Holly Black was not afraid to explain, in detail, the horrific crimes the fae folk would enact on unsuspecting tourists. She brought to life the fear that originally created these mythical creatures, bleeding the horror and beauty into every word, every turn of phrase.
From the first moment I was captivated, I was sucked into this modern world mixed with impossible being from the past. The detail, the descriptions, the metaphors were all well sculpted and grabbed my full attention. I was kept up at night wanting to read more, often having to force myself to sleep so I would not be groggy come morning. Unfortunately, I had no Jack to whisper me into slumber.
The characters were so cleverly developed. Each one had a reason to keep their own secrets, making it easier for the problems within the town to grow, to expand and to overpower them. I loved Hazel, for all her faults; her mistrust of others, her hatred of herself, her need to protect everyone around her without once asking for help herself. She was daring, she risked her own life to save others, she automatically defended friends both from attack by swords and by words. Through all of her hardships, brought on by her parents, the fae, and herself, she is stalwart, she is fearless, and she is larger than life. She blazes her own trail, a wild human child who hunts the monsters in the shadows of the woods.
Her brother Ben is her opposite. He longs for true love, whispers stories to a sleeping prince, detests his gift/curse, and wants to move on from their life in Fairfold. His story is both tragic and optomistic. Highlighting both the neglect and intense determination of their artistic parents (who forget to feed or care for their children, but insist on his being a musical prodigy). His story is very much a happily ever after, that ends up showing his parents that they should have given more to their children and less to themselves.
Jack and the horned boy in the coffin (Prince Severin) played their supportive roles well. Fae folk that have been engulfed in humanity, have been charmed by humans, unlike the other fae who think of humans as sport, as humorous games, as foe or prey.
This is a gruesome, but thought provoking read. About more than a girl champion. It is about the horrors of the world, both outside and inside the home. It reflects the uncertainty of life, the mistrust of others, the evil that lurks in shadows and within ourselves; it is often about the need to defeat our own demons.
This second novel, Beastly Bones, drags our two protagonists out to a paleontology site. Gad's Valley has its own dinosaur, unearthed on a farm and not as far below the surface as it should be found. Be ready for a mind bender on this one; missing bones, vampire like deaths, a creature that literally becomes what it eats, warring paleontologists, and two new intriguing and exciting characters are what load this book with purpose.
Nellie Fuller is a newspaper woman, who easily combats and obliterates gender stereotypes and societal/cultural expectations of women. Yes, she won my heart, and Abigail's admiration. She was flirty, brash, and full of wit and wisdom. She was not afraid to tell the men what for, to throw herself in harms way, and to voice her opinion. She pushes Abigail to reconsider herself, her desires and the reality of her hard earned freedom.
Hudson is a brawny hunter with a heart of gold, especially for very rare species. He's an old friend of Jackabys, and loyal to a fault. However, his adventurous and cocky nature puts all of the characters at risk. He is instantly likable, even as the story unfolds around him and a mistake he makes.
This novel is also used to set up the third book in the series; at the beginning there are several mentions of Jenny (Jackaby's resident ghost) and her murder. The set up involves a pale man who seems to be putting together the pieces to a puzzle that Jackaby and Abigail have no idea they are part of; two women have been murdered, drained of their blood through a puncture wound in their neck. I think the next novel is sure to be as thrilling, as spine tingling, and hair raising as the first two.
While there is a romantic subplot, between Abigail and Office Charlie Barker, it is not the main focus and is often shifted to the margins in favour of highlighting Abigail's independent nature and her bid to be a free woman, who is able to choose her occupation. Do not get me wrong, I love these two together, they are so adorable (what with all the blushing), but I enjoy the way that this love affair is being handled. That it is very much an exploration of what it means to be a woman in this time, that marriage often means being closed off from the world, losing ones freedom and value. I do love Charlie's character, both his need to protect those he cares about, which often wars with his ability to understand that Abigail needs freedom to be herself. I am excited to see how this relationship will develop; how a nomadic shapeshifter and adventure chasing woman will be able to tether each other to reality. I foresee them becoming each other's home, a place of comfort and peace outside of the ever growing and changing world.
I do not want to give too much away, but the creature in this novel is half the reason I loved it so much more than the first. Well done William Ritter, you developed a very believable way to pull mythology and folklore into this books reality. Not hard to push your mind that little bit more, when you know this world harbours so many fantastical/magical beings.
My favourite quote was from Jackaby himself, in regards to Abigail's love conundrum, "people think that when we arrive at a crossroads, we can choose only one path, but - as I often and articulately postulated - people are stupid. We're not walking the path. We are the path. We are all of the roads and all of the intersections. Of course you can choose both."
So, this is where the novel begins. Enthralled yet? Caden is the "protagonist" of this novel; although, when you meet him he has no name. He is the 'nice guy' selected for the LIC's latest assignment. He must win the heart of a future scientist, Juliet, and hope that she falls in love and stays in love with him in high school. The only problem, he falls in love with his competition, Dylan (Dyl), the 'bad boy'.
It is a roller coaster ride of a book, and a quick read. I honestly could not put it down. I loved all the nods to other young adult novels and films. I also enjoyed that the novel mocked the genre, made fun of itself, and often times broke the fourth wall. Several times characters talk about being the protagonist/hero of the story. I laughed a lot and generally cheered for and routed for Caden and Dyl. Sure, both characters would be a bit unbelievable at times, with lines that made you gag; but remember, this is on purpose. They have been programmed to be a 'nice guy' and a 'bad boy', with all the clichés that come with those stereotypes. They even have a coach feeding them lines and setting up moments like a movie.
The moments of honesty in the novel cling to the reader long after you put the book down. Especially the moments when Caden is most truthful with himself about his homosexuality, what sexuality means, and how silly it all sometimes seems. Why do people assume, why should it matter, whose right is it to know and judge, why is someone else's consensual love for another so important to other people? This book hits the nail on the head several times, I was nodding enthusiastically and probably looked like a deranged bird while reading (thankfully I was at home).
Even the ending, no spoilers, was heartfelt and realistic. Caden is right, nothing is set in stone. No matter how happy we are in a moment, there are always dark moments lurking. There really is no truly happy ever after, not in reality.
Juliet was bad-ass; have I said that enough about female characters in my reads lately? I love me a woman who pushes past expectations and becomes the real hero. Books that squash gender norms and sexual stereotypes really appeal to me, and give me hope for a future in this world that is kind of insane and scary right now. We need more Cadens, Dyls, Juliets, Natalies and Trevors. We need normal people to become superheroes, because we all need to save ourselves.
I have to add this book to my library; and, I am so glad I requested our public library purchase a copy, so more people can read it and laugh, and think, and love.
We are also introduced to a young woman; first seen as a fairy by the dying "clockmaster". Which, in this world, is more likely than an actual woman being alone in the frozen north; as, women have been outcast to Islands to work, toil, donate eggs, and keep their distance from men. They are considered dangerous, diseased, second class, and contact with women is a crime. So, when our soldier first saves her life, we are astounded that he is able to move past his conditioning and help.
Her story is the most horrifying in this novel, and relevant to what is happening around the world today. You become swept up in her life, routing for her survival and her bravery. You are disgusted with society, angry, unprepared for this new and terrible world. After the soldier saves her, the story unfolds slowly and methodically. They really do save each other, and from that moment they become tied together, their lives intertwined.
This is the first novel in a trilogy, so it makes sense that No Ordinary Star is heavy with exposition, history, character development and more. So, while the entirety of the book takes place in one remote location, with only two characters, you feel you have traversed the map of this new world, including the settlements on planets outside of Earth. As a reader, I felt the isolation of the two characters; as well as, the ever imposing presence of a tyrannical law and order, and all of the crimes they are committing just by staying alive together. This is a world that has programmed its citizens, is full of corruption and injustice. Both our main characters are fighting against their own prejudices the entire novel in order to survive. However, their unlikely alliance could shred the fabric of this world.
I loved it! The novel is described as an homage to Ray Bradbury, and you can see why. I was on the edge of my seat. Astra, the young woman, is my favourite character. After everything she has been put through, she is still bad-ass, self reliant, determined, proud and caring. Felix, our soldier, is slowly shedding his programming, become human, caring, considerate, and strong. He has heart, and is smart enough to start seeing the cracks in this so-called perfect society. These two are "steadfast" in finding their place in their own stories, in history, and how it is they fit in to the upcoming year 2525.
A gripping story with nods to science fiction masters and ties to the cultural crisis's happening within the world today. Powerful and poignant, I am waiting on baited breath for the second installment to this story of two star-crossed lovers, broken souls, finding shelter in the frigid north.
Bonus points for Ursa, the polar bear, playing a major part!
I am so excited to be part of the #nosstreetteam! I will be reading the entire trilogy, and was so lucky to receive this novel from the writer herself for an honest review. Thank you M. C. Frank!
This is a time in life when we begin to question our experiences, our beliefs, our pasts, and wonder about the future. A time when we are on the cusp of adulthood, and responsibility, we are saying goodbye to childhood and the safety of our homes. We must learn to shed a skin, a piece of ourselves, and we are fearful of letting go. Our parents are becoming our peers, and it is scary.
Craig is questioning his Christian teaching, his future in school (should he attend art school or no?); so, meeting Raina fits right in with this static state, the transition from child to man. She is in the inbetween, a prospect of a future, if they can make the distance work.
The meat of the novel takes place while Craig is visiting Raina's family for a couple weeks. She lives with her two adopted siblings (both mentally challenged) and her parents (who are going through an ugly divorce). Raina's parents lives are changing, a mirror image of Raina and Craig beginning their relationship. Beginning and end. So, while they are falling in love, her parents lives are imploding. It affects the trip, changes the perspectives of both Craig and Raina in terms of their relationship.
The novel is dark, passionate, powerful. It speaks to the teen in all of us. While I did not love it, I did like the message of hope at the end. That we all want to make some kind of imprint in our lives, and in the lives of those we meet. I also liked the idea that memory changes and becomes dreamlike; how, as we age we change our memories, exaggerating the horrific or making the good become amazing.
The blanket (the namesake of the book) plays an important role; Raina has made it for Craig and given it to him as a gift. It is used throughout to highlight the distance slowly growing between them. When Craig puts it away, he is putting away his childhood; when he finally brings it out again, it becomes a comfort, a warmth, a way to reach back into the past and remember who he was once and who he loved. It is a patchwork, like our lives. Each moment is a square, some moments have become faded, some are crisp and clear, some are memorized as our favourites, and some are completely forgotten, but each square is important, and each square makes up the whole.
My three favourite pages were heavy on graphics and light on words.
I also liked the Camp Director, obviously an homage to 'Rosie the Riveter'. Every time they come in contact with her she is in the middle of doing something that has been culturally (and incorrectly) labelled 'manly'. Love the switch. She flips gender construction on its head. She makes you question your own misconceptions and learned perceptions. Why are women thought to be too weak, why are lumberjacks always male?
The badge explanation at the beginning of each chapter was neat, if a little too long at parts. I like how it ties in to the chapter, the badge somehow signifying the challenge the characters will face.
Lumberjanes is an organization that takes after the Boy Scouts. Teaching young women the value of survival, self reliance, adventure, camping, independence and friendship. We start with our five heroes at night (Jo, April, Mal, Molly and Ripley); they are attacked by strange beasts that direct an ominous message their way. From there they are thrust on a quest.
I might read the next novels, just to find out more about the girls, where the treasure hunt leads, why they need the mysterious bow, and who the villain is using the boys as attack animals. So, I suppose the novel did what it set out to, leaving me somewhat intrigued and wanting to read further; however, I think it is lacking something, it just did not have the oomph I was hoping to find. A book cannot be great just because it features badass females, it also needs plot, character development, and purpose. We shall see how the series progresses, for better or for worse.
Jackaby himself is at times unlikable, in that he seems unaware of the rest of humanity, or at least cares only for them in terms of his "seer" ability. Abilgail is a fierce runaway, a privileged English girl who left a safe home for adventure. She is badass! She uses books as weapons, and is willing to bend her beliefs and perceptions in order to help Jackaby. She is my kind of heroine!
The novel was fast paced, and the story was edge of your seat. Hatun is an interesting character, both reliable and unreliable at times. She exists in this world, but sometimes oscillates to the supernatural world, or into a false world. I am hooked, and would love to hear more about her in future books.
There were certain parts of the book where I became annoyed, in terms of Jackaby, but you accept this due to his eccentricities. The world created for this book is vivid, detailed and in depth. You are sucked into post-civil war America. A time of industrialization, knowledge, science, but mixed with the occult and old world traditions. Fantastically melded, you cannot discern one truth from another. The book makes you want to believe in the impossible, even if it means there may be monsters lurking in the dark.
I am also impressed by the female empowerment displayed in this book. Several female characters directly protest treatment that would paint them as weak. Abigail, on more than one occasion, mocks men's belief of how women should act or feel. The nurse, Miss O'Connor, slaps Jackaby in the face when she believes him to be disparaging her sex. This book means to show the power of a woman, painted against a time when women were second class citizens.
I am eager to borrow the next in the series! Magic, mystery, and two hard-core, mostly likable, detectives leave me itching for another far-fetched, or maybe not so unlikely, tale.
I loved each story, and I enjoyed that each tale ended in a cliffhanger. I became the author and illustrator, filling in the missing pieces; asked to either create a happily-ever-after, or more likely create, in my own mind, the tragic end of each protagonist. This made for a completely terrifying reading experience.
It is hard to pick a favourite, each of them left their mark on me. Choosing the specific time periods also added to the eerily helpless feeling; each took place in the past, a time without electronics, with a smaller population, with your closest neighbour living miles away, having no immediate access to help in case of an emergency. As a reader, it leaves you feeling immobilized, unable to imagine the horror, but with the distinct spine-tingling realization that, even with technology and people all around us, we can still so easily be alone and without help. That we could so easily become one of these unwitting characters, the victims of our own stories.
The artwork in this graphic novel is beautifully haunting. So distinctive and each stroke lends to the dark themes embodied within the narratives. The use of red from the first to the last story is impressive, a link in a chain of death; the colour bleeds throughout the pages, often in stark contrast with the rest of the images or an ominous sign of trouble to come. In the first story it is the moon, the protagonists cloak, and a tinge to the faces of the three sisters. It becomes a character all its own, spreading throughout the book, leaving fear in its wake. I especially loved the mix of red and blue in A Lady's Hands are Cold.
If you are a fan of folklore, horror, or graphic novels, then I urge you to step into these pages, but tread lightly, as you never know when the 'wolf' might find you. For "the WOLF only needs enough luck to find you ONCE."
The Pünd novel revolves around the death of Mary Blakiston, ruled accidental, and quickly followed by the brutal murder of Sir Magnus Pye. You begin with Mary's funeral, where you are introduced to all the key characters. The novel is clearly an homage to Poirot, with the setting being a small English village full of whispers and secrets. Everyone is suspect, all instances are unusual or could be linked in some way to the events that have occurred. Was the death "accidental", is someone a clever murderer? What do the two death's have to do with each other?
When we first meet Atticus Pünd it is at a Doctor's office, where he is given a terminal diagnosis. While we have not read any of the other fictional novels about him, you know this is going to be significant. This means this book is it for the series. It urges you to pay attention, to suspect everything, to be ready for a clever plot and suspense. It is funny reading a fictional novel within a fictional novel. As a reader, you become somewhat disconnected from the text, from immersing in the landscape and characters. You are reading this through the eyes of an editor; I spent time looking for errors, grammar issues, studying the timeline and world. Wondering how this novel ties to the ominous introduction it was given. There is a title page, about the author, list of previous novels in the series, praise for those previous books, and then the novel; which is numbered differently from the rest of the book. It becomes very much a book within a book, and you are sucked into both narratives immediately.
Susan finishes the manuscript, as you do, with a question of who did it on your mind, because there are Chapters missing. Why? What happened to the final pages? All of a sudden the author dies, an apparent suicide. A letter sent to the publishers revealing his intent. Susan goes from editor to detective, and so does the reader. The tropes of mystery novel shift from fictional page to "real" life. We are on the hunt with her, for the missing pages, and possibly for a murderer.
As I said, cleverly written. I enjoyed both books. Fascinating clues, a disdain of an author for his creation, mockery of the mystery genre (within a mystery novel). Susan is the reader, the reader is Susan. She is likable, where Alan is detestable. You understand her anger towards him, towards what he has done to the series she so loved and a character she so admired. It is obvious why Alan Conway has become isolated; he has an ego, he is angry at being trapped with a character he despises, he wants to create something better, his other writing is rejected time and again. His other novels are political, critical, over-the-top, satires that would not be popular. However, his life, his passion, and his death are all for not; everything he has done or tries to do is ignored, the world moves on around him, churning even though he tried to turn the world against his creation, failing one last time to break Atticus Pünd's hold on him.
I was sent this advanced reader's copy by HarperCollins Canada in exchange for an honest review.
I enjoyed the premise of the story very much, the mix of modern world with old folklore. The house spirit was at times friendly and at times terrifying. The two spirits, Katie having brought the spirit from her new restaurant home, fighting over the old restaurant (Seconds) leads to darkness and despair. Both spirits rely heavily on Katie to correct the "mistakes" she thought needed fixing.
This graphic novel fell flat otherwise. All of the characters, other than Hazel, had no redeeming qualities. I could not for the life of me understand why Lis (the Seconds house spirit) ever showed herself to Katie or even offered her the use of the mushrooms. I understand Lis had to deal with the "boss" of the house, but surely Lis wanting to save Hazel from a bad fate was not worth the trouble dealing with Katie would bring.
Katie is a very unlikable protagonist. She inserts herself into everyone's business at Seconds, the place she has already left. Unable to let go, she instead is gripping too tightly, even still being called and considered "boss." This causes rifts and jealousy. Everything that goes wrong for Katie is due to her own selfishness. It is hard to feel sympathetic for her. Sure her new business is taking longer to come together than she would like, but her behaviour towards her former business is laughable.
Katie's boyfriend Max is a real piece of work, and you wish the relationship would end immediately after beginning again. He originally left Katie because he was angry at not being included in her dream for a new restaurant, then when she "corrects" this he takes over her dream entirely and makes it his own. He is a misogynistic asshole, who she just kind of gives in to (which makes you like her even less). Their relationship is self serving, destructive and problematic; in fact, I was disappointed in their ending. I thought it could have, and maybe should have, ended differently.
I did enjoy the drawing style. Very manga-esque; manga meets Western Culture (much like O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim comic). The characterization makes the story more vivid and haunting. The scenes with the tree and the different versions of Seconds, with the red dresser in the trunk, is both poetic and prophetic. The more mistakes Katie corrects the darker the illustrations become. The second spirit is a shadow of Katie, the pieces of Katie she is leaving behind, as though she herself is ripping her world apart.
Even is I did not like the characters, this graphic novel was a poignant look at accepting the life you are living, mistakes and all. Being happy where you are, and with who you have become. It is about owning up to your mistakes, instead of trying to erase them. Embracing your flaws and moving forward.
You can see the illustrations darkening and becoming more macabre as Katie disjoints her world.