Monday, December 8, 2014

Review: Goddess Test

The Goddess Test (Goddess Test, #1)The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Ugh. Cassandra Clare said this was a great book. Much like her book being reviewed by Stephanie Meyer, mother of dreck, I should have known better. There are spoilers for the entire book in this review.

I'm running out of things to say about all the YA I've been reading lately, because it's all starting to sound the same. Why? Because all the books I've been reading are all reading the same way. One thing I've noticed is that every YA author seems to have picked up a liking for the word "deft(ly)" at the same time, and love sprinkling it everywhere. Also, whenever you kiss someone, your lips get swollen so badly you need to mention it. The other thing I'm noticing is that, plot-wise, nothing matters nearly as much as the romance. And that's just no fun.

I don't mind a romance, but I'm starting to think that teen girls are being encouraged to fall in love with the first or second guy they meet, at age 16-17-18, and let that consume their entire being. Their lives suddenly become all about making the guy happy. What about their own happiness? What about their own identities? By the end of this book, Kate is married (she's 18), she's become immortal, and she's 100% certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that she'll never stop loving Henry ever ever ever! She did this entire thing so that she could (a) spend more time with her mom before she dies, and (b) keep Henry from fading away. But what about her life? What about her hopes and dreams? She has zero identity outside of being Henry's new wife and queen of the Underworld. And that strange love triangle with James was forced and awkward. I never would have gone for that angle.

I remember, back when I was a teenager reading YA fantasy, there was actual fantasy amid the romance. The romance did not take center stage, it was often only a background element that blossomed into something more much later in a series. Take, for example, Tamora Pierce's Tortall books. Magic, intrigue, adventure, lots and lots of danger and excitement, and oh, a little romance here and there. Diana Wynne Jones' Howl's Moving Castle is also a great example of fantasy taking center stage, with the romance as something on the side. Why is that so hard to find in this generation of YA fantasy? Why is it that all teen girls (and adults who read YA) apparently want to read about is how a hot girl gets with a hot guy (or a not-so-hot girl gets with a super-hot guy), and oh maybe there's some magic here and there?

Lastly, the writing on this was so glaringly obvious that I had no trouble figuring out James was on the council, and that Kate's mom was actually the goddess Diana. Sorry if that ruined anything for you. I promise that you would have seen it coming a mile away yourself, unless you're super dense.

And I won't even get into the whole mythology thing. That has been very thoroughly covered in other reviews. (These are just two. Go see the multitude for yourself.)

The only reason I'm going to read book 2 is because I swapped for it at the same time as this one, and it's been sitting in my house, and I feel like I should read it before I send it away.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Review: The Bards of Bone Plain

The Bards of Bone PlainThe Bards of Bone Plain by Patricia A. McKillip
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I don't think my brain was in the right place when I started this book. I had such a hard time getting into it, I was bored and it was putting me to sleep (literally, I'd fall asleep after only a few pages).

But picking it up again a few days ago, determined to finish, I realized it was actually a very good book. Once I got to the halfway point I was much more interested and felt more connected to it. It was still a bit abstract, I don't really understand what happened to Nairn in the tower, but I liked the writing and the characters (for the most part).

Recommended for fantasy readers if you are looking for some good high fantasy with some abstract ideas of magic.

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Review: Juliet's Nurse

Juliet's NurseJuliet's Nurse by Lois Leveen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

[Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book through the Goodreads Giveaway.]

In Juliet's Nurse, Lois Leveen takes on the story of the nurse from Romeo & Juliet. The first half of the book is devoted to the bonding between Angelica, the nurse, and Juliet as a newborn through three-year-old. And if you're going to talk about a wet nurse, there's going to be a lot of talk about breastfeeding. But Angelica is also a bit randy (to put it mildly) and her husband can't get his fill of her often enough, so of course there's a lot of sex and sex talk, too. The story also involves Tybalt and his attachment to the nurse and to Juliet, and even to Angelica's husband Pietro and his bees.

For me, by about 30% of the way through the book I'd had enough of the narration of Juliet's breastfeeding, talking about how Angelica lost her virginity to her much older husband at the ripe age of 12, sex jokes, and finding ways to sneak sex with her husband. And the sheer number of times she mentioned her six boys lost to the plague was staggering. Almost every time she mentioned one of their names, it was followed up with something like, "but the plague took them and everything I loved." I feel like there wasn't enough to this nurse to make her into a full character or story. It relied too much on the fact that she was a wet nurse, that she loved Juliet and Tybalt, that she loved her husband, and she missed her sons.

That's not to say it wasn't well-written, and by the time we got to part two things started moving a bit more quickly. It is around the 75% mark where we start getting into the story that Shakespeare wrote, with a few lines from the play thrown in, and the dialogue changing actually quite noticeably to more Shakespearean language. It was not nearly as obvious in the first half of the book as it was when we flash forward to Juliet's 13th year. This part was interesting, although I really had to make myself "get over" how close Juliet and Angelica were since, in this century, it would seem odd (and a bit uncomfortable for me) for a nurse to clean her charge's teeth and sleep cuddled up with her every night (at 13 years old!). There is a lot more to the story of why this happens, and I don't claim to be an historian so I don't know if it would have been normal back then, but even so it made me feel uncomfortable, a bit leery.

The copy I received was an advanced reader, so there were many many typos and wrong words and missing letters and such. Hopefully they have all been fixed in the final release.

It was a good book, but I didn't love it, only liked it. It had an interesting perspective to present, and a strange back story to develop. Nice speculative fiction based on previous fiction. Just not something I really loved.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Review: Dark Triumph

Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin, #2)Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

*****There is a minor spoiler in this review, if you HAVEN'T read Grave Mercy yet.*****

[Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this e-book from NetGalley.]

4 stars instead of only 3, because I thought this one was *better* than Grave Mercy (although my review may not show it).

My main problems with this book are as follows:

1. Sybella and Ismae have an almost identical voice. They wonder about different things, and are concerned with different aspects of their relationship with Mortain, but they "speak" exactly the same. Without having read the description of this one and simply jumping in as soon as I finished Grave Mercy, I was a little confused because it sounded like the same person speaking, but with a different background. A few paragraphs in I realized it was Sybella, not Ismae.

2. There is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much narrated angst. This bothered me in Grave Mercy, but having read Dark Triumph immediately after finishing the first one, it was overkill. I love getting inside a character's head, but Sybella and Ismae are almost *too much* in their own heads. And it's typical teen girl angst, because they are all of 17 or 18 (I'm not sure how old Sybella is but I am guessing around Ismae's age), and outside of planning how to kill someone, they don't stop to think things through. They immediately jump to the worst possible conclusion ("I'm a something-or-other, I'm an awful person, he must hate me, now that he knows who I am I'm not going to look at him because he probably hates me even though it's not my fault and I don't know that for sure and there's no way I can possibly talk to him about it because that would be too awful because he probably hates me blah blah blah.").

3. While Ismae's and Sybella's stories differ greatly in the details (Sybella's story is much more complex and tragic, and frankly, interesting), they follow almost the exact same linear path. They are thrust into an assignment they don't want, their plans get ruined, they end up taking a detour and falling in love, and they almost lose that love to death, and then Mortain shows up and tells them how much he loves them, their eyes are opened, and they can go back to battle with complete clarity, understanding who they are and what they need to do.

4. Again, the ending to this was no ending. I know, series, continuation, cliffhanger, blah-de-blah.

But I liked the story and I liked getting further into the historically fictional conflict. It was interesting and fast-paced and kept me interested for the couple of days it took to get through it. Recommended with reservations. Hopefully I'll get to read the third book, although I have a feeling it's going to be much the same as books 1 and 2.

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Friday, October 31, 2014

Review: Grave Mercy

Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin, #1)Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

[Dislcaimer: I received a free copy of the ebook edition from NetGalley.]

I'm very surprised that I enjoyed this book so much. It's a typical angsty teen romance, but there's so much more going on that I managed to overlook that for the most part. According to the author's note, the book is based on actual events from the Middle Ages, but since I'm far from an historian I won't comment on the authenticity. Overall this was well-written, intriguing, and flowed pretty well. I didn't really like how melodramatic Ismae could be when thinking about whether she loved Duval or not, but again, teen angst. I guess I can forgive it because of her horrible life up until she was 14, and for the rest of the book she's only 17 and spent years in a "convent," so it's to be expected.

The plots were so thick I didn't really see who was behind everything until Sybella manages to speak with Ismae for 5 seconds, well into the second half of the book. I thought the ending was a bit rushed, considering all the build-up, but knowing that it's a series makes up for it.

The fantasy aspects of the story were interesting, since it appears that there is much more to the "saint" Mortain than the abbess is willing to share with the girls in the convent. As Ismae figures it out, it gets more and more complicated. It will be interesting to see in book 2 how involved the abbess is in the deception. I also look forward to seeing the role Mortain will play in Ismae's new direction.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Review: The Thirteenth Tower

The Thirteenth TowerThe Thirteenth Tower by Sara C. Snider
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

[Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the e-book edition from NetGalley.]

The Thirteenth Tower was actually a pleasant surprise. I've read some really awful books that I got from NetGalley lately, and was expecting more of the same, which is probably why I ended up enjoying it as much as I did. Emelyn starts out as a servant girl, but ends up as so much more.

There is a lot good about this book. I mostly enjoyed the writing style, found it easy to read, and the dialogue wasn't as strained as I expected. There were moments where I found it wandering off into flowery territory, but for the most part it was appropriate and well-done. Emelyn isn't the greatest heroine, she's not someone I could see myself being friends with, but she isn't insufferable and her story ends up being quite thought-out.

The concept itself was interesting, and I appreciated the execution of the twists and turns of story. One thing I didn't like: it was absolutely completely predictable. It really was obvious what was going to happen; I think I figured it out about halfway through. And while that's a pretty nice chunk of book in which I was in the dark, it still leaves half the book for me to go "OK, when is [this] going to happen?" or "When is she going to figure out she's [that]?"

I didn't like the ending, there was too much going on in the final major scene and yet not enough. I felt like I was trudging through mud while reading the "battle" scene, and I still can't figure out exactly what happened. Also, I don't see anywhere on GR that this is a planned series, so the strange and abrupt ending has left me a bit confused. And while I appreciate Cobbe as a character, I still can't quite figure out her purpose aside from keeping them fed, and providing a little comic relief.

The one thing that has bothered me throughout the entire book is one of the opening scenes: when Emelyn gets swept away to the festival and finds instead the strange creatures, we see the following:

(view spoiler)

This is the *only* such passage in the entire book. Throughout the rest of it there isn't even the barest mention of sex, the closest thing to describing a body part being Emelyn's attempts to figure out whether the small-folk are men or women. It stuck out in a bad way, because otherwise this book was pretty exclusively PG. I'm not saying it was inappropriate, but it didn't fit at all with the rest of the book or with the narrative style. I would consider removing it in future editions, only because I felt it interrupted the story for no reason whatsoever, distracting me from what was going on.

So there's room for improvement, and if it IS going to be a series that explains the ending. It's not fantastic high fantasy, but it was a pretty good read and I rather enjoyed it.

ETA 10/29/14 - I've been skimming other reviews just to see what others have said about this book.  A lot of people have mentioned the lack of character development.  Upon further reflection, I think I was a bit too generous in mentioning I felt that Emelyn was well-developed.  Presented with passages and examples of her stupidity, I realize I had been thinking this all along.  I think what changed my mind was at the end when she decides to embrace her powers and stop being so stupid.  Maybe that blinded me to her faults (and there were many).  It's probably why I said I didn't really care for her as a person, or wouldn't be friends with her.  Anyway, I agree with other reviewers that most of the characters could have been more well-developed, with their motives a bit more clear, or noted at all.

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Friday, October 3, 2014

Review: Sorcerer's Feud

Sorcerer's FeudSorcerer's Feud by Katharine Kerr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

[Disclaimer: I read this book twice in beta and was sent a copy by the author when it was finished. My opinions are my own.]

***There are no spoilers in this post, unless you have not read book 1, in which case what are you doing?? Go read it now!!***

In the second installment of the "Runemaster" series, Maya and Tor are dealing with the aftermath of the accidental murder of Tor's uncle Nils. The book picks up almost immediately after the last book ended, with Maya worrying that the police are going to figure out she killed Nils, and come after her. Not to mention her brother is still in the hospital and not progressing with his recovery, she has a final project for her degree to work on, she's finally engaged to Tor, and they make the discovery that Nils had kids, one of whom makes contact with Tor regarding the will.

On top of all of that, there's a frost giant who keeps showing up in the driveway demanding the gold plaque that Tor won't give back, Tor is still a were-bear, and Maya is finally confronting the memories that can unlock her heritage and her powers. And Nazis! *dun dun dun*

Let's get one thing straight: This series is fan-freaking-tastic! I loved reading it all three times, and even in my final read I discovered new things and saw some minor changes that really illuminated the plot. I always have fun reading about Maya and Tor, they are a great couple of characters. And the addition of Joel, Tor's cousin, was a great way to show how Maya is becoming entrenched in the magical world. His disbelief was once hers, but now she's so involved that it's like she was never a "normal" person. Her heritage is even more engrossing, because we finally learn where she's from and how she got her "disease."

Obviously it's not true urban fantasy, and the author says as much in the note at the beginning. It doesn't really fit into any one genre, at least not completely. I consider it simply fantasy set in the modern world (which I normally don't like to read as much, but I find this set wholly entertaining). The writing style is pretty easy to read, because you can end up reading a huge chunk of the book and not realize how much until you check your page count! And it never gets boring. I highly recommend this series (definitely start with book 1, Sorcerer's Luck) to anyone who enjoys a fun but intense story about magic, runes, old gods, and some spicy romance.

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Review: Broken Realms

Broken Realms (The Chronicles of Mara Lantern #1)Broken Realms by D.W. Moneypenny
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

[Disclaimer: I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley.]

2.5/5 stars

There are minor spoilers throughout this review.

The blurb about this book sounded much more interesting than the book itself turned out to be. My main problem with it was there was a giant gaping plot hole throughout the entire thing: If Mara could control reality with her brain, why didn't she just, I don't know, CONTROL IT?! You can't give a character that kind of power and not explain away the way it works. There was a lot of speculation on the part of the characters (it's nice to have non-omniscient characters, but this wasn't exactly the right way to go about it) on how exactly the powers worked, and what happened when Mara "flickered" after using them too much. There needs to be at least some level of understanding why Mara can use her powers a certain way one time but not every time. The reasoning behind that was never worked out and never even touched on. I mean, she's able to pixellate pretty much anything and blow it away. But a dragon comes at her and she can't even get it to stop moving for more than a few seconds? It doesn't make any sense.

The narration was also pretty overwrought, there was a lot of purple prose, over-description, unnecessary passages that did nothing to advance the plot or set up any bit of the story, and the descriptors were overused. Concrete rippled, bridges rippled, roads rippled, the air get the point.

The ending itself was too open-ended. I realize this is a planned series, but if you can't wrap up anything at the end of one book, what's going to make the reader want to read the next one? I would have at least liked to know if they were going to regroup at someone's house and start trying to help the people from other dimensions get home, or even if Detective Bohannon was still involved in any way. The way he was cut out from the last 20% of the book made me wonder if he was even necessary to begin with, other than as a "normal" bystander observing the strange phenomena.

I'm giving it 2.5 out of 5 stars because of the concept. The premise was really interesting and that's why I requested to read it. It wasn't executed particularly well, but it wasn't as bad as some of the other galleys I've read lately. It needs a more thorough editing to remove a lot of the over-descriptors and repeated verbs, along with wrong words and spelling errors and plot holes. If it hadn't already been released I would have suggested more of a polishing to make it seem less like an amateur novel, but we're past that point now.

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Giveaway: The Awakening of Miss Prim

via Goodreads
Here it is, folks!  If you want to win your very own copy of The Awakening of Miss Prim, enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.  The winner must be willing to provide me with a mailing address, which will only be used to send the book.

This giveaway will run from September 2, 2014 12:00am EST through September 9, 2014 12:00am EST.  If you win, you will have 48 hours from my first contact to respond, and then I'll be moving on to the next person!

****Sorry sorry!  Also, for the "Comment on the blog" entry, you cannot use a Facebook timeline post to enter, as that violates Facebook's TOS.  Any entries with that as the link will be disqualified.****

a Rafflecopter giveaway

UPDATE 9/9/2014: AND THE WINNER IS RACHEL!  Thanks for entering everyone!  I hope I can do this again soon!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Review: The Awakening of Miss Prim

The Awakening of Miss Prim: A NovelThe Awakening of Miss Prim: A Novel by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

[Disclaimer: I won a copy of this book in the Goodreads First Reads giveaway.]

3.5/5 stars (Oh how I wish Goodreads did half stars!)

"I'm cold. Would you mind taking me home now?"
"Mind? I'm always happy to take you home, Prudencia."

Prudencia Prim shows up in an isolated town, to apply for the position of librarian. It turns out to be in a man's home, which also functions as a school of sorts, and this man (never named, other than as "The Man in the Wing Chair") is the perfect person to infuriate, frustrate, and turn Miss Prim into an emotional pretzel. She prides herself on her civility, her delicacy, her own good manners and intelligence, and frequently turns her nose up (quite literally, to a somewhat comedic effect) at other people's faults. But she learns that her way is not the only way, that there are other people who live different lives, more peaceful and happy lives, and maybe her prudish and stuck-up ways aren't exactly making her the best person she can be.

I'm afraid I may have missed the point of this book. Rather than laughing at Prudencia as I think the author might have intended, I found her insufferable and a bit stupid. I'm amazed, with all of her haughtiness, that she managed to make an entire village full of friends. She overreacts easily to just about everything, and only towards the end does she allow herself to feel anything short of indignation that someone would speak to her plainly and without "delicacy." Although the last couple of chapters sort of redeem her, I'm not sure I followed where the author was going with the "idea" of Miss Prim.

And yet, for all of my inability to feel comfortable with my own understanding of the work, I thought it was well-written and funny, an interesting story, and I'm happy to have read it. I'm giving it the full four stars rather than knocking it down to three because of that, and because I quite enjoyed hating the main character. Not to mention the bluntness of the children, who are relatively minor characters but give the book much of its charm. Also, I really want to move to San Ireneo de Arnois.

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Do you want to read this book?  If so, keep an eye on this blog in the next week or so because you'll have a chance to win it!