Looking Forwards and Back #2 – August/September

Yes, yes, I know. The first week of September is nearly gone. I had a rough end to August/start to September, so this is super late. But as always, better late than never.

Here’s what actually ended up happening for August:

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Only 8 this month (just one book over HALF of what I read in July…yikes). And below are all the covers! I love looking at them all together. Especially since between the library books and ebooks I don’t get to see them all together in person. Haha. Yes, I am shallow. 😛 Just like before, each cover is linked to my review on GoodReads, and the titles are linked to Book Depository.

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The Vanishing Throne
The Hatching
Alice
Love & Gelato
Labyrinth Lost
Sabriel
The Secret Place
Imprudence

This is my list for this month…no less grandiose, for all my failure at getting anywhere CLOSE to finishing my list last month. Haha.

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Believe it or not, I’ve actually already made progress! I’ve finished or started these:

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Most excited about (yes, Dream Thieves is a repeat, somehow I didn’t get to it last month!):

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I guess we’ll see how I do! I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone else is reading this month. I know there is a TON of shiny new releases coming out in September, none of which are in my hot little hands as of yet. 😦 So I will just have to live vicariously, I guess!

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Book Review: Imprudence

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I’ve been waiting so long on this book! I had so many expectations. As I’ve stated before – I love the world Carriger has created. I’ve read every single book (not all the short stories yet, I’m working on those!) and enjoyed them all. I love the characters. I love hunting for references to the various storylines in the different series. When I sit down with a Gail Carriger book, it’s like sitting down with an old friend and hearing what they’ve been up to.

That said, I need to get something off my chest: I will never love Rue as much as I love her mother, Alexia.

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She’s charming and winsome in her own way but Alexia has my heart. The entire time I was reading this book and the first in this series, I was missing Alexia and the Alexia/Conall vibe. I have tried to get as much behind Rue as I did Alexia and…she’s definitely her mother’s daughter, but she’s not her mother. Which is a good thing! But I just wanted more Alexia. I need to re-read the original Parasol Protectorate series in its entirety. I’ve read Soulless I think 3 times but definitely time to go through all 5 again. Anyway, on to the actual review!

Imprudence picks up almost exactly where Prudence left off (WARNING: spoilers for the FIRST book). The queen is, as expected, rather displeased with Rue’s handling of the weremonkey situation, but that quickly takes a back seat to Rue’s family troubles. Perhaps it’s awful of me, but I was so glad that Alexia and Lord Maccon were more in the forefront of this one! We see them through Rue’s eyes, which was rather entertaining, but they are there for a good portion of the book. The family is struggling to deal with Lord Maccon’s oncoming Alpha madness. He’s slowly losing his grip on reality and becoming entirely werewolf. It was so sad. By the end of Chapter 5 I was bawling while reading in bed. My husband was very concerned. Thankfully they didn’t just sit around moping about it – this is Alexia’s husband, after all! They were very quickly off to do something about it, and rampages and capers ensued.

Well, Lord save anyone if a vampire tried to steal a werewolf’s prey, even if only to kill that prey himself. Especially then.

I love how Rue and Alexia share the tendency to go off on their own and drag everyone else along in their wake. Also have to love that Rue seems to be the only one capable of dragging Alexia herself around – Alexia is much more concerned about appearances than I remember her being, perhaps a by product of all her time serving the Queen. Rue…Rue gives almost no fucks. Especially where her relationship with Quesnel is concerned.

“Like to go somewhere more private and be scandalous some more?”

Ah, yes, Quesnel, the little Frenchman we all fell in love with when he was just Madame Lefoux’s charge and constantly running amok. Quesnel, as we saw in Prudence, has grown up to be a innovative inventor in his own right. He’s also quite the ladies’ man…but somehow Prudence has managed to twist him right around her little finger. Despite her repeated insistence that their relationship is only for “lessons” and her own experience…
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Ok. This is the big reason this book didn’t get 5 stars for me. I can’t get behind Rue and Quesnel. I wanted to. I really did. But I just…can’t. Quesnel is too much of a pretty boy for me…I am Team Big-hairy-dominate-but-gentle-werewolf (aka Lord Maccon) all the way and I guess I was hoping the same for Rue. Of course she’s entitled to her own taste! But it just…it seems forced. I didn’t feel it, and I’d like to think I can usually feel a character’s emotional involvement even if the parties involved aren’t to my own preferences.
Like Tasherit and Prim. I feel their attraction. I feel Prim’s confusion and anxiety and flutterings. And I’m very eager to find out what happens to them in the next book!
Gail wrote in one of her newsletters/posts that she was trying to wrap a lot of things up in this book, since there will not be a 3rd Custard Protocol book until at least 2018. I think she did that very well while still leaving several storylines open for exploration. Like Tasherit and Prim. Like the Woolsey Pack  – oh, I almost forgot.
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OMG, my beloved Woolsey Pack. I can’t believe what happened. That was also a large part of the tears.WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO WOOLSEY??? This was a huge turning point in the first third of the book and then…crickets. AAAAAHHHH. I think we were supposed to kind of forget but I can’t. Buffy. Lyall. Channing. And of course the Kingair Pack too, even though God knows they’re still off brawling in some distant land like good Scottish boys – capably led by their fierce female Alpha (who, thank GOD, will be having her very own novella some time in the near future). I really hope we have more werewolves in the next book too.
Anyway, overall, 4/5 stars. And I will be eagerly awaiting whatever comes from Gail Carriger’s pen next. 🙂
Book Review - Imprudence

Book Review: The Secret Place

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Find it on GoodReads
Get your own copy – I love the cover on the UK version!

I don’t usually get all the feels when reading a murder mystery. For me mysteries are generally all about the who/what/where/when/why and how the detective figure puts all that together into a solution. But Tana French’s 5th Dublin Murder Squad book, The Secret Place, gave me the feels.

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Somehow, she manages to intrigue me in every single book, even though the POV character changes each time. Unlike most mystery series (at least in my experience), while there are familiar characters in each one, usually we just see a very brief appearance of the people from the last book in the current one. After there first book, the subsequent book’s main character has also been seen briefly in the previous one. I love this foreshadowing, even if I was completely and totally distraught when I started the second book and realized we weren’t going to see Rob again. Still not over it. Still begging to know what happens to him. Ms. French, are you listening?

I love beautiful; always have. I never saw why I should hate what I wish I had. Love it harder. Work your way closer. Clasp your hands around it tighter. Till you find a way to make it yours.

The Secret Place delves into the world of priviledged upper class high school girls, a very slender sliver of the population and as full of vitriol and poison as Henry VIII’s court ever was. I was skeptical going in…how accurate could it be? I was really afraid that it might end up one of those books that sounds like the author is trying desperately to be young again and only succeeds in dating herself by her generation’s slang. But no. Without compromising her usually sparkling prose in the slightest, Ms. French absorbs us into this cut-a-bitch world. God, I’m so glad I didn’t go to this kind of school. Scary AF. Remember little Holly Mackey, from Faithful Place? Well, she’s back and almost-all-grown-up. Still just as smart and sassy, with a slight tinge of…

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Holly’s holding her own in this den of lions, along with a very tight group of her friends. They’re having some growing pains, but they’re mostly of the first-world variety. Despite that, they’re actually quite compelling. Much more than I was expecting. I hope Holly appears again. Maybe she’ll eventually join the murder squad herself? Oooo. Now there’s a thought. But I’m getting sidetracked.

My body my mind the way I dress the way I walk…mine all mine.

This book was a lot about the politics and emotions of being a teenager. Yes, teenagers have what I would term politics. In what was a bit of a departure from the previous books (for me) – I guessed the murderer somewhere between page 62 and 101. I kept expecting some huge plot twist and I did doubt myself A LOT, but still. Also, Detective Moran was probably the most…unoriginal narrator she’s had yet. That was helped by the alternating viewpoints – yes, Moran was in the 1st person, but that alternated with chapters in 3rd person from the girls’ POV. Moran is likable but just kind of…there. Now Antoinette Conway, the female detective Moran thrown in with for this case? There’s a bitch I’d like to have at my back, and I mean that in the best possible way. I am SO EXCITED that she’s coming back for The Trespasser!

Also, this is the first time French has had anything but the strictly statistically or scientifically provable events/actions in her books. Trying not to spoil here, but I was really nonplussed by a particular set of occurrences that is never fully explained. I guess that really does happen in real life sometimes, but I have a really hard time extending my reality this far. She actually addressed this in a Q&A on GoodReads (link but DEFINITE SPOILERS here!!), and that made me feel a little better but I still think it should have been clarified better in the book itself.

They can’t tell you what it’s going to be like…in the reek of ragwort and the milk of broken dandelion stems.

Yes, I’m glad I didn’t go to this kind of school. Pretty sure the sensitive, insecure girl I was in high school would have been flayed alive. At the same time, I’m really sad I didn’t have the kind of experiences Holly and her friends have – and the friends. Despite all their issues…these girls will remember each other, always. 20 years down the road, just thinking of the others will bring back not only memories of things seen but things touched, things tasted, heartache and hope.

4/5 stars.I always find mysteries hard to review without giving spoilers. Also I was a BAD BOOK REVIEWER and returned the library book BEFORE COPYING THE QUOTES I WANTED. Ack!!! Hence the short quotes/lack of quotes.

Mini Book Review: Sabriel

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Find it on GoodReads
Get your own copy

Rating: 4 of 5 stars

I went into this book knowing pretty much nothing at all about it. It was recommended by a good friend who generally has good (i.e., similar to mine :D) tastes, so I felt good about picking it up! Funny enough, outside of Lord of the Rings, it’s the oldest fantasy I’ve read. Which, I know I know, is hilarious, because it’s only 20 years old. Haha. Fantasy isn’t typically my gig, okay? Though lately I’m enjoying it more and more. Anyway!

My favorite part of this novel was the collision of old world and new – the archaic, medieval world “across the Wall,” and the more modern, WWII type world on the other side. The world (or worlds, I guess, even though they are definitely interconnected) is very layered and complex. Color me intrigued. Intrigued enough to keep reading, even when I felt the characters were kind of flat. Sabriel, god love her, was just…eh. Touchstone was slightly more interesting but also…eh. Mogget was definitely the most interesting character of the entire book. I…well, I’m not sure what I feel about Mogget! I want to love Mogget, but I’m kind of afraid to because…what is Mogget? As it is, the chain of events, piling sinister and weird on top of each other, was enough to keep me reading. Characters are, honestly, the biggest draw of a book for me. To not be totally in love with these was kind of a downer. They’re sympathetic, don’t get me wrong! Just kind of two-dimensional. Also, the romance? Better left out entirely than the way it was just thrown on top like too-stiff frosting. It could have been written so much better. That’s really the only complaint I had about the writing though. The world descriptions were fabulous. I could see the gown Sabriel wore, could hear the winds behind the Paperwing and see its yellow eyes. I’ll definitely be continuing with the series.

Posting will probably be rather sporadic this week and next. I had to work part of the weekend, hence the lack of a Something Else Sunday post. And, I’ll have weird hours all the next two weeks. However! Next up reviews are (covers link to GoodReads):

Aiming for at least 2 of these this week.

 

Book Review: Love & Gelato

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Find it on GoodReads! 
Get your own copy!

I went into this book wanting a fluffy, feel-good, summertime read. I was not disappointed! It was as feel-good as a big pile of puppies.

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picture courtesy eBay

I wanted to hug it at the end. I really wish I had read books like this when I was the same age as the characters (in this case, 16). Because while it has a few flaws, Love & Gelato is a beautiful story of love had, love lost, love remembered, and love hoped for. Even though I like to pretend I’m too tough for such sentimentality, I still have a real soft spot in my heart for a good happy ending. What really makes me happy though, is a happy ending that isn’t just happily ever after. There’s pain and sadness, enough drama to suit most high-school students but not enough to entirely put the adults off, but above all there is HOPE. Rainbow in the clouds kind of hope.

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photo courtesy Wikipedia

Anyway. The story starts out on a rather sad note, as 16-year-old Lina’s mom passes from cancer, leaving behind quite the bombshell – surprise! Lina’s never-before-heard-from father, who lives in Italy, wants her to come live with him, and it was her mother’s dying wish (basically) that she go spend the summer with him.

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^Basically Lina’s reaction. With a lot more tears, because obviously her mom just died.

So off she hops to Italy, with much encouragement from her grandmother. She arrives, nearly has a meltdown over the fact that her father is the caretaker of a war memorial (i.e., he lives in a cemetery) – which I was first really annoyed about. I’ve never understood people’s aversion to cemeteries, even when I was younger. I was always more fascinated than scared…not sure what that makes me, haha. But, given that Lina’s mom has just died, I guess she can be forgiven her little freak out.

She almost immediately meets a cute neighbor boy, Ren, who is “as Italian as a plate of meatballs,” yet not quite, and there’s a slight, almost-insta-crush. I say almost, because there are a lot of mixed signals, and a couple of chapters later there is insta-LOVE that made me throw up in my mouth a little. There are several moments that made me laugh out loud – and I think most readers will join me no matter where they fall on the age scale! The people in the little community she finds are memorable, lovable, and sometimes just hysterical.

While all that is going down, she’s also finding out more about her mom – mostly through a journal her mom mysteriously mailed to Italy ahead of her, but also through the memories of the people there who remember her from her youth – her dad, and exploring Italy. Italy. How many 16-year-olds get to go to Italy?? I was really glad that Lina didn’t just wallow in her sadness or her boy-crush and actually went out and explored. You can really tell the author has been to Florence herself – I felt like I was walking the streets right beside Lina.

We also see Florence 16 years prior, through the eyes of Lina’s mom via her journal. They both fall in love with gelato. I have yet to get to experience real Italian gelato for myself, but even the exported stuff makes me weak-kneed.

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TAKE MY MONEY.

I can’t say a whole lot here without giving spoilers, but suffice to say some things just don’t add up, a lot of things don’t have the happy ending we might expect and there are a couple of big surprises. Love hurts. People make the wrong choices. But sometimes, we all get a second chance.

Turns out there’s a reason they call it falling in love, because when it happens – really happens – that’s exactly how it feels…you just let go and hope that someone’s going to be there to catch you. Otherwise, you’re going to end up with some pretty hefty bruises.

I really loved that Lina has to make choices and that they are realistic. Things are not entirely rosy-glassed here. But some things are! Haha. Because you get roses along with the thorns, eventually. I love the ending. It’s not a promise of happily-ever-after, but a happily-right-now. I wish I had realized at 16 that sometimes, happily-right-now with a hope of happily-later-on is sometimes perfection in and of itself.

4/5 stars. Because of the insta-crush/love, and the sheer convenience of the entire thing being a little far-fetched but mostly overlook-able. Also the “puppy-dog sleeping-boy” smell comment at one point. Sorry, but NO MEMBER OF THE MALE SPECTRUM smells nice first thing in the morning, unless he tricked you and brushed his teeth first. Haha!!

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Book Review: Labyrinth Lost

Releasing September 6, 2016
Pre-order your copy!

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I wasn’t at all sure what to expect – it seemed like it was trying really hard to do a lot of things. Cultural diversity, magic, a new underworld, bisexuality…it’s a lot to blend into one story. Zoraida Cordova actually manages to do it quite well!

Alex is a bruja who doesn’t want the exceptional power she’s been granted. In the beginning she struck me as a whiny, ungrateful little brat. I can understand her resentment and not being entirely free to choose her own path, but her attempt at rejecting her power puts her entire family in danger – albeit unintentionally.

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However, she immediately sets off to rescue them and is willing to do whatever it takes, no matter the cost. So, props to her for that. She loves her family with an intensity beyond anything else, even if they don’t always see eye to eye or get along. She’s incredibly stubborn, to the point of insisting that complete strangers help her on her quest.

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It got bogged down a little over 1/3 of the way through. When the setting shifted to Los Lagos (the underworld, essentially), it floundered somewhat. Especially with the arrival of certain characters – like, really? (highlight to view spoiler)Rishi? Where did that come from? How did she get her fake wings? How did she know to bring them, if she brought them with her? I feel like Madre didn’t give them to her. I’m still vaguely suspicious of the way her arrival was “explained.” I honestly thought she was one of the bird-women for awhile. Guess the fake wings should have ruled that out but it was just so abrupt and essentially unexplained. Rishi’s quick, unquestioning acceptance of Alex’s magic and all it entails really bothered me too. No muggle (sorry) is going to just unblinkingly accept an entirely new world and the ability to conjure fire, no matter how much in love with the bruja you are. (end spoiler) However, after several chapters where I struggled, it picked back up and carried on and was much clearer. I think maybe a little more description would have benefited the story

“It’s love, Alex. Love is you jumping through a portal despite your own safety. Love is mom singing in the car and Rose making tea when we’re sick and even us fighting because we’re blood, and no matter what you do, I’ll neverforget that you are my sister.”

Family comes first – that’s the mantra I kept seeing over and over again. I’m a little envious of Alex’s relationship with her sisters, to be honest. I’m not very familiar with Hispanic culture and was really intrigued by how it’s portrayed here. Of course I can’t vouch for accuracy, but given the author’s background I would think it would be pretty spot-on. Alex’s family is not distinctly one country or another. She is a vibrant mix of many countries and people and Cordova really wove that into her and her magic. Oh! The magic. Magic in this world has a price that must always be paid, by someone, somewhere. It isn’t free or easy. It marks you. Alex and her family do not have a rosy-glass view of magic – as perhaps illustrated by the Deathly celebration for marking when a bruja or burro comes into their powers.

Also I love that bisexuality is given a normal viewpoint. Which is a really rough way of saying…well, it wasn’t anything special. And I don’t mean that in a bad way! I just mean that it was treated as completely normal, nothing to be shocked or surprised by. Normal. Healthy. Accepted. Supported. Books with characters like this are sorely needed in literature, when so much of the world is so full of hate for anything different from them.

Oh, and Rishi? Rishi is awesome. She has the most amazing lines and is totally someone I would want to hang out with. She has an energetic, zany kind of vibe.

“Why’s it always the heart or the eye of something? You notice that? There are so many body parts that don’t get enough love, like earlobes and belly buttons.”

3.5/5 stars. Overall I really enjoyed this book and look forward to seeing what happens in the next one! The ending was a definite cliffhanger, though not with as much shock value as I feel like was intended. Still, I was definitely a little put out that there wasn’t a next chapter! Haha.

Many thanks to Netgalley for the free ARC in exchange for an honest review.

 

Book Review: Alice

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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

Book Review: The Hatching

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.

 

Book Review: The Vanishing Throne

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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Book Review: The Falconer

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.