Thursday, December 19, 2013

Book Thoughts: The Clockwork Scarab

Title: The Clockwork Scarab
Author: Colleen Gleason
Series: Stoker & Holmes #1

First off, a special thank you to LibraryThing and Chronicle Books for providing my copy of this one!

I loved the premise of this novel -- relatives of Sherlock Holmes and Bram Stoker in a steampunk London, solving mysteries and taking out bad guys together. The world it's set in is super cool, and the allusions to the Sherlock Holmes stories and Stoker's Dracula are really fun to spot. And the characters are brilliant: you can see the logical Holmes tradition shining through Mina and the fierce vampire hunter in Evaline, but they also have emotions and insecurities that make them new, unique characters and not just another reiteration of the same detective or vampire hunter. I'm usually wary of split first-person narratives, too, but I thought Mina and Evaline had very distinct voices. The minor characters -- Dylan, Grayling, Pix, the other girls -- were also pretty great, although I'd have liked a lot more about Irene Adler.

The characters and the world were the strong points, and Gleason's way with words is excellent, but I felt that sometimes there were minor plot holes -- granted, the copy I got was an ARC so it's entirely possible those things have been fixed, but there were just tiny things; someone wearing gloves on one page that suddenly wasn't with no mention of having taken them off on the next. The plot on the whole was very well-organized. My only real complaint was that despite how much I loved all of the individual elements of the novel's world, it felt like a little too much: detectives and vampire hunting and time travel and steampunk and alternate histories and Egyptology... all of it was super cool, but together it was a little overwhelming.

All in all, though, it was a fun, quick read that kept me turning pages. Not one I'd be rushing to shove into all of my friends' hands, but I will definitely be looking for the rest of the series. I want more adventures with these characters!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Book Thoughts: Shades of Earth

Title: Shades of Earth
Author: Beth Revis
Series: Across the Universe #3

*Warning: Spoilers for previous books!*

Elder and Amy have left the spaceship behind and made for Centauri-Earth. Surely whatever danger awaits them is worth being able to see the open sky again -- and they'll be able to wake up Amy's parents and the rest of the frozens.

Life on the planet turns out to be more difficult than they expected, though. Orion's warnings about monsters prove more true than they could ever have imagined, and the mysteries surrounding Godspeed's failure to land on time are far from solved.

I loved this trilogy all the way through. The characters especially made me want to keep reading (although sometimes the first-person narrators were a tiny bit hard to distinguish) -- Amy and Elder of course, but the others as well. I enjoyed the pacing, the plot, the twists and turns, all of it. Without saying too much (I don't want to spoil it for anyone!), I also thought the stylistic choices made in the last few chapters were brilliant; I've loved the use of negative space (line breaks) for emotional effect through the whole series and I think it works especially well in the ending. And content-wise... some of it is not how I wanted the series to end, but I think all of it was exactly how the series needed to end.

A brilliant ending to a brilliant series, and a story all its own too. Two thumbs-up for this trilogy! I can't wait for whatever Beth Revis comes out with next!

Saturday, December 14, 2013


EW released the cover of Maggie Stiefvater's SINNER today! I loved the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, so I'm super excited for the companion novel following Cole.

The original trilogy is getting new covers, too -- click through to the article to check them out. I think they're pretty, but I'm still kind of in love with the old covers. I do love how the new ones pay homage to the original design, though! Let me know what you think. :)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Book Thoughts: So Silver Bright

Title: So Silver Bright
Author: Lisa Mantchev
Series: Theatre Illuminata #3

Okay okay so. I've been trying to find this book FOREVER. It's been three years since I read the previous one and my local bookstore didn't have it and my local library didn't have it and the library at my college didn't have it, and then I finally got my hands on it --

And you couldn't tell it had been three years since I'd read the last book, the way I devoured it. The story pulls you right back in and reminds you well enough of what's going on that you're totally not lost. (Of course, it helps that this is such an engaging story that I still remembered most of the details even after three years.)

And I just. This was such a wonderful conclusion to a simply beautiful trilogy. Bertie continues to be awesome, because even though she's totally in the middle of a love triangle, she completely resists the damsel-in-distress trope and gets things done her way. Ariel and Nate are both awesome characters, and the FAIRIES don't even get me started because we'll be here all night with my love for them. I love the way word-magic and Shakespeare are incorporated, and the way this draws on the magic of the theater and of storytelling, and yeah pretty much everything about it.

The ending was bittersweet, as the endings to great series always are, but I think it was just what it needed to be. A truly stunning trilogy that I am so glad I finally got to finish. :) Definitely worth your time!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Book Thoughts: Dreamless

Title: Dreamless
Author: Josephine Angelini
Series: Starcrossed #2

*Beware spoilers for book 1!*

Helen's life kind of sucks. She can't be with the boy she loves, because (to their knowledge) they're cousins, and that's gross. Plus, she's spending every night in the Underworld and getting no sleep in her quest to free the Scions from the wrath of the Furies. And Tantalus still has it out for her, in new and interesting ways.

I continue to adore this series. I love love love the characters, the plot, the way familiar mythology is incorporated into a totally new story. The scenes with Morpheus in this one I found a bit odd, but I love love loved the way everything with the Furies and Cassandra went. Also Automedon. I don't want to say too much else because I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but this one was even better than the first book (you can definitely see the author's writing get better from that one to this one, and the writing was not bad in book one) and I can't wait to get my hands on the third one. Finals week, hurry up and go away so I can read GODDESS!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Book Thoughts: Allegiant

Title: Allegiant
Author: Veronica Roth
Series: Divergent #3

This first part of the review is going to be spoiler-free. There will be spoilers later and they will be marked by a warning!

Okay so. I loved the first two books in this trilogy so I was pumped for the third one. Did I love it? Yes. Did I cry? Yes. Did I think it was flawless? No.

I loved the way V.Roth took the story; the world outside of Chicago was fascinating. My only complaint there was that I wish we had gotten more information about some of the genetics stuff, because it didn't necessarily completely make sense to me as it was. Like, I definitely got what it was doing (and I thought it was a very important point and I liked that story choice), I just wish it had been spelled out a little more. But then again, I'm a world-building geek in love with backstory, so of course I wanted more information.

It was also cool getting to see the story from both Tris and Four's perspectives, because they're both characters that I really like and I LOVE the way their relationship is portrayed (real and healthy, with the existence and subsequent talking out of problems; it's one of the best I've seen). My complaint here was that with both sets of chapters narrated in the first person and no significant voice switch between the two, I often had a really hard time telling who was narrating a particular chapter. Their narrative voices were exactly the same, and I tend to have a hard time enjoying books with multiple but indistinguishable first-person narrators.

So yeah, I had some complaints about Allegiant, but on the whole, I thought it was a stunning conclusion to a fantastic trilogy.

And now I am going to talk about the ending. There will be spoilers. DO NOT read past this point if you haven't read ALLEGIANT yet! Seriously, come back and read this AFTER you have read the book.


Okay, everybody who hasn't read it gone? Let the spoilers commence.

So I was as blown away as everybody else when (seriously! last chance!) Tris died, because it is a seriously bold (and almost never seen) move in YA to kill off the hero, especially when that hero has a love interest. I kind of worried that would happen when perspectives split, because hey, someone else to continue the narrative if Tris is dead and can't narrate. And then I knew it was coming when Tris told Caleb she wasn't going to let him sacrifice himself for the wrong reasons (which isn't a decision I necessarily agree with, but it's one that I love that she made because it's so consistent with her character). But it was still a heartbreaking and kind of shocking scene. I 100% admit to crying.

I know a lot of people are really mad that Tris and Tobias didn't get their happy ending and kind of hate V.Roth for killing off Tris, but I disagree with that mindset. Am I sad that they didn't get their happy ending? Absolutely! Heartbroken! Because they are both characters that I love and I wanted them to be happy! But I think Tris's death was the right narrative course for the story. It was realistic, it was absolutely in character, and... yeah, did I mention it was realistic? And it takes guts to kill off such a popular main character (I mean, excepting George R.R. Martin, obviously), so I applaud Veronica Roth for making that choice. Even though it made me sad. And it was good to see Tobias grieving and eventually moving on, to the extent that moving on is possible. (The way he spread her ashes was another heart-wrenching moment.)

I had some issues with a few things in the book, and there were a few things that didn't quite make sense to me (Tris's memory serum plan, for one), but on the whole, I loved this book and the whole series. Round of applause for Veronica Roth, guys.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Book Thoughts: Asylum

Title: Asylum
Author: Madeleine Roux

Dan Crawford is super excited for his pre-college summer program, but he's a little wary of their dorm: it's a renovated building that used to be Brookline Asylum, home of several criminally insane patients. Dan and his new friends Abby and Jordan go exploring, and discover that the old asylum may not be quite as gone as they might have hoped...

From an escapist, fun-Halloween-read point of view, I enjoyed ASYLUM. It's a creepy story with a lot of twists and turns that you don't necessarily see coming. It was a fun, relatively light read, and one that's creepy in a way that's not going to give you nightmares.

Is it the greatest-ever work of literature? No. Dan and Abby's relationship fell a bit flat, and I was really disappointed in the ending because I felt like we never really got any resolution. Some of the explanation we did get didn't make a whole lot of sense. But on the whole, it was a fun ride. I really just wanted more explanation at the end!

I did enjoy the incorporation of pictures, and props to Roux for a gay character whose story arc is not entirely centered on his homosexuality. He's a person who is gay, not a Gay Person, which is awesome. Not really having a lot of strong feelings either way about this book -- I liked it, but I'm not going to be jumping around trying to shove it into people's hands, either.

Hiatus Over!

Hey guys!

I disappeared on you for a while there with a lot less warning than I would normally have given you. Unfortunately, the thing about college is that EVERYTHING HAPPENS AT ONCE.

I thought I was caught up on work, but then no, all of the projects were due at once -- plus there was tech week for the show my musical theatre club was putting on. I've been doing a bit of reading, but I have had zero time to write blog posts.

That changes now! Later this evening I'll have a post about ASYLUM for y'all, and in the next couple of days my (spoiler-tastic, FYI) thoughts on ALLEGIANT will be up.

I've missed you guys. It's nice to be back. :)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Book Thoughts: United We Spy

Title: United We Spy
Author: Ally Carter
Series: Gallagher Girls #6

Hi guys! I'm sorry I've been such a bad blogger lately. Apparently midterms this semester meant "three solid weeks of no free time." But I'm back, and I have a super awesome book to tell you about.

**Warning! Spoilers for Books 1-5! (Not for this one)***

Cammie has a mission. Well, sort of. Well, okay, she's not actually supposed to have a mission at all. But as Catherine closes in on the last few members of the Circle of Cavan, time is running out, and it may be entirely up to Cammie and her friends to save everyone they love -- and, quite possibly, the world.

I've loved this series from the get-go, but by this stunning conclusion, it is not the lighthearted spy-teens romp it was in book one. Issues are way, way more serious now -- and I wouldn't have it any other way. I love love LOVE this final adventure we get to take with Cammie, Liz, Bex, Macey, and Zach, and I thought it was a fantastic conclusion to a fantastic series.

It had honestly been a while since I read the previous book so I was a little hazy on the details, but I didn't need to worry. UNITED WE SPY reminded me of everything important and contained a pretty solid story in and of itself. I for one really loved the chance to see Cammie & Co. entering the real world and dealing with these serious issues, and also still being high school seniors. Yes, they face some seriously grown-up situations, but they're still just eighteen-year-old girls (and boy, in Zach's case), and they hold on to that.

Also, a certain speech near the end of the novel (I will not say more lest I give spoilers, but you'll know it if/when you read it) had me in tears. I am so sad to leave this beautiful sisterhood behind, and I am sure it's a world I will revisit. Can't wait for Ally Carter's next!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Let's Talk About Violence in Historical Fiction.

I'm taking a seminar class on history in contemporary fiction, and the last novel we read was called The Book of Night Women, by Marlon James. It discusses the slave trade in Jamaica in the early 1800s. It is also the single most upsetting book I have ever read.

The Jamaican slave trade in the early 1800s was seriously horrible. You know the horror stories we've all heard about American slavery (which, seriously, was wayyy not cool)? In Jamaica, it was worse, because the culture and intentions were so different. And this novel did not hesitate to confront even the most gruesome elements. The sexual abuse of slaves, the punishments for minor infractions, the utter disrespect for the humanity of others -- all are described in unfaltering detail. More than once, I thought I might throw up at the thought of the violence people are capable of towards others.

Night Women was hugely upsetting to read, but I think it's important that the book was as brutal as it was. Part of what made it so disturbing was the fact that these things really did happen -- the specific characters in the novel were fictional, but the dehumanizing violence thrown at slaves was very real. I think glossing over the violence, using euphemisms and implications rather than gory details, would have been a lot less powerful in telling the story. Only by forcing readers to face the details can the novel accurately give a sense of how horrible the times were.

But at the same time, such graphic imagery makes the novel inaccessible to a lot of people. I would never consider giving this book to a child, and even I finished it only because I had to for class. Without the context of the discussion the class offered, I feel like this novel would have been simply horrifying without the deeper understanding of the historical context. Definitely a book worth reading and talking about, but one that I think needs to be talked about if it's going to be read.

What I'm getting at is this: violence absolutely has a place in historical fiction, because it's important not to deny the facts of the past, and gruesome events shouldn't be sugarcoated (at least in my opinion). But I also think it's important to make those historical truths accessible to readers, and that's a line that can be really hard to find.

I don't necessarily have an answer to this (by which I mean, I don't have an answer to this), but I'm curious to know: what do you guys think about the role of violence in historical fiction?