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The Bone Witch (The Bone Witch #1) by Rin Chupeco

The Bone Witch (The Bone Witch #1) by Rin ChupecoThe Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco
on March 7, 2017
Genres: YA, Fantasy
Pages: 432
Source: Purchased: ebook
Goodreads
one-star

Let me be clear: I never intended to raise my brother from his grave, though he may claim otherwise. If there's anything I've learned from him in the years since, it's that the dead hide truths as well as the living.

When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother from the dead, she learns she is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy means that she's a bone witch, a title that makes her feared and ostracized by her community. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training.

In her new home, Tea puts all her energy into becoming an asha-one who can wield elemental magic. But dark forces are approaching quickly, and in the face of danger, Tea will have to overcome her obstacles...and make a powerful choice.

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This freaking book.

Just to get this out of the way, this was not a good book. As many reviewers at Booklikes noted, this YA fantasy novel hit every trope that many of us readers are tired of reading.

Main character is the best (insert name of thing) ever.

There is purple prose galore.

World-building is all over the place and more often than not, author contradicts themselves regarding the rules they have put in place.

There is a love triangle (STOP IT!)

People (usually women) are jealous of main character for reasons unknown. That don’t make sense to you as a reader, but at that point you just go with it since you want it to end.

Development of characters seems to be an afterthought.

Book ends on freaking cliffhanger so you know as a reader that the author/publisher is going to stretch this thing out to at least 3 books. Looking at you “Dorothy Must Die” series which managed to push out 4 books.

I really loved the cover for “The Bone Witch” and when I read the synopsis a few months ago I thought this book would be right up my alley. I was wrong.

Told in alternating points of view, “The Bone Witch” has a character who is a bard (no, not looking up his name) who comes across Tea, who is a dark asha (think witch, it’s easier) also called bone witches.

This bard has come from (don’t recall kingdom) in order to find Tea.

Tea agrees to tell her life story after the bard witnesses her slaying a daeva in order to get its bezoar. Just think of a daeva as an undead thing that looks like a dragon. I don’t know. The bezoar is a jeweled remnant left behind that a dark asha like Tea can use in her spells. Seriously, after that the book just jumps into a free for all regarding this world that we find ourselves reading about.

When the POV switches to Tea, we find out what incident occurred in order for Tea to be declared a dark asha. We get to read about how she raised her dead brother (Fox) from the grave. And this is what kills me. The book has promise when you read about that. You are instantly fascinated. Then you are drowned in minutiae and you just don’t care anymore.

The book goes back and forth between the bard’s POV and Tea’s. I really wish that Chupeco had not decided to tell the bard’s POV in italic. I know that they want to visually show the different points of view. But it was hard to read. I don’t think people realize that when you have an e-reader or heck even a hardcover or paperback having someone’s eyes having to constantly adjust to different fonts can cause a headache. I know I had one yesterday.

Tea was not exciting at all. If you want to read about her crush on Prince Kance enjoy that. Also read about how angry she is at having to deal with chores and the food she eats. For pages and pages. I am not kidding about this. A good 3/4 of this book was just descriptions of what she was wearing, what was in her hair (jeweled things that somehow give ashas power), how she felt when Prince Kance was near her, what she was eating, how she sang, danced, and fought. This book borrowed heavily from “Memoirs of a Geisha” to the point that a few times I felt like I was experiencing deja-vu because a scene would sounds so similar to one from that book.

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There were a few things in here that I think that Chupeco wanted to include for a very special after school moment, but it fell flat to me. She includes a character (named Likh) that wants to be an asha (he has a silver heart) but in this world, since he is a male, he has to be a deathseeker. Likh doesn’t want to be one, and Tea and her dead brother Fox try their best to be behind his efforts to become an asha. At one point he makes a speech that he doesn’t seem himself as a boy, that since he was a boy he liked girl things (dolls and dresses) and I just cringed inside.

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I think Chupeco is trying to portray him as gay. But that does not equal only liking girl things and not liking swords or rough play. Heck I was a tomboy and fought my mother tooth and nail to not be in a dress outside of church (boy did she despair) and yet I was not gay. I just think she should be careful with generalizations like this when writing.

We have other characters like Lady Mykaela, Lady Zoya, Mother Parmina and others who I wish we had been able to visit with more. They had more going on then Tea that was for sure. But honestly after a while, it was hard to keep track of so many people. Every few pages it felt like someone new was being included in this book.

The writing was purple prose run amok.

And honestly what really kills me about this book is that I still don’t get the world building that Chupeco has in this book. We have ashas who can control fire, water, wind, and earth (I think). And then we have dark ashas who can control the dead. How the heck does that even link up to the other four elements? Even Captain Planet decided to go with “heart” for crying out loud as a fifth element.

Don’t get me started why ashas who can control the elements are even being taught about dancing, flower arrangement, how to sing, how to perform, etc. Chupeco even has the ashas going to tea houses to have conversations with men. Once again there is a whole what in the world thought running through my mind. When Chupeco goes into Tea having to work off her debt to the “Mother” of her house I just started to laugh. This fantasy world is definitely not for me.

Chupeco tries to describe the runes that Tea is learning about, but man oh man my eyes just glazed over. We really only get two fight scenes in this book, and those were the only interesting parts of this book. Everything else was a big meh to me.

Chupeco has “The World of the Bone Witch” section that she included at the end of the book. It would have been better to put that up front after she showcased the maps of this world. I also really wish that Chupeco had thought to include a dictionary for the terms in this book. You have to guess a lot at what certain words mean or what she means when talking about somethings. For example, the clothes that the ashas wear are referred to as huas. Guess what I could not find that word anywhere in the dictionary. I ended up having to Google and found out that hua means China. I don’t know if that is true or not since it popped up via Wikipedia. I imagine that Chupeco means that this outfits (based on the endless pages of descriptions) are similar somewhat to kimonos though. Same thing when I tried to look up daesha which turned up some interesting results.

The setting of this world that Chupeco creates at first glance sounds interesting. Everyone has an actual physical representation of their heart that they wear for all to see in a heartglass. People (ashas mostly) can see the colors in the heartglass and can tell if you are happy, anxious, sad, sick, etc. But if you give your heart away (cue danger) you can slowly start to die. But sometimes not. And sometimes you can get a new heart. I am sure this is all going to reveal about love or something in book #2 or #3.

Chupeco also shows the kingdom includes people with blonde hair and blue eyes, dark haired people with dark eyes, and golden skinned people with I can’t even remember what eyes they had, I think she refers to their shape. But then people pop up who are dark skinned and I just didn’t have the energy to figure out what kingdom they even come from.

The ending was a freaking cliffhanger. There are enough clues here and there that you can imagine what happened to put Tea on this path, which is why having a cliffhanger really doesn’t work. There was one reveal that I think will surprise some readers if they manage to finish this book. I know that I don’t really care what caused Tea to take the measures that she is about to do.

I read this for booklikes-oply. The Kindle Edition is 432 pages.

one-star

The Falconer by Elizabeth May

The Falconer by Elizabeth MayThe Falconer (The Falconer, #1) by Elizabeth May
Series: The Falconer #1
Published by Chronicle Books on May 6th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, YA, YA - Fantasy
Pages: 378
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
three-stars

One girl's nightmare is this girl's faery tale

She's a stunner. Edinburgh, 1844. Eighteen-year-old Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the Marquess of Douglas, has everything a girl could dream of: brains, charm, wealth, a title—and drop-dead beauty.

She's a liar. But Aileana only looks the part of an aristocratic young lady. she's leading a double life: She has a rare ability to sense the sìthíchean—the faery race obsessed with slaughtering humans—and, with the aid of a mysterious mentor, has spent the year since her mother died learning how to kill them.

She's a murderer. Now Aileana is dedicated to slaying the fae before they take innocent lives. With her knack for inventing ingenious tools and weapons—from flying machines to detonators to lightning pistols—ruthless Aileana has one goal: Destroy the faery who destroyed her mother.

She's a Falconer. The last in a line of female warriors born with a gift for hunting and killing the fae, Aileana is the sole hope of preventing a powerful faery population from massacring all of humanity. Suddenly, her quest is a lot more complicated. She still longs to avenge her mother's murder—but she'll have to save the world first.

The first volume of a trilogy from an exciting new voice in young adult fantasy, this electrifying thriller combines romance and action, steampunk technology and Scottish lore in a deliciously addictive read.

I received a free e-copy of this book from netgalley.

I requested this book because I’ve been seeing the series by Elizabeth May popping up everywhere. Overall, I liked the book – it was sort of an 18th century Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with fae instead of vampires. I do have a few issues with the book, however.

First, it is awfully similar to the Karen Marie Moning Fever series, which makes it feel a bit derivative. In addition, one of the strengths of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was her relationship with her posse – Xander, Willow and Giles. It would’ve been nice to see some development of the supporting characters so that they could’ve been more active participants as opposed to being essentially window-dressing. I also like the Scottish themes.

Finally, I do have an issue with the title of the book – it’s a bit strange to call a book “The Falconer” when it doesn’t even remotely involve falcons, no matter the historical context. I suppose calling it Aileana the Fae Slayer would’ve been too obvious, however! I’m curious about book 2, and will likely continue the series. This one was enjoyable, but slight, and I doubt it will leave a lasting impression

three-stars

A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

A Crown of Wishes by Roshani ChokshiA Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on March 28, 2017
Genres: YA - Fantasy
Pages: 352
Source: Purchased: ebook
Goodreads
five-stars

Gauri, the princess of Bharata, has been taken as a prisoner of war by her kingdom’s enemies. Faced with a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. Hope unexpectedly comes in the form of Vikram, the cunning prince of a neighboring land and her sworn enemy kingdom. Unsatisfied with becoming a mere puppet king, Vikram offers Gauri a chance to win back her kingdom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together, they’ll have to set aside their differences and team up to win the Tournament of Wishes—a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor.

Reaching the tournament is just the beginning. Once they arrive, danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans and mischievous story birds, a feast of fears and twisted fairy revels.

Every which way they turn new trials will test their wit and strength. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire.

I needed a fantastic book and I savored this one for two days though I wanted to swallow it whole at times. It lingered with me in my sleep and I smiled when I woke up because I was so happy to just keep reading this book. Chokshi includes Indian myths and also just really great characters that you want to keep reading about. We also get appearances from characters from the last book that I was sad to see go when we finished. I often worry when authors start writing a YA book and write a sequel or decide it will be a trilogy. That’s only because not many have held up. This one holds up. I highly recommend.
Spoilers for those who have not read “The Star-Touched Queen.”
Readers were introduced to Gauri in the last book. Sister to Maya, we find out that Guari ended up becoming a soldier. We know that Maya was worried about what would become of her sister due to their awful brother Skanda. When “A Crown of Wishes” starts we have Gauri captured by a rival kingdom (Ujijain). She doesn’t know what is to become of her, but she is determined to escape and rule her own kingdom, Bharata even if it means killing the Prince of Ujijain. And the Prince of Ujijain (Vikram) longs to be seen as the rightful ruler of his people. He is obviously intelligent and wise, but without the council’s blessing, he knows that he would only be a puppet king, and he wants more.
Due to both of them having wishes in their hearts they are afraid to say out loud, these two end up being thrown into a magical journey together, that if they survive, will end up with them winning two wishes if they participate and win the Tournament of Wishes.
Gauri is headstrong but loyal. I loved her from beginning to end. Based on what we find out about her upbringing and what her brother did to those she cared about, it’s natural that she is cautious and not trusting with Vikram. But slowly but surely, Vikram warms her heart and she warms his as well. I loved seeing the growth between the two of them and actually laughed out lout at their back and forth with each other, think of Carey Grant and Rosalind Russell in “His Girl Friday” if you want an apt comparison.
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Vikram was so good. I was having a book boyfriend crush. And that has not happened in a long time. He was cautious, but ultimately optimistic about everything, Vikram more than Gauri had a lot of hope in him for the future. I did love how in certain ways he was strong and in others Gauri was stronger. I loved that Chokshi made the female character in this book a warrior and the man a philosopher. There is a moment when he says as you wish and I maybe squealed out loud.
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There are too many characters to name in this book, but the most important is Aasha. I loved her and at first didn’t get why we were being introduced to her, but slowly that gets revealed. I would love a short story with her in the future, hint hint.
The writing was lyrical and also flowed wonderfully. I honestly have no complaints. I loved the myths that were wrapped in this story and enjoyed looking up all of the words that I didn’t understand. My only complaint, my Kindle dictionary did not recognize any of the Indian terms so I had to often go Google on my cell phone and look things up in Wikipedia. In the back of the book is a glossary, that was not as extensive as it should have been. Since I bought an e-book it would have been awesome if the words that were in the glossary were connected to the first time they were used in the text so I could click and go and read and click and go back to my place in the book. Just something for next time for the publisher to think about.
The setting of this book was great. Think of an India that exists in myth and legends. The descriptions of everything made my long for this book in a visceral way. I know that a lot of people were oohing and ahhing over the cover, I would have loved it if this book had included illustrations, I would have probably lost my mind in a good way if we had gotten that. For now, my imagination was enough and I daydreamed about forests that dripped with golden fruit and diamonds, women who wear rivers as dresses, people who when they tell a story a bird flies out of their mouths, and a garden of swords.
The ending was fantastic. No spoilers, except I leave you with this:
“i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is youhere is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)”

five-stars

Ghostly Echoes (Jackaby #3) by William Ritter

Ghostly Echoes (Jackaby #3) by William RitterGhostly Echoes (Jackaby, #3) by William Ritter
Series: Jackaby #3
Published by Algonquin Young Readers on August 23rd 2016
Genres: YA, YA - Fantasy
Pages: 352
Source: Purchased: ebook
Goodreads
four-stars

Jenny Cavanaugh, the ghostly lady of 926 Augur Lane, has enlisted the investigative services of her fellow residents to solve a decade-old murder—her own. Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer, Detective R. F. Jackaby, dive into the cold case, starting with a search for Jenny’s fiancé, who went missing the night she died. But when a new, gruesome murder closely mirrors the events of ten years prior, Abigail and Jackaby realize that Jenny’s case isn’t so cold after all, and her killer may be far more dangerous than they suspected.

Fantasy and folklore mix with mad science as Abigail’s race to unravel the mystery leads her across the cold cobblestones of nineteenth-century New England, down to the mythical underworld, and deep into her colleagues’ grim histories to battle the most deadly foe she has ever faced.

There is apparently one more of these Jackaby books to come, however Ghostly Echoes finally gets down to business with Jenny Cavanaugh’s story, and, as I expected all along, it is a remarkable tale.

There’s definitely something rotten in the state of New Fiddleham.

This series in general has really given me a Newt Scamander vibe – in fact, if they were looking to cast Jackaby, Eddie Redmayne wouldn’t be a bad choice for the role. It’s probably hardest to review this installment in the series because more than any of the other three, this book felt like half of the story. The story has become much darker, and we are beginning to understand that there is a game afoot that Jackaby is only beginning to understand. We get a lot of backstory on both Jackaby and Jenny, which is important to a full understanding of the events of all of the preceding books as well as this one.

There are blind alleys a plenty, but there are also reveals. I can’t wait to see how William Ritter wraps up this delicious, delightful series!

four-stars

The Beastly Bones (Jackaby #2) by William Ritter

The Beastly Bones (Jackaby #2) by William RitterBeastly Bones (Jackaby, #2) by William Ritter
Series: Jackaby
Published by Algonquin Young Readers on September 22nd 2015
Genres: YA, YA - Fantasy
Pages: 296
Source: Purchased: ebook
Goodreads
four-half-stars

I've found very little about private detective R. F. Jackaby to be standard in the time I've known him. Working as his assistant tends to call for a somewhat flexible relationship with reality . . .

In 1892, New Fiddleham, New England, things are never quite what they seem, especially when Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer, R. F. Jackaby, are called upon to investigate the supernatural. First, members of a particularly vicious species of shape-shifters disguise themselves as a litter of kittens. A day later, their owner is found murdered, with a single mysterious puncture wound to her neck. Then, in nearby Gad's Valley, dinosaur bones from a recent dig go missing, and an unidentifiable beast attacks animals and people, leaving their mangled bodies behind. Policeman Charlie Cane, exiled from New Fiddleham to the valley, calls on Abigail for help, and soon Abigail and Jackaby are on the hunt for a thief, a monster, and a murderer.

Book 2 does a nice job of continuing the story from Book 1 – starting mere days/weeks after the climactic events at the end of Jackaby. The adorable Charlie Cane has been relocated to Gads Valley, a small community nearby and Jackaby and Abigail continue with their investigating. Soon, local law enforcement asks them to get involved in some shenanigans that are happening in Gad’s Valley.

What we need is a thorough, discreet report from somebody accustomed to working outside the usual parameters of the law.”

“What a coincidence,” Jackaby said. “I’ve been thinking of putting that very thing on my business cards. So you’re sending us on assignment?”

Things get kind of crazy, there might be dinosaurs involved, and Abigail gets to put her archeological skills to good use, finally having something significant to offer to the investigation. A Nellie-Bly’esque reporter shows up, two mediocre white men with superiority complexes yell at each other (a lot) and all hell breaks loose. It’s a lot of fun. In my opinion, as much fun as Jackaby.

Jackaby shook his head. “Miss Rook,” he said, “the greatest figures in history are never the ones who avoid failure, but those who march chin-up through countless failures, one after the next, until they come upon the occasional victory.” He put a hand on my shoulder. “Failure is not the opposite of success—it’s a part of it. And as failures go,” he added with a lopsided grin, “this one was really spectacular, wasn’t it?” The firelight bobbed merrily in my employer’s eyes, and behind him the roof of the farmhouse collapsed into a smoldering heap. I sighed, and in spite of myself I managed a weak smile. “It really was, sir.”

four-half-stars

This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1) by Victoria Schwab

This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1) by Victoria SchwabThis Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
Published by Greenwillow Books on July 5th 2016
Genres: YA - Fantasy
Pages: 464
Source: Borrowed: ebook
Goodreads
dnf

There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

This is going to be short and sweet because I DNFed this book at 10 percent.

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I just was not in the mood for this book after the opening scene showed one of our two main characters (I don’t know if there are anymore POVs or not) name Kate Harker setting fire to a church. We find out she is such a badass because she’s been kicked out of 5 schools and she’s hoping her arson will cause her to be kicked out of this school as well. And oh she broke some other girl’s nose. We don’t know what other girl did besides breathe air, but you know, Kate is somehow in the right. The book then transitions over to a teen boy named August Flynn  and I just mentally checked right out. I don’t know how many young adult novels had a guy with the name of August or starting with an A, but it’s starting to feel like a lot.

I know, you are all wondering why in the world did I read this. Well I got sucked in by the synopsis which sounded kick ass and when I realized I had been duped decided the heck with this and moved onto another book. Also this has led me to enact the following policy with books starting in 2017. When I am getting the book from the library, first go find it on Amazon, read sample, and then decided to pass on it. Or if it is at the library when I get there, read a few pages, and then scuttle the thing if it is not grabbing in the first few pages.

My impressions so far at 10 percent is that Kate seems like a psychopath with huge daddy issues. August is all over the place and all I kept thinking when the Schwab transitioned over to him was some emo guy with bad hair.

Everyone else in this book looks like a caricature, Kate’s father is the leader of one half of a divided city and goes around saying things like here there are monsters. I may have snorted laugh at that.

The writing seemed just okay, but I was really not in the mood to try to get into some young adult dystopian book that sounded like all of the worst parts of every young adult novel combined. The flow was off too since for every POV that featured Kate, we seemed to stay with August much longer. Maybe even Schwab was tired of writing about her.

I am going to say that the world building in this type of novels has to make sense right away. I am over info being provided at the pace of a snail going uphill. We know right away this is not our world, and when Kate is being driven back to the city and acting like a jerk once again we get some minor details about things that lurk in the dark (here there be monsters). I don’t know, I just finished with the Monstrologist trilogy so I just rolled my eyes at deep and dark monsters going around.

dnf

A World Without Sound

A World Without SoundSoundless by Richelle Mead
Published by Razorbill on November 10, 2015
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 272
Source: Borrowed: ebook
Goodreads
three-stars

For as long as Fei can remember, there has been no sound in her village, where rocky terrain and frequent avalanches prevent residents from self-sustaining. Fei and her people are at the mercy of a zipline that carries food up the treacherous cliffs from Beiguo, a mysterious faraway kingdom.

When villagers begin to lose their sight, deliveries from the zipline shrink and many go hungry. Fei’s home, the people she loves, and her entire existence is plunged into crisis, under threat of darkness and starvation.

But soon Fei is awoken in the night by a searing noise, and sound becomes her weapon.

Richelle Mead takes readers on a triumphant journey from the peak of Fei’s jagged mountain village to the valley of Beiguo, where a startling truth and an unlikely romance will change her life forever....

Well the main plot of “Soundless” intrigued me a lot. A hidden village on top of a mountain where no one can hear. Instead this village has learned how to adapt to not being able to hear and has broken their village into artists, miners, and suppliers. After the village has increasing cases of blindness occurring which leads to less food provided by those below, the main character Fei (an artist) leaves the village with her childhood sweetheart to investigate what is happening. What is a fun little twist to the book is that Fei regains her hearing and that causes an interesting wrinkle to the story. The book fell apart for me though when we get to the ending of the story. I don’t know about you, but mythical creature comes to save the day was a letdown after all of the nuance that proceeded the ending.

I liked the character of Fei. We find out she is a star pupil in the artists group and is seen as the successor to one of the elders in the village. However, Fei is concerned because she realizes her younger sister is slowly losing her sight and it worries her that if her sister cannot be an artist, she will eventually be thrown out to beg for food among the village. When Fei regains her hearing it was interesting how Mead showed how she dealt with hearing things for the first time. Her reactions to hearing birds, to sudden noises, to people screaming, etc. did have me immersed in this fantasy world. We can also see how Fei being challenged by her childhood sweetheart, Li Wei causes Fei to open her eyes more to the fact that how the village chooses to just blithely agree to demands for more minerals from the people below them in exchange for food is wrong. It’s also wrong that the village does not allow miners, artists, or suppliers to inter-marry. Instead if you are an artist, you have to marry another artist. I had a lot of trouble with that one since Fei came from a family of miners and showed a talent for art as did her sister, so you would think someone would realize that was a dumb rule to keep insisting upon.

Most of the other characters are not developed very well in this story besides Fei, Li Wei, and Fei’s sister. Everyone else seems to be pretty one dimensional.

When the story moves from the village after Fei regains her hearing, after the initial parts that fascinated Fei and Li Wei the whole story slowed down. I understood these were new and wondrous things to them (seeing a woman in head to foot yellow silk) but it got old after a while while these two signed to each other.

The writing was okay, but the fact that Mead chose to have the characters when “speaking” to each other have that text be in italics was hard to read after a while. I don’t know if authors or others don’t realize this. But having different fonts or text style right next to each other are hard to read after a while. My eyes felt like they were constantly readjusting and a few times I had to go back and re-read something because my eyes were skipping over words after a while.  The book in middle also changed from a YA fantasy to a YA romance novel. There was a lot of Li Wei declaring himself to Fei and Fei shying away from it, but not really. I maybe sort of rolled my eyes a few times.

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And before anyone yells at me, no I don’t hate love or anything. But declaring your feelings while you have run away from your village and have soldiers out trying to track you down is definitely a let’s wait for a second situation. At least that is to me.

The flow was off throughout the book. I think it’s because once the book changes gears to Fei and Li Wei leaving the village, there was action, but there was also way too many information dumps being thrown my way while reading. We quickly find out what is going on with the food drops, what exactly is causing blindness in the village, and a myth thrown into boot. I maybe pulled my hair in frustration at this point.

The world building really needed to be better. I liked the idea of a village where no one could hear. But I don’t think Mead played with the concept enough. And I really don’t get why it was necessary that everyone was color-coded (artists wear blue for example, I cannot remember what colors everyone else wore). And the myth aspect comes out of nowhere and I would have loved more information about that way before we got to the end. I felt a little bit like it was hey there’s this awesome thing that somehow can make everything better.

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And the book pretty much ends with somehow everything is better, but there are still a lot of questions going on. I was glad to finish this, but I did struggle with it a few times here and there. This was almost a DNF for me just because I was having problems staying engaged with the story.

 

three-stars

Climbing Mount TBR: The Boy Who Drew Monsters & Cinder

Multi-Reviews: Cinder, The Boy Who Drew Monsters by Keith Donohue, Marissa Meyer
Genres: Horror, Sci Fi, YA, YA - Fantasy
Source: Purchased: ebook

The Boy Who Drew Monsters

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Stolen Child comes a hypnotic literary horror novel about a young boy trapped inside his own world, whose drawings blur the lines between fantasy and reality.

Ever since he nearly drowned in the ocean three years earlier, ten-year-old Jack Peter Keenan has been deathly afraid to venture outdoors. Refusing to leave his home in a small coastal town in Maine, Jack Peter spends his time drawing monsters. When those drawings take on a life of their own, no one is safe from the terror they inspire. His mother, Holly, begins to hear strange sounds in the night coming from the ocean, and she seeks answers from the local Catholic priest and his Japanese housekeeper, who fill her head with stories of shipwrecks and ghosts. His father, Tim, wanders the beach, frantically searching for a strange apparition running wild in the dunes. And the boy’s only friend, Nick, becomes helplessly entangled in the eerie power of the drawings. While those around Jack Peter are haunted by what they think they see, only he knows the truth behind the frightful occurrences as the outside world encroaches upon them all.

In the tradition of The Turn of the Screw, Keith Donohue’s The Boy Who Drew Monsters is a mesmerizing tale of psychological terror and imagination run wild, a perfectly creepy read for a dark night.

I had zero expectations of this book going in, except that it would be scary. You all know that I don’t like scary (because I’m totally chickenshit), so I actually read the book in spite of that, not because of that.

Which is good, because it isn’t really scary. There is a bit of suspense, but I would use the word “puzzling” over the word scary. It’s not a traditional mystery, either. There’s just a puzzle at the center of it – an enigma.

The book is about Jip or JP or Jack Peter, as the boy who drew monsters is named. He is a child of ten. The book is narrated by his father Tim, and his mother Holly. Holly is a lawyer, Tim is the primary caregiver, and the family lives in Maine. Jip’s best friend – his only friend – is Nick, a boy who is his age, and with whom he has been friends since infancy.

I’d give the book three and a half stars – a slightly above average rating. In some ways, the book worked for me. In others, it didn’t.

What worked for me: I really liked Nick a lot – he rang very true to me, and I was convinced by him. I enjoyed the setting. The writing is clean, and engaging, if not lyrical.

What didn’t really work for me: I am not so sure about Jip, though. In some ways, I think that the author would have been better off not naming Jip’s diagnosis (although it is only named from the perspective of the parents) because there were a lot of inconsistencies built into his character, and his parents, frankly, didn’t really ring true to me. Tim did, more than Holly, but her level of disengagement with her family and son was neither appealing nor very convincing.

And the ending (spoiler free): This is one of those books where the journey isn’t the point. The end is the point, and whether or not the author pulled off the end is critical to the success of the book. And I’m going to give Donohue credit – I feel like he did pull off his ending. The reveal was well-handled. He quit at the right point to leave us with a sense of wonder and a bit of lingering unease. Not all of the questions were answered, which made sense given the answers that we did got. This isn’t a cliff-hanger, and I can’t see a sequel in the future. I see The Boy Who Drew Monsters as a true standalone.

So, I recommend it, but with some reservations. Don’t go into it looking for horror – it’s psychologically interesting with a hint of supernatural. But it isn’t that scary and it is fundamentally a story about families and relationships and friendship and the burdens of those three things – and if I say it isn’t that scary, well, draw your own conclusions. A reader who is looking for the building of a sense of dread will be disappointed.

Cinder

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

You know how it is when you start reading, and then you look up and it’s been three hours and you’re done?

That was this book for me – a definite 5-star read.

I really enjoyed everything about this book. I enjoyed the world and the world building. Cinderella has never been my favorite fairy tale – I have always had serious reservations about her lack of agency and the fact that her primary value lies in the fact that she is beautiful.

So, how refreshing is it that Cinder is a competent mechanic. And that she rescues herself. And she doesn’t rely on her looks to obtain benefits.

I couldn’t help but think of David Mitchell’s neo-Seoul, as brought to life by the Wachowski’s in the adaptation of The Cloud Atlas:

neoSeoul

When I mentally pictured New Beijing. I’m actually not a huge fan of sci fi, so the fact that I enjoyed this book even with those elements is pretty remarkable.

This is the first in Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles. I’m culling through series starts this year, to try to weed out my TBR list (and so I can stop buying follow-ups if I decide not to go on). In spite of that, I am completely tempted to go onto Scarlet because this is the kind of series I could binge read (and it doesn’t hurt that I’ve heard that Scarlet is completely amazing).

I’m going to restrain myself. But only until Cress is released on February 4. Although it isn’t the end of the story, I can’t wait to wrap my mind around the next two books.

Rapid Reflections: October 5, 2012

Rapid Reflections: The Diviners by Libba Bray, The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, Ten by Gretchen Neil, The Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan by Gretchen MacNeil, Libba Bray, Maggie Stiefvater, Sarah Rees Brennan
Genres: YA, YA - Fantasy
Source: Purchased: ebook

I just finished this book by Libba Bray. Set in during the time of Prohibition, the main character, Evie, is a flapper who is banished from Ohio to the care of her uncle in New York City as a punishment for some misfeasance at home. Evie is also a “diviner” or a person with some supernatural attributes. She is able to hold an object belonging to a person and sense secrets about them. This is the skill that gets her in trouble, but which comes in tremendously handy when she ends up in the middle of a murder investigation in New York City.

The Diviners is an ambitious book. Libba Bray mined the American tradition of religious zealotry and bigotry to great effect, using temperance, speaking in tongues, cult behavior, mass suicide, and eugenics. This is combined with a cast of characters that is very interesting, from Evie (who is frankly, not a terribly endearing character being reckless, self-absorbed and often immature) to Mabel, Uncle Will, Jericho, a Ziegfield girl and a young black poet, two very creepy old ladies who live upstairs, and a murderous ghost named Naughty John. The main conflict is nicely resolved in this book, but it is clear that there is a much bigger story to be told in future installments. I will definitely read the next installments.

I love Maggie Stiefvater. The Scorpio Races was absolutely one of my favorite books last year, and I was really excited about the release of The Raven Boys. This book did NOT disappoint.

If Maggie Stiefvater isn’t the most lyrical wordsmith writing in the YA genre right now, then I don’t know who is. Her prose is frequently gorgeous. The Raven Boys of the title are a group of 4 young men who attend a prep school. They become involved with Blue, the main female character, who is a townie and a local girl, and who is fated to kill the boy who kisses her first. She is quite adamant that she will never fall in love.

This is also the beginning of the series. It involves a quest for a dead Welsh prince, ley lines, and an old murder. There are a lot of twists and turns, and the ending is a little bit unsatisfying because it is so clearly the first in a series. Along with The Diviners, this was one of my most anticipated releases this year and it was worth the wait.

This is a retelling of the classic Agatha Christie novel And Then There Were None. Gretchen McNeil is no Agatha Christie, but this was a fun read nonetheless, and was quite true to the original.

The book begins with the main character, Meg, and her best friend Minnie, being dropped off on an island for a weekend house party of boys, booze and fun. Things rapidly deteriorate, and the other eight teens on the island begin dying in rapid succession. The first two deaths are chalked up to, first, suicide, and second, accident. By the third death, however, it is clear that someone is killing the teens, and things rapidly descend into chaos, as suspicion and fear take over. Characters who have known each other for years cannot overcome their distrust and truths better left hidden start to be revealed.

The last book that I’ve read since my last round-up post is Unspoken by Sarah Rees. This book has an absolutely gorgeous cover, and I have to confess that one of the reasons that I bought it was because of that cover.

I did like this book, but it is fourth out of the four books discussed in this post. I think that it suffered by comparison with the other three books that I read in the last couple of weeks. I’m not sure if I will continue with the series.

The writing was good, but not as beautiful as Stiefvater’s. The story isn’t nearly as complex as Bray’s book. And I am a sucker for a good mystery, so it just didn’t grab me the way that Ten did. There’s nothing wrong with it – but having just read three other really fun books, this one wasn’t all that special.

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