Category: Reviews

Aug 14

Book Review: Alice

Books/Writing, Reviews 2

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Cheshire’s fingers, cold and slightly damp, stroked down the scar on her cheek. She swallowed the shudder of revulsion at his touch.

“Yes,” Cheshire said. “He marked you so that he would know you again, and know that you belong to him.”

“I belong to no one,” Alice said.

This is my new fight song. I belong to no one. You better believe it. You do not own me. I may be small, and I may be weak, and I may be frightened, but I belong to no one. Without even knowing the complete context in which that is spoken in this book, doesn’t it make you want to stand up and shout?

Alice is my first Christina Henry book. I already have the sequel, Red Queen, on my bookshelf. I knew I was in it to win it by the time I finished the 3rd chapter of Alice, and so I put away the digital version I had of it, ordered both books, and waited until they arrived to finish. I really thought it might kill me, but it was well worth the wait. Thankfully, Alice doesn’t end in a cliffhanger. The ending is definitely OPEN for future tales, but it’s not one of those OMG WTF cliffhanger endings that seem to be par for the course for a lot of the books I’ve been reading lately. Phew.

Obviously, this is an Alice in Wonderland retelling. However, unlike most retellings of various stories I’ve read, I think you could enjoy this one even without knowing the original! Shocking! Raises the bar, I think. So many retellings depend on our love of the originals to carry over – and often, at least in my case, it does – and make us more accepting or forgiving to the new work.

The story is fairly graphic and sometimes disturbing in its depictions of violence, killing, rape, and abuse. It’s creepy right out of the gate. The world of this Alice is definitely not ours, but it has enough resemblance to raise the hairs on the back of your neck. Alice and her friend Hatcher have been locked away in an insane asylum for years, abused and neglected, barely kept alive – and not entirely sane or insane. Are they innocent? Maybe not entirely. Justified? You have to decide for yourself. I loved the complexity of their struggles, not only to find the Jabberwocky but to figure themselves out. I love Alice, her sheer will in the middle of circumstances that would bring most of us to our knees. I love that she and Hatch are there for each other even when they annoy the daylights out of each other, that when one is weak the other is strong. The best kind of partners. Neither perfect, both so very human and tortured by their own demons.

He [Hatcher] would not stand and argue with Alice when they did not agree, even if she wished to. And she did wish to.

Hatcher always had changeable moods…out here the world was bright and sharp and full of hungry mouths waiting to eat her up. She couldn’t afford Hatcher’s instability, and she wouldn’t leave him either. They were bound together by love and need and other feelings she didn’t entirely understand. 

Despite pretty much nothing going her way – except that she isn’t killed or raped, Alice just keeps going. She and Hatcher both struggle against the effects of what to me is PTSD, as well as the drugs fed them by the hospital. The story may be fantasy but the flashbacks and the horror is not. Henry did an excellent job of portraying the day-to-day struggles of some mental health patients. People who just want to live their normal lives, but have even the most mundane of tasks interrupted by the terrors that live in their brains. I hope people who read this see that, and not just the dark fantasy land.

“I w-want to go h-home,” she said. Her tongue tasted like salt and roses.

“Where’s home, my Alice?” Hatcher said. “Where’s home? We don’t have a home, you and I.”

“Then I want to go back to the hospital,” she said. “We were safe there. Nothing could hurt us…”

“Except the doctors,” Hatcher said…”Theres nowhere for us to go back to. We can go forward. We can find our way out.”

Forward and out.

I gave it 4/5 stars because I really wanted MORE. I felt like more explanation, more backstory, and more tying up of loose ends was needed to really bring the story to closure, especially since the ending wasn’t exactly a cliffhanger. That’s really a small thing, I guess, for as much as I enjoyed the book!

Book Review - Alice

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Aug 12

Book Review: The Hatching

Books/Writing, Reviews 2

Note: Not for the arachnophobic (not just the book, this review). Like, not even slightly. I’m usually fairly chill with spiders – not that I really like them, but I can tolerate them without feeling the need to nuke from orbit – and this book made me attack the next black thread I saw. Ahem.

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THIS, is what strikes terror in my heart. Not the big, google-eyed ones. The little, running, quickly multiplying ones. YEAAAAAGGGHHH!!!!!

Ezekial Boone’s debut novel, The Hatching, did an excellent job of portraying an invasion of spiders. Of large, rapidly multiplying, flesh-eating, aggressive, spiders. Ew. Ack. Like, combine the above gif, with this one:

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Ok, I’m done playing with spider gifs now. The hair on my arms is starting to feel like it’s crawling.

However, that is, honestly, about the only thing this book does well. I’m giving it 3/5 stars because if it hadn’t been for the goosebumps I got at a couple of points (spiders taking over the world, yadda eider), I would have chucked it across the room.

Oh wait. I did do that. Except I picked it up again because I really wanted to know if the spiders succeeded. So, kudos for that. The spider portion was enough to keep me reading.

As far as the rest of the book goes…maybe I am just not used to the horror/sci-fi genre? Maybe characterization and research isn’t so important for this genre? Maybe I have impossibly high standards? I’m not sure. He does a LOT of telling vs. showing, which makes the POV switches just drag on and on and fucking ON.

The the glaring (to me – I have a military background) errors in the portrayal of the United States military left me pulling my hair out. Literally screeching. I had an hour long conversation with my husband (a complete non-reader) about why it’s so very important to make your fictional story believable enough to overcome the reader’s disbelief. For the average reader, Boone probably did ok. To anyone with a military background…how about we just skip those embarrassing chapters which prove that either he a) didn’t research, just watched a few movies and looked up a few models of weapons and vehicles, or b) his research is about 15 years old, give or take. Whatever. Pet peeve. Most likely won’t bother the general population.

There are many, many POVs in this book. At first I was just extremely frustrated, but by the end I think I can see that he was using them to show the global magnitude of this outbreak. I think. There were 11 – count them, ELEVEN – POVs in the first 120 pages. I think that was where it ended. Now, some of them aren’t followed all the way through the book. Some of them are one and done, because, well…spiders. But the majority are kept up in some fashion until the end. As I said, at first I was just EXTREMELY irritated at all the hopping. Then when I finished, I was just EXTREMELY irritated that the stories weren’t finished. Apparently they are so sure of a sequel that it’s ok to just leave a story mid-air. As in every single major line of the story is just – chop. Done. Come back for the sequel, Skitter, next year!

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Like, really?

The story really struggles with characters. I get it, it’s a huge, over-arching world invasion plot. But without your people, no one gives a damn about your world. The characters feel very stereotypical and they’re all obsessed with the sexual appeal of whatever person of the opposite sex wanders next into their line of sight. But even that is just so very blah. Like it’s just what they’re supposed to do so it was scribbled in. There’s a likable FBI (FBI? CIA? I think he was FBI) agent, with a cute little daughter. He was my favorite and we didn’t spend nearly enough time with him.

Boone struggles with making his characters believable, i.e., relatable. Like the fairly normal guy that a has a girlfriend who

…just missed qualifying or the Olympics in the two hundred-meter freestyle, and had worked for a couple of years as a model before deciding to go the medical school. She was also unbelievably nice and thoughtful, the kind of woman who spent her free time volunteering at animal shelters and never passed a homeless person without dropping some money in their cup. All that, and she liked to cook.

Excuse me while I throw up. For so many reasons. Not the least of which is the assumption that to be attractive a woman needs to like to cook. Actually, forget throwing up. Let me skewer you on a damn spatula through your orifice of choice. How. Dare. You. Ok, feminist rant over.

That is probably my biggest issue with the story overall. Because if I can’t relate to your characters on SOME level, I’m not going to care if they get eaten by spiders. Or become spider incubators. Sorry.

Oh…there is a very minor character named Two-Two O’Leary. I’m not joking. Was that supposed to be funny? Who edited this book? Who thought that was a good idea? Did we fall into a wanna-be old western partway through an invasion of 8-legged horrors?

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Even this guy says no.

I’m probably not going back for the sequel, unless it gets really rave reviews. I’ll read the blurbs and consider it but I just don’t think it likely.

 

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Aug 08

Book Review: The Vanishing Throne

Books/Writing, Reviews 0

The long-awaited (er…better not say that too loud, lest George R.R. Martin’s fans take offense) sequel to Elizabeth May’s The Falconer arrived a couple of weeks ago and I’m excited to post this review! I re-read and reviewed The Falconer last week in preparation, as I have a horrible memory and all I could remember of the first book was poisonous thistles, Derrick, and an awful cliffhanger. Haha.

WARNING: Spoilers for the FIRST book!

The girl whose gift is chaos. Death is her burden. Wherever she goes, it follows. They say she can either save the world or end it.

“I will worship thee.”

Aileana fell through the portal she was supposed to be closing, and everything went to hell in a handbasket from there. And not in the fluffy kittens type of way.

She’s kept captive in a room full of mirrors, where the dark faery lordling Lonnrach drains her blood for his own means as he tries to locate the scattered humans of the world, their civilization already decimated by the faery that broke out of the 2,000 year old prison. It’s creepy. The mirrors, and the confusion as she begins to be unable to tell her own memories from those pulled forth by Lonnrach, are creepy. However she’s soon (relative term here) rescued by none other than her faery crush, Kiaran. But wait. It’s not Kiaran…buuuuut it’s sort of Kiaran.

It’s Kiaran’s bad-ass sister, Aithinne, who has bigger balls than any faery male in any realm, hands down. She’s also now my favorite character, both for her heroics and her humanity – yes, I know, how ironic. She has no filter and it’s hysterical. She also is endearingly clueless about 19th century Scotland.

“A dictionary. Is that a type of dessert?”

She spent 2,000 years in an underground prison being tortured by Lonnrach and his cronies, and she simply has no fucks left to give.

As far as I’m concerned, Aileana can just go sit down and leave Aithinne to handle everything. Like, move over. Aileana is just a wanna-be bad ass when she stands next to Aithinne (and she still feels the need to remind us of that, though not nearly so often as in the first book). Ok, so Aileana does have a place and is still good for something but I feel like Aithinne is the real heroine here, for reasons that I can’t fully explain because I’m trying to avoid spoilers. But she says things like,

“I admit to being somewhat unclear on the function of human tears. So we’re sad about this? Should I menace someone?”

I want her to be my new BFF. Anyway, while Aileana isn’t as annoying in this book as the first, I still took an instant like to Aithinne that I didn’t to Aileana…which I guess is ok. The heroine is allowed to grow and change and if she didn’t I would be suspicious and critical. Aileana has left a lot of her bloodthirsty swagger and bravado behind (thank god), and due to the revelations in the story as it goes along, she’s forced to look at some really ugly things and decide if she can live with them and the people involved – mainly her growing relationship with Kiaran – or not.

I was very intrigued by the world building presented in this book. We get SO much more backstory and so many things that just made me screw up my face and question things in the first book, are explained. At times the “dream” sequences feel like an info dump…but it’s a very interesting info dump. I’m not up on my faery lore, so I’m unclear on how much is pulled from Scottish tradition and how much comes from Elizabeth May’s imagination. It really explains a lot about not only the world, but Kiaran in particular.

Speaking of Kiaran, let’s talk about him. Aileana is head over heels for him but confused and scared of him at the same time. My mental image is of this guy:

Technically sexy, I guess, but really more creepy looking. Sorry, random actor I found on Google Images (I also got the feeling I should know who this is, but I don’t. Moving on.)

Sidenote: My perception of the whole Aileana/Kiaran relationship was rather skewed in the first book by what I thought was the fact that faeries in this world cannot feel, that they have no emotion. I’m still not sure if May did this intentionally or if I just assumed too much. BUT. Apparently that is NOT the case. If I had realized or considered that as a possibility, I think I would have felt a lot more liking for the fae in general. As it was I was just convinced Kiaran was a sham and Derrick was a freak.

To continue…a lot of Kiaran’s past is explained in this book. He becomes somewhat more bearable as a result. He also continues on the path of the slight, suspicious crack in his unfeeling faery heart, and there are some really sweet, cute moments between him and Aileana and also with his sister. Is it possible our ancient, bitter Kiaran is actually growing past the emotional maturity of a 10 year old? Well, possibly, but old habits die hard and he’s not used to growing pains.

Kiaran smiles, that beautiful false smile that makes my heart ache. His face is a mask, flawless and immaculate, no hint of passion or emotion. Even statues have more life. 

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Kiaran objects to having the feels. Flawed hero, sexy dark knight, wah-wah. I still think Aileana should have stuck with Gavin. Also maybe some certain undesirable events wouldn’t have happened in that case, but since they did here are some of the “awwwww” level quotes.

“You think I can’t bear to look at them [Aileana’s scars], that I believe these mean you’re weak.” Karan’s fingers are at my pulse now, thumb sliding down to my collarbone. “That couldn’t be farther from the truth….I want it to be me, not you.”

“Why didn’t you just tell me?”

“Because I’m still learning,” he says quietly.

“Learning what?”

“How to feel.”

D’awww. Then leave it to Derrick, who is, thankfully, back in true pixie form and lightening the mood at every turn.

Derrick is quiet for the longest time, wings fanning softly. His golden glow is slowly returning. “I see the way he looks at you.”

I swallow, afraid of his answer. “And how is that?”

“Like he wishes he was mortal.”

So, yeah. Their relationship progresses, in a pretty reasonable fashion. Honestly though, I still don’t really feel it. I wanted to. But I don’t. I think a lot of other people will. But I just don’t.

The Seers are idiots. I don’t blame Kiaran and Derrick for just wanting to kill them all. Even Gavin has taken a stupid pill. Le sigh.

Along with all of this, the fae are still trying to take over the world and kill all the humans and at first we’re not sure why other than that they are bloodthirsty bastards…and then there’s this great big revelation that changes everything and – but that would be spoiling.

Then…that ending…WTF?? I mean…..seriously, WTF?!!?

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This was me. For real.

Overall I gave this one 3.5/5 stars, just like the original. But for different reasons. I looooooove Aithinne and for her sake alone I almost said 4 stars. The other issues I have though, in the end said no. The other big issues I had were…well. So the torture bits in the first few chapters? They’re…very tame. I understand a lot of it was a mental mind fuck, but…there’s all these intense feelings on the part of the characters and I felt like the action we were shown didn’t warrant it. Apparently I’m a coldhearted SOB. The world-building feels rushed. Like, we’re told what happened to the human realm in the time Aileana is gone, but we’re never quite shown. Not enough to warrant the way the other humans treat her when she comes back. And again, I was left feeling like this was a middle-grade masquerading as a YA book. It’s so very clean for such a bloody subject matter. Haha, I guess I’m a bloodthirsty, coldhearted, horny bitch? Because while sexual matters are alluded to, there’s only kissing and a vague reference to the removal of clothing. Which apparently isn’t enough for my depraved mind?

I still really enjoyed it and would recommend it, especially to those who are a little uncomfortable with sex or language in their books. I just wished it was a little less one-special-snowflake-to-save-the-world-ish.

Book Review - The Vanishing Throne

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Aug 07

Review: July 2016 OwlCrate

Books/Writing, Reviews 8

I’m never sure when to post these, as I hate being spoiler-ific, but at the same time…it needs to be put up in time for people to decide if they want to sign up for the next box! In my opinion, anyway. Whenever I’m looking at subscription boxes I want to see the month prior. Anywho – here we go!

July’s OwlCrate theme was Good vs. Evil, and they sent out two versions of the box! Same book, different goodies. I received the Evil box!

Review - July 2016 Owlcrate

Opening it up…

Review - July 2016 Owlcrate1

This month’s book was This Savage Song, by Victoria Schwab. I’m excited because I have wanted to read something by her ever since The Near Witch came out but sadly have never gotten around to it! Now I have no excuse, because her latest is in my hot little hands. It’s getting rave reviews, too. Really need to bump it closer to the top of my TBR list.

Review - July 2016 Owlcrate2

Also included were the amazing little coloring book there on the right, full of black and whites of a mix of popular and up-and-coming YA title covers. Awesome idea. Loved it.

Review - July 2016 Owlcrate3Review - July 2016 Owlcrate4

Then there was a TOTALLY AMAZING bookmark from Jane’s Tiny Things (I have a magnetic bookmark obsession right now and might have already ordered more from her shop…).

Review - July 2016 Owlcrate5

Next there was an awesome wooden necklace from Vector Engraving – mine was the Death Star, but the Good box had a Millennium Falcon. 😀 Hehe. Also, a FULL SIZE Harry Potter FUNKO POP!! I love Funkos. I would like to collect them but don’t have a really good place for them right now and am not a huge fan of them on my bookshelves, despite the adorable setups of them that I see on OTHER people’s book shelves. So I have refrained…mostly. I think I have 5 now. And of course since this is my 2nd Harry Potter Funko I reeeeeeally need the others in that lineup. Sigh. There’s also a “Am I Not Merciful” sticker that I think references Iluminae, but since I haven’t read it the significance is somewhat lost on me. *embarrassed face*

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August’s theme is Fast Times at YA High! “This box will contain a hilarious love story, as well as items inspired by our favorite high school sweethearts, and our favorite school of all time…HOGWARTS!” As of right now there are still spots available. For various reasons I’ve elected to skip this box, but I’m eagerly waiting to see what September’s theme will be and will be back then with a review. 🙂

I review this box based on my own paying subscription.

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Aug 04

Looking Forwards and Back #1 – July/August

Books/Writing, Reviews 7

Everyone seems to be doing a monthly recap and projection type deal, so here is mine! I keep my lists in my traveler’s notebook bullet journal. It goes with me everywhere. I love using stamps for it as I think my print handwriting looks horrible.

The arrows are titles I moved to August.

Here is what July looked like at month’s end! Now I did read I think 2 books that aren’t on that list…it felt like cheating to add them on at the end, so I didn’t. Haha. I’m anal retentive, what can I say. Below is the list in picture form! Each cover is linked to my review on GoodReads, and the titles are linked to Book Depository. Which brings me to this small announcement: I’ve become a Book Depository affiliate! This just means that if you use a link from my site to buy a book, I’ll receive a small commission. I’d really like to switch my servers but that costs money! So I’m hoping to offset the cost a little…but even if it doesn’t, I’ll probably switch soon anyway…just because I love writing about this stuff and want my site to be a little more user friendly.

Oh! And before you get entirely bored reading my list – remember to enter the A Court of Thorns and Roses giveaway I have running right now! Have I mentioned how much I love this series yet? Yes? Let me reiterate. If you have even a shred of interest in fantasy, you need to go read them now. And don’t let some of the eye-rolling moments or unlikeable characters in the first one throw you off. It gets better. MUCH better. The second one gets an unreserved 5 stars from me. Anywho.

Giveaway - ACOTAR1

 

 

 

Rafflecopter Linky (because the widget doesn’t play nice on WP)

You can enter by commenting, following me on Twitter, Bloglovin, or WordPress, and by sharing the giveaway via Twitter. Just make sure to submit your entries via the Rafflecopter!

 

 

 

 

 

July Books Read and Reviewed – I’m kind of impressed that I managed 14 books this month! That’s a lot for me. A few of them didn’t get reviews, but that’s ok. Not every book is meant to be reviewed! 😀

Wild
A Killing in the Hills
The Falconer
The Graces
Jackaby
A Court of Thorns and Roses
A Court of Mist and Fury
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
The Cuckoo’s Calling
My Lady Jane
Vinegar Girl
When You Reach Me
Diary of a Wimpy Kid
The Blind Astronomer’s Daughter


Aaaaaaand – August! This is my projected list for this month. I think I’m probably attempting to overextend myself again (as it’s now August 4 and I have yet to finish a book), but oh well. If I didn’t have to sleep, this would be my list. We’ll see what falls off in the course of the month. All covers link to GoodReads.

So far I have started (yes, my monogamous book-reading ways seem to have fallen by the wayside this summer):

I am most excited about these right at the moment:

These are older, backlist books that have been recommended by different friends that I managed to find at my library:

I have ARCs of (I’m so excited about these! I haven’t had too many early review copies yet so even Netgalley copies are all still shiny and new to me):

The few that aren’t pictured are series continuations that I’ve slowly been working my way through. Also I’m tired of linking. 😛 So many books, so little time! I’ve really enjoyed seeing what the book blogging community has been up to and is looking forward to – hope you enjoyed my rundown!

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Aug 03

Book Review: The Falconer

Books/Writing, Reviews 4

I originally read The Falconer in May 2015. This week I re-read it because the sequel, The Vanishing Throne, was released and arrived in my hot little hands a couple of weeks ago! Since I’m planning a review of that one, I felt like the first one should have a review too.

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“Crimson suits you best.”

Such a seemingly innocuous comment haunts Aileana Kameron both waking and sleeping, because it was spoken to her by the faery that killed her mother. Traumatized and hungry for revenge, she takes comfort only in hunting, killing, and devising weapons against the faeries loose in the world. Of which there seem to be more and more…

First of all, can we talk about the cover? I am absolutely in love with this cover. I want her hair. And I’m going to steal her lovely little dagger to double as a letter opener. The cover set my expectations for this book extremely high.

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Expectations that were…kind of sort of met? First of all, the setting. Edinburgh. I kind of have a love affair with Scotland. Or at least the idea of Scotland that’s in my mind, since I’ve never actually been there (sadly). I think Elizabeth May loves Scotland too, because her descriptions of Edinburgh make it sound lovely – even with the bloodthirsty faeries thrown in. Also, Aileana has this amazing, ship cabin imitation room with hidden compartments and a pixie in residence. I am supremely jealous.

Aileana herself…I kind of want to smack over the head with a 2×4. While at the same time I want to go hunt faeries with her. Every time I thought I was going to get to really like her, she would say or do something else that left me like:

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And she was so, so full of herself. Confidence? She has it in spades. In fucking spades. Arrogance. Bravado. Foolhardiness. Also tendencies to the dramatic. See above face.

This is who I am: a night creature who thrives on death and destruction.

Oh, really? Even though your buddy Kiaran (more on him in a minute) has to save your ass every time we turn around? I guess it could be argued that throwing herself in death’s way constantly is her way of dealing with her mother’s death. But she is just so annoyingly full of herself.

I don’t yield. I don’t retreat from him or let him intimidate me.

Aileana. Word of advice, darling. Let someone else sing your praises, for once. No one is having a pissing contest with you. Anyway, even aside from all that – I like Aileana, for her sheer stubbornness. Also she vacillates between wanting to be a BAMF and what her 19th century high-class society expects of her. For example, at one point she’s wounded rather badly and holed up in her bedroom, bleeding and fevered. Kiaran manages to make it to her with medicine and stitches – and she is so freaking worried about him being in her room and the impropriety of him sitting on her bed while he stitches her up.

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Of course she gets all hot and bothered about it, despite Kiaran being a walking big red flag. Oh yeah. Getting to him in a sec, I promise…

Sidetone: have I mentioned how much I hate love triangles? I. Despise. Love triangles. So overused, so stupid, so dramatic. Drama llama go home to mama. Bye. I didn’t think this book had one, until I got almost to the end and I had a “Wait, what?!?” moment. Aileana, of course, can’t be happy with the sweet guy next door, Gavin, – who also happens to be one of, oh, two people who understand and support her obsession with killing faeries – and instead can only see him as a friend. Sigh. To the author’s credit, neither one is actually taken with the other, so this isn’t a true love triangle, I guess. I just felt like the suggestion was there and expected. Or maybe I’m just pouting because this was yet another moment in time where Aileana’s face needed to meet a 2×4. Because bad boys – especially when they are, in fact, faeries – are really not good for you.

Especially not when they are Kiaran. Kiaran, a fae himself who hunts his own kind for reasons unknown and still not entirely revealed by the end of the book (at least not to my satisfaction). Kiaran, a complete badass with a heart of ice and who always believes the end justifies the means. Kiaran, with more secrets than Aileana could ever dream, even though she likes to compare herself with him.

I’m beginning to realize how much our secrets define us. A few days ago, he and I would have hunted together and returned to our respective lives, the same as always. Now our boundaries are fading, and we grasp those last few secrets we still do have, because baring one’s soul is so much more difficult than pretending.

Aileana, darling…you DO realize you’re only 18, right? And until a year ago you were a pampered, sheltered little society girl? There are only so many secrets you can cram into a year. But of course secrets make Kiaran so much more appealing.

He is a compelling character. Especially the closer the end comes and a teensy tiny crack or two appears in his stony faery heart and we learn a little more about his past and what compels him. He still seems like a completely self-serving ass though. I say seems, because I have a hope that he will change. I highly doubt he will ever lose the habit of pointing out the uncomfortable feelings Aileana tries to ignore.

“In the end, they couldn’t avoid their true nature any more than you’d be able to. Unless I’m wrong. When you imagine yourself years from now, is it the Seer you’re with? Or is it you and me, planning our next slaughter?”

Oh, he also manages to be the comic relief at times, as he has no concept of Victorian propriety and even when he does manage to remember manners…really just doesn’t care.

The storyline moves along at a good clip. Aileana, Kiaran and company have to try to save the world from the impending fae attack, each compelled by different motives. The hot and bothered-ness Aileana feels for Kiaran increase. They are inches from saving the world. And then…then shit happens. And…CLIFFHANGER. I was literally left with my jaw hanging open. I went back and read the last chapter, thinking surely I missed something. But no. NO.

Book Review - The Falconer

Overall I gave this 3.5/5 stars. Due to my near-constant annoyance with Aileana, I couldn’t pull it up to 4. Despite that, I’m really looking forward to the sequel and (again) have very high hopes for it!

Also, I kind of feel like this should be a mid grade novel as opposed to a YA. As in appropriate for about 12 and up. I probably would have read it at about 8 and loved it. It just feels very tame, and while there is definite attraction (and a few British-type swears) between the characters, the descriptions are not even close to R-rated. Or maybe I would just be a horrible parent, haha.

 

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Jul 30

Book Review: The Blind Astronomer’s Daughter

Books/Writing, Reviews 1

Reading this was a bit of a departure from the books that have been drawing my interest lately. However, it was set in Ireland and sounded like an intriguing sort of historical novel. The Blind Astronomer’s Daughter (due to publish October 11, 2016) is a meticulously detailed story of men’s search of the heavens and on a smaller scale, of the Irish Rebellion of 1798. My favorite books are those that entertain with a good story while at the same time informing me of a new time or place, and this one definitely fit the bill! The writing style vaguely reminds me of Dickens.

The story spans many decades and encompasses two distinct families or people groups. Arthur Ainsworth and William Herschel are two astronomers countries apart, but both scouring the heavens for new plants, comets, stars – and always trying to build bigger, better telescopes for viewing outer space. Ainsworth’s interest though, is a true obsession that controls his every movement and spills over onto his daughter and the tenants of his property and in the long run, drives him truly mad. His daughter, Caroline, even years after his death, is never truly free from the influence of his obsession even as she forges her own path in the world.

Caroline, I feel, is truly the main character of this book – even though we spend at least half of the book following other characters around. In the end it all comes back to her story. While I admired her tenacity, it all had a very bittersweet, melancholy feel to it. Had I been in her place, I would probably have given up to despair many times over but she just keeps on picking herself up and trudging along. Her story does not have a happy ending, per se, but it has a hope of happiness that is probably a good deal more realistic.

Now for the issues I had with the book. To be honest, until I was about halfway through, I genuinely regretted volunteering to read it! Like I already said, it’s quite different from the majority of books I’ve been reading lately. I’ve really drifted away from the more literary style, and this was not only literary but the author made the genuinely absurd decision to write the entire thing in 3rd person present tense. For some reason, I find that annoying in the extreme. Maybe it was in an attempt to bring us closer to the events of the book, but it was completely unnecessary and I think the usual past tense form would have worked much better. The descriptions are lovely but long winded. The characters in the beginning, are generally not all that interesting or sympathetic – Finn is the exception. I liked Finn all the way through, even more than I liked Caroline. Arthur Ainsworth should be sympathetic, as he has a pretty darn rough start in life, and Fate seems to conspire to kick him when he’s down, but overall he just comes across as having no backbone at all and being an inconsiderate ass that never thinks of anyone but himself.

Then we spend pages and pages and PAGES on astronomical details. Which is great and everything, and the amount of research required just staggers me, buuuuut…zzzzzzz. Also at one point we spend an ENTIRE chapter following Herschel’s climb up a ladder. Where was the editor on that one? Seriously.

I knew very little about any of the Irish rebellions before reading this book. I’m still far from educated but I have a lot more facts than I did before! Also I think Pipkin managed to convey humanity in the midst of the bloodbath, even as it tears the country (and our story) apart. I personally never recovered from the battles of the rebellion as I read…one particular thing, I can’t put in plain English without giving out spoilers…but I kept hoping and hoping that somehow, this thing would turn out differently and it wasn’t until the last couple of chapters I gave up. I was so sad, it took me hours to go to sleep the night I finished it. Like I said before though…the story still ends with that hope of happiness, even if it wasn’t the ending I was looking for.

3.5/5 stars. It’s a really good story, more realistic than we often want from our books, I think, but a beautiful tale nevertheless.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury USA for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review! This in no way affects my rating or opinion of the book itself.

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Jul 29

Book Review: Vinegar Girl

Books/Writing, Reviews 2

Vinegar Girl is one of a new series of Shakespeare retellings, the Hogarth Shakespeare. I was intrigued as soon as I heard about them, especially since they were using several well-known authors. Anne Tyler wrote this one, and while I’ve never read any of her other books a couple of them have now been added to my TBR list.

This is a retelling of the famous “The Taming of the Shrew,” and I really very strongly feel that without a prior knowledge or reading of the play, you won’t enjoy the book very much. It’s quite short, only 237 pages, and to me felt like a novella read. Which is fine! I finished it in about 2 hours during a very slow afternoon at work (getting paid to read, but my boss doesn’t know that, hehe).

I really appreciate that Tyler was able to keep the humor aspect of the original – I laughed out loud at several points. Kate and Pyotr are quirky separately and amusing together. Kate’s tone is barbed but witty, and she comes across as not truly intending to hurt with her words but simply not seeing any point in the niceties of social interactions. The whole arranged marriage set-up is handled as a scam to get Kate’s father’s scientific assistant – Pyotr – a green card. Kate is understandably insulted and hurt by the scheme, but through a series of discussion and events – and a grudging sympathy for Pyotr – she is convinced.

Next, Kate and Pyotr on the living-room couch, a foot of space between them, Pyotr grinning broadly and doing his arm-along-the-seat-back thing while Kate, stony-faced, poked her left hand toward the photographer to display her diamond ring.

Bunny – Bianca – is translated into a selfish, spoiled teenager, which seems fitting but limited her role somewhat more than in the original. There are a few other plot points of the original that are left out as well, but all things considered the story is definitely recognizable and it works. The interspersed text messages are a nice touch.

The one big issue I had was the iconic speech Kate makes at the end of the original play. That, to me, was the crowning jewel of the play. In this book, there is a speech, of sorts, but it feels rushed and flat. The epilogue kind of made up for it, but still. All in all though, the book is 4/5 stars. The writing is beautiful, succinct, and a real pleasure to read.

Hi Kate! We went to get marriage license!

Who’s we?

Your father and I.

Well I hope you’ll be very happy together. 

Many thanks to Blogging for Books for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my rating or thoughts on the book! 🙂

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Jul 28

Book Review: Wild

Books/Writing, Reviews 5 ★★★★

I really regret that I listened to the nay-sayers and put this book off for SO long. Ridiculous. A few of them really turned out to be shamers, which is awful and sad. I really wish I could find the review I read that said Wild (Strayed, 2012) was a drug and sex filled orgy. The hell?!? Yes, both are mentioned and are, at some point, part of the author’s life. She is brutally honest and upfront about her struggles and how she deals with them. She doesn’t recommend trying heroin. She definitely feels guilt about cheating on her husband. Did I agree with all the conclusions she seems to draw? No. But I still felt it was a good book worth reading.

As a hiker myself, I can say Cheryl starts off as what is possibly the worst prepared thru-hiker in history. I cringed as I read the descriptions of her gigantic pack (aptly named Monster), the way she buys guidebooks but doesn’t read them, and instead of preparing in the last week of her trip, spends it hooking up with a guy that she already knows is very, very bad for her. I wanted to shake her, and I suspect I share that feeling with most of her friends and remaining family at the time. After her mother’s illness and death, Cheryl makes a string of bad choices involving cheating on her husband – a man she continuously claims to love and probably the best relationship to ever come into her life, at least the way it is portrayed – and using heroin. As she approaches rock bottom, she knows she needs to make changes but seems to lack the willpower to do anything at all. She changes her name, and not just back to her maiden name, but a new name she picks almost straight out of a dictionary because it is the only thing that “feels” right. She goes with her brother to put her mother’s dying horse out of it’s misery (thank you, Cheryl Strayed, for making me ugly-cry). Her divorce is finalized – but her relationship with Paul is far from finished. THAT, is probably the part of her story I am least understanding and sympathetic to. She cheats on this man that she admits is lovely to her, who will TAKE HER BACK after her multiple affairs, and yet, she still can’t let him go. Darling, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. I’m assuming she’s figured that out in the 20 odd years that have passed since this part of the story. I hope so. Her description of the notarizing of their divorce decree was a bit unsettling. But, each person’s story is different. Who am I to judge?

Afterwards, we leaned against the cold bricks of a building and kissed, crying and murmuring regrets, our tears mixing together on our faces…snowflakes were melting onto his hair and I wanted to reach up and touch them, but I didn’t.

Her time on the trail is by turns painful and cathartic. As expected (by me, reading this, though obviously not by her), she spends most of her time completely exhausted and in constant pain from her pack, her boots, dehydration. At the same time, I really felt she was a kindred spirit in the way the act of hiking made her feel.

I realized I was having a kind of strange, abstract, retrospective fun. I noticed the beauty that surrounded me, the wonder of things both small and large.

It had only to do with how it felt to be in the wild. With what it was like to walk for miles for no reason other than to witness the accumulation of trees and meadows, mountains and deserts, streams and rocks, rivers and grasses, sunrises and sunsets. The experience was powerful and fundamental.

Yes. Yes it is. And it is why we go outside and torture our feet and backs again, and again, and again. Because nature feeds us, even as we pay the price our soft modern bodies grudgingly give up to her.

Cheryl experiences a lot of growing pains during her PCT time, not all of them physical. What stood out most to me, was how very, very concerned she was about her appearance – to men. Every time she meets a new male on the trail, she starts to worry about her hair, her smell, her hairy legs. Sure, she’s horny as hell – she’s a 20-something female that doesn’t see anyone for days on end – and that’s great! Sexual appetite doesn’t bother me, in fact I think it’s awesome she’s so open about it in a society that traditionally shames women for being sexual beings at all. The issue is that she felt her worth was determined on her sexual attractiveness to men, not that she wanted to fuck. She actually only ends up with one guy during her time on the trail (orgy, my ass).

What really makes the book worth reading (besides all the other interesting things that happen while she’s on the trail), is how she slowly grows out of that poisonous mindset. She becomes a more powerful woman in her own right. She doesn’t need anyone else, definitely not men, to prove to her that she is beautiful and strong and worth something, no matter what anyone else thinks or says. THAT, to me, was the takeaway value of the whole book.

4/5 stars. Despite my disagreement with how Strayed handled some of her life choices and relationships, in the end it’s HER life, not mine, and what she learned during her adventure on the PCT is a story worth reading.

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four-stars

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Jul 25

Book Review: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Books/Writing, Reviews 1

Publisher’s BlurbIt is the summer of 1950–and at the once-grand mansion of Buckshaw, young Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison, is intrigued by a series of inexplicable events: A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. Then, hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath.

For Flavia, who is both appalled and delighted, life begins in earnest when murder comes to Buckshaw. “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.”

Unplanned mini review! This came in the mail unexpectedly on Friday, and after my immense book hangover (still recovering) from ACOMAF it seemed different enough to maybe help. It was lovely. On a completely different plane than ACOMAF, but that was what I needed and I enjoyed it so much I had to write a review. Even if I’m missing my usual notebook photo because I, er, didn’t actually take notes. 😛

This book was an immensely enjoyable read. It’s well written, witty, and overall well researched and put together. The characters are believable and fleshed out. Believable? With an 11-year-old chemist for a protagonist? Yes. Yes, indeed. I was surprised, because I when I read the premise I thought it would be a rare writer that could pull it off. Bradley manages it. Here’s why.

As someone who was – not meaning to toot my own horn here – a very precocious child myself, with interests far outside of most of my peers, and very, very lonely until I gave up on the idea of having real friends and devoted myself to books until people grew up enough (yes, I distinctly remember having thoughts, at about Flavia’s age, that no one except a rare adult or two understood me at all but maybe when my “friends” grew up they might) – I found her to be not only believable but immensely charming. There, was that sentence long enough? I wish I had known someone like Flavia as a child. I’m sure my parents are grateful I didn’t. I didn’t ever have the brazenness she exhibits, probably because my parents were not eccentric explorers or gentry like hers. Also she was growing up in the 50s, when it was generally much safer than the 90s to allow your children to run all over town and not worry about them until dinner. I would also have been much better off if I had been able to come to her conclusion about the rest of the world at an earlier age, but, c’est la vie.

I was me. I was Flavia. And I loved myself, even if no one else did.

Flavia is an astute observer and is without many of the filters that an adult narrator would have. While the mystery itself is nothing very deep, it’s the setting and the characters that populate the story that made me love it so much (and immediately set about procuring the next one!). Flavia’s inner commentary is by turns shrewd and naive – something else Bradley managed to strike just the right balance on to maintain the believability of her 11 years.

It’s a fact of life that a girl can tell in a flash if another girl likes her…With a boy you can never know whether he’s smitten or gagging, but with a girl you can tell in the first three seconds.

Then there are all the delightful references to literature and culture thrown in, which just added to the charm. I love meeting people who’ve read the same books I have!

“I was hardly surprised to read that he (Flavia’s father) had named his first two offspring after a Shakespearean hysteric and a Greek pincushion.”

In short, I just want to go visit and meet all these people, because I feel like despite their eccentricities I would like them very much. I really hope that Bradley lets us get to know them and their histories better. Especially Dogger. Dogger is just so sweet and yet so broken…I want to know more about what made him that way. Also I definitely want to see Flavia grow up! She reminds me, slightly, of Anne of Green Gables, only with a scientific bent instead of literary.

5/5 stars. It maybe should have been 4/5, due to what was, in hindsight, a rather shallow mystery aspect…but I enjoyed the reading of it so much I can’t help myself. 5 stars it is!

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