
When the book opened with Victor’s POV and from the moment I realized that he was supposed to play the villain, I was hooked. A misunderstood villain! An antihero! I love antiheroes! Done well, they are amazing character studies and there are few things I love more than a good, complicated onion of a character. But then, just when you’re settling into the book, thinking things like 'he’s not really a villain, just misunderstood by the world at large but with a secret warm, squishy center’ Schwab flips things around on you again.
You see, Victor Vale is undeniably a sociopath and you can’t totally bring yourself to sympathize with him. Even though Victor is doing the things the good guy would do, he is doing them for all the wrong reasons. Example, Victor doesn't kill people, not because he thinks killing is wrong, but because he doesn't want to deal with the mess and complications that follow killing another human being. He recognizes that other people don’t go around murdering each other because that would be wrong, but for him it comes down to not wanting the trouble. Coldly precise logic and questionable morals, that’s Victor in a nutshell.
“I don’t think you’re a bad person, Victor.”
Victor kept digging. “It’s all a matter of perspective.”
There are many themes explored, but the biggest one is the significance of perspective. Through a combination of rotating POVs (love!) and flashbacks (initially disorienting, but quickly became awesome), you realize that each of the main characters have layers upon contradicting layers. Eli, the hero/villain/I don’t even know, is also a sociopath but of the mass murdering variety. However, he has convinced himself that he is on a sacred mission sanctioned by God. Serena, the hero’s gal Friday, is a riddle. One moment cold, the next pitifully broken, full of self-loathing with a general apathy for life. Mitch and Sydney, the villain’s muscle and girl sidekick respectively, serve as Victor’s Jiminy Crickets, and are probably the closest thing this story has to actual good guys. But they don't comfortably fit in that box because they go along with Victor’s more nefarious schemes, they just have the decency to feel conflicted about it.
While Vicious is very much a character driven novel, the rest of the book does not disappoint. The science is well reasoned and theoretically possible. (SHUT UP IT IS TOTALLY LEGIT THAT WE COULD HAVE SUPERPOWERS WHAT DO YOU KNOW ANYWAY?) The writing is atmospheric with a touch of dry humor with unexpectedly charming and quirky touches (notes! masks!) The slow-burn plot is complex and builds to an explosive showdown. This book has all the things.
“You’re the hero…,” she said, finding his eyes, “...of your own story, anyway.”
This is the message at the heart of the book. Heroes and villains aren't necessarily that different depending on how you're looking at the situation.
Vicious is a seriously interesting, thought-provoking read. I highly, highly recommend it for fans of Breaking Bad, Dexter, Watchmen, The Dark Knight, etc. Basically anything that examines the human nature from every side, flaws and all, emphasis on flaws. If these sound like appealing concepts to ponder, this book is for you.
This review also appears on Cuddlebuggery.
It's been several generations since a genetic experiment gone wrong caused the Reduction, decimating humanity and giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.
Elliot North has always known her place in this world. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family's estate over love. Since then the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress, and Elliot's estate is foundering, forcing her to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth--an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliot wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she let him go.
But Elliot soon discovers her old friend carries a secret--one that could change their society . . . or bring it to its knees. And again, she's faced with a choice: cling to what she's been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she's ever loved, even if she's lost him forever.
Inspired by Jane Austen's Persuasion, For Darkness Shows the Stars is a breathtaking romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it.
WHY DID I WAIT SO LONG TO READ THIS BOOK?! YOU GUYS! THIS BOOK!
This book gave me all the feels. Seriously, all of them.
You know what, let me just get this out of my system:
Ok, where were we?
There were parts of this book where my bones hurt, it was so intense. Full on shallow breathing, hand on my heart, ‘let me take to my fainting couch because I am light headed with feels’ intensity but in the absolute most bestest way there is.
I don’t really know if I can give any kind of analytic review because a lot of this book is definitely dependent on how you feel about Kai and Elliot and, not gonna lie, I shipped them. I shipped them hard.
I was charmed from the first letter Elliot wrote Kai when they were six. I don’t know what it is about childhood pen pals, but they just get to me. Something about the simple, staccato sentences and the innocently expressed sentiments just got me all gooey inside, so I was on their side from page one and my love (ok, obsession) just grew from there. And then the juxtaposition of their past and present relationship killed me.
I adore Elliot, she is absolutely amazing. She cares so much for everyone around her, sacrificing her happiness and dreams at every turn with grace and poise to make sure that everyone she is responsible for is taken care of to the best of her ability. Often this kind of passive character behavior drives me up the wall, but Elliot pulls it off in a way that made me love her more.
Kai is a little harder to get a read on, at times I wanted to smack him, he was just so mean to Elliot. But it was so painfully clear that he was incredibly hurt by what had happened between them and the world at large that I couldn't hold on to my anger. I also sympathize more with Kai’s view of the world which may have helped me not give up on him when he was acting particularly stupid.
“They hadn't been made for each other at all—quite the opposite. But they’d grown together, the two of them, until they were like two trees from a single trunk, stronger together than either could have been alone.”
The writing is beautiful, at times matter of fact and at others poetic. I haven’t read Persuasion (I know, for shame, I’m a bad book person but Persuasion is free on iBooks, so hopefully I can correct this lapse shortly) but I can tell you from the Jane Austen I have read, Diana Peterfreund has the vibe down. In addition to traditional Austen-book features, sharply divided social classes, a love/hate romance, intriguing new neighbors, scoundrel relatives, etc, For Darkness Shows The Stars felt like a Jane Austen novel. The rhythm and flow were spot on. It’s like Peterfreund distilled Austen’s books down to their most essential, intangible bits and applied them to her writing like a glaze or frosting.
The dystopian additions were fabulous as well. Though slow to clearly unfold, I thought the Luddite/Post/Reduced society structure to be a really interesting and the ‘where are we going with all this crazy technology’ debates is one of my favorites.
I loved this book. Like, loved this book (you may not have noticed, I don’t know, I can be kind of subtle.) I can tell you right now this is going to be a go-to reread from this point on and I am eagerly awaiting the release of Across A Star Swept Sea. If you have a passing interest in Jane Austen or merely like breaking your own heart for the thrill of the feelings (don’t judge me) then I highly recommend picking up this book as soon as you can.
This review also appears on Cuddlebuggery.
Free from bonds, but not each other
It’s time to choose sides… On the surface, Sorry-in-the-Vale is a sleepy English town. But Kami Glass knows the truth. Sorry-in-the-Vale is full of magic. In the old days, the Lynburn family ruled with fear, terrifying the people into submission in order to kill for blood and power. Now the Lynburns are back, and Rob Lynburn is gathering sorcerers so that the town can return to the old ways.
But Rob and his followers aren’t the only sorcerers in town. A decision must be made: pay the blood sacrifice, or fight. For Kami, this means more than just choosing between good and evil. With her link to Jared Lynburn severed, she’s now free to love anyone she chooses. But who should that be?
This is an open letter to Sarah Rees Brennan demanding she be held accountable for my feels and I have asked James Van Der Beek here to express them for emphasis.
Do you mind if I call you Sarah? As you have repeatedly done horrible things to my heart, I feel it’s only fair for me to address you as though we’re acquainted.
What. The hell.
You have said before that your goal as a writer is to make your readers feel something. I generally find this to be a worthy, admirable goal and rest assured, you do an incredible job. Unfortunately you seem to have decided somewhere along the way to use your powers for evil and I just don’t understand why.
Untold had me ping-ponging back and forth between laughing out loud, crying my eyes out, frustrated to the point of screaming and at one point, actually hitting myself in the head repeatedly with the book. It was sheer madness. Reading that book was a roller-coaster, flinging my feelings up down and sideways, leaving my nervous system a complete wreck.
What was going on in the beginning? It was like one of those plays where the set is a bunch of little rooms and everyone is running in and out and making out with the wrong people, having conversations where neither party says what they really mean and other assorted mishaps. The number of times two characters were talking about different things but thinking they were having the same conversation was insane. Truly, the mind boggles. Open and honest communication would have done away with at least half of the angst.
I understand from your twitter that you derive some sort of dark and awesome power from the tears and heartbreak of your readers, but what of your characters Sarah? Doesn't it hurt you to torment them this way?
Here’s Kami, this delightful, witty, unicorn of a girl, forced to deal with far more emotional misery than any one person should have to experience. To be fair, much of this is her fault as she has the remarkable (and slightly unbelievable if she wants to be a professional journalist) ability to not see things that are right in front of her.
And then there’s Jared, that poor boy. Without his voice in Kami’s head explaining his actions just he seems like such an asshole so much of the time. I see that this is because he is being an asshole, but at least before I had his perspective and mental voice to assure me he had reasons. Besides, how are you going to let a half-suicidal lunatic run around a novel without someone in his head to watch him at all times? THIS IS IRRESPONSIBLE CHARACTER PARENTING.
I will award you bonus points for the increased presence of Rusty, he is almost as enchanting as Kami. Same goes for Kami’s dad, he is absolutely marvelous and I’m glad to see more of him. However, I take these points away because what the hell is up with Lillian? In a world populated with such bright shiny characters, her single-note, arrogant of the manor routine stuck out like a sore thumb. I know she started to show some semblance of normal human emotion towards the end, but too little too late in my opinion.
And then, just when all of the pain and the anxiety and the unpleasantness had reached such a fevered pitch I was honestly considering giving up (it was my heart, you see, I was very worried about it) you bestowed blessings upon the land. Do you know what I did?
That's right, I cried. Not tears of relief, mind you, but tears of fear and sorrow because I knew, I knew, that this was a Sarah Rees Brennan book and any happiness the characters may find is only the first course to the banquet of emotional destruction ahead.
But oh, if only it were that simple. No, you tricky minx, you played upon my feelings so expertly, drawing them out to the point that I actually had hope, (foolish, I know) that maybe things would work out somehow. I knew it would be horrific, of course, but I could prepare myself for unpleasantness and maybe, just maybe, there would be a few happy things to hold on to as I waited as patiently as I could for Unbroken.
Nope! I was right to be afraid. How could you? That ending. While not quite as painful as Unspoken, it is still horrifying to have watched these lovely (if occasionally aggravating as all hell) characters go through so much and then have it end on that dreadful note. I just want to know, why?
It occurs to me that I may have given you the impression that I didn't like Untold. Let me assure you that is not the case. All the things that made Unspoken so amazing, the creepy, mysterious atmosphere, the wacky characters, ridiculous shenanigans and hilarious dialogue, were all present and accounted for. I loved it in that crazy, conflicted way one loves something that is both fabulous and bad for your health (like Jared). I just also found it to be torturous and cruel.
So here’s to you, Sarah Rees Brennan, goal accomplished.
I hope you’re happy.
You have forcibly shoved me through the full range of human emotion with your terrible, wonderful book. Excuse me while I go off and sit by myself in the corner, waiting for Unbroken, foolishly hoping against all previous evidence that it will somehow come out alright.
To all of you who have patiently waded through my rant, I leave you this delightful and informative quote about honey badgers because, as Kami says, honey badgers are badass:
“Honey badgers are badass,” Kami argued. “The honey badger is the most hardcore of all the animals. They break into beehives and get stung all over. Not because they have to. Just because they think bees are super tasty. Also they have been known to bite the heads off puff adders, collapse from the venom, and wake up from their comas going ‘Hey there, delicious snake.’ That’s how honey badgers roll.”
This review also appears on Cuddlebuggery.
A compelling and inventive novel set in a world where science and magic are at odds, by Robin McKinley, the Newbery-winning author of The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword, as well as the classic titles Beauty, Chalice, Spindle’s End, Pegasus and Sunshine
Maggie knows something’s off about Val, her mom’s new husband. Val is from Oldworld, where they still use magic, and he won’t have any tech in his office-shed behind the house. But—more importantly—what are the huge, horrible, jagged, jumpy shadows following him around? Magic is illegal in Newworld, which is all about science. The magic-carrying gene was disabled two generations ago, back when Maggie’s great-grandmother was a notable magician. But that was a long time ago.
Then Maggie meets Casimir, the most beautiful boy she has ever seen. He’s from Oldworld too—and he’s heard of Maggie’s stepfather, and has a guess about Val’s shadows. Maggie doesn’t want to know . . . until earth-shattering events force her to depend on Val and his shadows. And perhaps on her own heritage.
In this dangerously unstable world, neither science nor magic has the necessary answers, but a truce between them is impossible. And although the two are supposed to be incompatible, Maggie’s discovering the world will need both to survive.
I should start with a disclaimer, I was predisposed to like this book. I adore Robin McKinley, I’ve read Rose Daughter something like fourteen times, it was my go-to comfort read when I was in high school. That said, Shadows was fantastic all over the place. It’s full of patented Robin McKinley magic: extended adoptive family units, a band of (for the most part) animal companions and a lovely, satisfying romance. And magic, did I mention magic? Lots and lots of magic.
Let’s start with the genre. Shadows is a brilliantly strange sort of dystopian/fantasy blend unlike anything I’ve read so far. Dystopians have been all the rage and as many people have noted, they’re starting to feel formulaic and repetitive. Like there’s some sort of machine tucked away in a dusty warehouse cranking out book after book after book. Robin McKinley’s solution is to keep the grungy, totalitarian government setting and atmosphere but fill it with fairytale parts.
Maggie, our intrepid heroine, lives in Newworld, where magic has been surgically removed from society (literally) and science is king. However, there are pockets of magic beneath the fabric of reality that flare up from time to time and it’s still acknowledged and practiced in other parts of the world. Maggie describes her uncle’s job as “protecting people from gaps in reality” and that sentence just tickles me. The world building is so seamlessly integrated into the story, you’ll read what seems like a rambling narrative tangent and at the end of it realize you’ve learned about fifty crucial things.
Speaking of Maggie, she was a thoroughly enjoyable narrator. When the story begins, she’s your average high school girl. She’s still grieving the loss of her father and has a few issues with her new stepfather. She hates math, likes hanging out with her dog, working at an animal shelter and making origami (I love this bit, I’m fascinated by origami.) She’s smart, snarky and fiercely courageous but in a relatable, genuine person sort of way.
The character development isn’t limited to people. Shadows also includes one of my favorite McKinley hallmarks: a delightful gang of animal friends, including a pet algebra book. (Sorry, that could be construed as a mild spoiler, I guess. I like to think of it more as a tantalizing hint. Aren’t you insanely curious now?) Maggie’s dog, Mongo and the other members of The Family, the permanent residents of the animal shelter, all have personalities as clear and individual as Maggie’s human friends and family.
There are so many little details that build Shadows into the intricate tapestry it is. It has a vernacular all of its own. In addition to Newworld specific slang, like dreeping and loophead (which are so fun to say), it’s filled with occasional Japanese words and phrases that Maggie and her friends started using to annoy (or wire) their Japanese friend, Takahiro. I started compiling a list of all the words and their meanings and am left with a strong desire to learn Japanese. The romance is sweet and believable, McKinley is the master of the unexpected romantic twist. I shipped Maggie and her love interest from the first moment he was introduced and did a little victory dance when they got together. Telling you more would involve spoilers, so you’ll just have to read and see.
My only real complaints about the book are that it’s over and there’s no sequel. It could be said that it’s a little unbalanced, there’s so much time spent on the set-up that the climax is almost underwhelming, but it was all such a pleasure to read that it didn't bother me.
All in all, I highly recommend Shadows. It’s a fantastic example of Robin McKinley’s work and if you like it, check out her other stuff (especially if you love fairytales and fairytale retellings.) She gets far less attention than she deserves and you may end up with a few new favorites.
This review also appears on Cuddlebuggery.
The Goddess War begins in Antigoddess, the first installment of the new series by acclaimed author of Anna Dressed in Blood, Kendare Blake.
Old Gods never die…
Or so Athena thought. But then the feathers started sprouting beneath her skin, invading her lungs like a strange cancer, and Hermes showed up with a fever eating away his flesh. So much for living a quiet eternity in perpetual health.
Desperately seeking the cause of their slow, miserable deaths, Athena and Hermes travel the world, gathering allies and discovering enemies both new and old. Their search leads them to Cassandra—an ordinary girl who was once an extraordinary prophetess, protected and loved by a god.
These days, Cassandra doesn't involve herself in the business of gods—in fact, she doesn't even know they exist. But she could be the key in a war that is only just beginning.
Because Hera, the queen of the gods, has aligned herself with other of the ancient Olympians, who are killing off rivals in an attempt to prolong their own lives. But these anti-gods have become corrupted in their desperation to survive, horrific caricatures of their former glory. Athena will need every advantage she can get, because immortals don’t just flicker out.
Every one of them dies in their own way. Some choke on feathers. Others become monsters. All of them rage against their last breath.
The Goddess War is about to begin.
From Goodreads [or That-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named if you prefer]
From the first line, this book is imbued with a sense of urgency that pulls the reader through the story. Gods are going mad and slowly dying, Cassandra’s power of prophecy allows her to see an ambiguous blank spot in her immediate future and enemies are closing in. From the get-go, Kendare Blake has you in her grip and does not relent.
Blake has gift for bringing the creep factor in a major way. Athena’s fate is my new most-horrible-way-to-die. Imagine slowly suffocating to death on feathers sprouting in your lungs, feeling them slowly filling in with every breath you take. At one point, one pops out of her eye. OUT OF HER EYE. Pardon me why I go sit in the corner and shudder for 5 minutes straight.
Blake’s writing style is quite enthralling, it’s blunt but still conveys rich atmosphere, parts of this book are incredibly eerie. She’s fantastic at painting word pictures, I could visualize every part of the book as I read (including some parts I’d rather not.)
One of the most compelling things about Antigoddess is the mythology. I had a thing for Greek history as a kid so when I saw that the author of Anna Dressed In Blood was writing a goddess book, I was so in. I like Blake’s version of what the gods have been up to since ye ole’ days of glory, bumming around the human world and getting really really jaded. Blake has clearly studied up, random bits of knowledge are leaking out of the story at every turn.
Large chunks of the plot involve the Trojan War but you don’t need extensive knowledge, or any knowledge really, to understand what’s happening. Here, I’ll give you the highlights and save you a trip to Wikipedia: the Trojan War centered around the Greeks vs the Trojans. According to myth, it started because Paris of Troy made a snap decision, fueled by his dick, and offended Athena and Hera. Gods got involved, the Spartan queen was kidnapped, Cassandra of Troy tried to warn everyone that this was all going to go horribly wrong and no one believed her, many people died, at some point there was a big wooden horse (the horse wasn't all that relevant to this story but I don’t think you can talk about the Trojan War and leave it out), everything else Blake will either fill you in on or you can google yourself.
I loved Cassandra from the moment we first meet her, charmingly scamming freshmen out of their pocket change by predicting coin tosses with unfailing accuracy. I ended up having very maternal, protective feelings for her (not my usual state of being). She does a 180 over the course of the book, going from slightly naive high schooler to badass prophet and I have to say that though I liked her both ways, she’s a much more interesting presence as the latter.
Athena is a little more difficult to get a read on. She is determined to save her family and that leads her to make some hard, at times brutal, decisions. The way she grapples with her identity as a goddess, what is expected of her due to who she is vs what she’s feeling and who she may want to be given the option, is fascinating.
Another of my favorite things about this book is the juxtaposition of the gods and the mortals’ perspectives. The gods are immortal, they’re seeing the big picture, whereas the mortals are more caught up in the moment to moment immediate circumstance. This theme is subtly (maybe sometimes not so subtly) woven through every interaction between god and human and I love it. From Cassandra’s perspective, Athena is just waltzing in and destroying lives, but from Athena’s POV we know that she is grappling with a previously unthinkable concept, desperate and running out of time so she justifies her actions as the most expedient route from A to B.
Though it doesn't contain any Shamalan-esque twists, the story does cough up a few surprises, some less surprise-y than others. There was one in particular near the end that got me. While it was never outside the realm of possibility, I honestly didn't see it coming and was left staring slack jawed at the page for a few moments before I was able to collect myself and move on.
So with all this awesomeness, why only 3.5 stars?
I have no good answer for that. All I can say is that this book somehow lacks that undefinable extra something that grabs you and makes you squeal. This may very well be a personal thing, if any of the above sounds intriguing to you I definitely recommend giving Antigoddess a shot. It’s a captivating and engaging read, but there was something about it that kept me from getting completely immersed in the story. That said, I am looking forward to continuing the series. I’m excited to see what happens and there is at least one ship I am very much anticipating being explored.
This review also appears on Cuddlebuggery Book Blog: http://cuddlebuggery.com/blog/2013/09/21/review-anigoddess-by-kendare-blake/