Monday, June 16, 2014

2014 Speedy Reviews 1

The Tyrant's Daughter by J.C. Carleson

From Amazon:  THERE: In an unnamed Middle Eastern country, fifteen-year-old Laila has always lived like royalty. Her father is a dictator of sorts, though she knows him as King—just as his father was, and just as her little brother Bastien will be one day. Then everything changes: Laila's father is killed in a coup.

HERE: As war surges, Laila flees to a life of exile in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Overnight she becomes a nobody. Even as she adjusts to a new school and new friends, she is haunted by the past. Was her father really a dictator like the American newspapers say? What was the cost of her family's privilege?

Far from feeling guilty, her mother is determined to regain their position of power. So she's engineering a power play—conspiring with CIA operatives and rebel factions to gain a foothold to the throne. Laila can't bear to stand still as yet another international crisis takes shape around her. But how can one girl stop a conflict that spans generations?

My Thoughts: I enjoyed this more unique storyline aimed at younger readers. I also appreciated how Laila is still a relate-able and human character despite the very "hot topic" storyline. Overall I thought this book was "ok," I enjoyed the topic and the potential for discussion-starting but it didn't knock me off my feet. ** 1/2

Seige and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

From Amazon:  Darkness never dies.
Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land, all while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. But she can't outrun her past or her destiny for long.
The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling's game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her--or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

My Thoughts: Meh. I heard such glowing recommendations of this series but I struggled to even finish this book, much less read more of the series. It's just ok... nothing really interested me at all about it. There were some really interesting elements to the story, but I never really connected to any characters or really cared about the outcome of their "oncoming storm." * 1/2

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

From Amazon: Betrayal, ardor, war, and prophecies--in The Song of Achilles, author Madeline Miller brings together everything I love about The Iliad without the labor of epic poetry. In this new twist on the Trojan War story, Patroclus and Achilles are the quintessential mismatched pair--a mortal underdog exiled in shame and a glorious demigod revered by all--but what would a novel of ancient Greece be without star-crossed love? Miller includes other good tragic bits--foreknowledge of death, ruthless choices that pit pride and reputation against the lives of innocents, the folly of men and gods--and through her beautiful writing my spine chilled in the presence of Achilles’ mother, the sea goddess Thetis, and I became a bystander in the battlefield of Troy awash with blood, exaltation, and despair. The Song of Achilles infuses the essence of Homer with modern storytelling in a combination that is utterly absorbing and gratifying--I can’t wait to see what Miller tackles next. --Seira Wilson

My Thoughts: LOVE. This novel was wonderful, heartbreaking, enthralling. I'm so glad I picked it up! I cried. High recommended. *****

Sirens and Other Daemon Lovers ed. by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling

From Amazon:  A dangerously seductive collection of tales that—like the sirens themselves—are impossible to resist

Sensuality mingles with fantasy in this sultry anthology starring fairies, sphinxes, werewolves, and other beings by masterful storytellers including Joyce Carol Oates, Neil Gaiman, Jane Yolen, Ellen Kushner, and more. Sirens and Other Daemon Lovers features a vampire who falls in love with her human prey, an updated Red Riding Hood fantasy, an unsuspecting young man who innocently joins in seductive faerie revelry, and a cat goddess made human. Alluring and charismatic, this collection from master editors Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling will stimulate more than just your imagination

My Thoughts:  Short story collection including a Tanith Lee piece, so of course I had to read it. Not too bad, I don't really love more racy stories...but these all had such unusual twists that I ended up reading it cover to cover. Enjoyable, but certainly for older readers! ***

Saturday, January 18, 2014

2014-3 Froi of the Exiles

Author: Melina Marchetta
Title: Froi of the Exiles (Lumatere Chronicles 2)
Themes: heredity, madness, duty, love

Plot: From Amazon "From master storyteller Melina Marchetta comes an exhilarating new fantasy springing from her celebrated epic, Finnikin of the Rock. Three years after the curse on Lumatere was lifted, Froi has found his home . . . or so he believes. Fiercely loyal to the Queen and Finnikin, Froi has been taken roughly and lovingly in hand by the Guard sworn to protect the royal family, and has learned to control his quick temper with a warrior's discipline. But when he is sent on a secretive mission to the kingdom of Charyn, nothing could have prepared him for what he finds in its surreal royal court. Soon he must unravel both the dark bonds of kinship and the mysteries of a half-mad princess in this barren and mysterious place. It is in Charyn that he will discover there is a song sleeping in his blood . . . and though Froi would rather not, the time has come to listen."

My Thoughts: Froi of the Exiles follows Finnikin of the Rock in the Lumatere Chronicles, but it feels like a whole new series? trilogy? Finnikin of the Rock felt like a YA fantasy romance, Froi feels like the start of an epic YA fantasy. Froi is sent to Charyn to assassinate it's king, but along the way stumbles into discovering his parentage, falls in love with the mad princess, and breaks his bonds to Queen Isaboe to protect this new family.

I was sucked into this book. I was in anguish at the end (it is a cliffhanger, just so you know) because I can't afford to buy the next book! With that said, there were a few quibbles. First, I really did not like how everytime Froi had a violent impulse or did something wrong he blamed his blood. Really? Only one kingdom in your world has violent people? only one kingdom rapes? Let's blame your Serker ancestry for your decision to do bad things! Like every other flipping page! On another note, I felt like Quintana...who has been systematically raped for the past who-knows-how-many years could suddenly enjoy sex with our main character? I don't know. I also feel like that wasn't addressed properly in the book. I do appreciate how she is called a "whore" because that is how she would be addressed in such a society....but as a reader I felt that the violence done to her wasn't addressed as straightforwardly as I would have liked.

Rating:  **1/2

Friday, January 17, 2014

2014-2 Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Author: Laini Taylor
Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Themes: family, belonging, love

Plot: From Amazon "Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages--not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?"

My Thoughts: First of all. I found Karou obnoxiously perfect....almost manic pixie dream girl status with the incredible artistic talent, blue hair, beauty, etc. But at the same time rather flat as a character. There were a few times I liked her and wanted something good to happen...but most of the time I was wondering when we would get to the cliched love triangle or love at first sight or whatever.

Taylor did a great job building the elseworld with chimera and seraphim duking it out through eternity. I felt like the little details built into that story were rather fascinating, and I adored the chimera characters who raised Karou-they were absolutely fantastic.


The love angle with Akiva was also a little flat. Taylor tried to make it less "omg love at first sight" by building into the reincarnation thing...but it just seemed a little...silly. I doubt I'll continue the trilogy (?) but this was a fast, light read.

Rating: **

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

2014-1 The Wilde Passions of Dorian Gray

Author: Mitzi Szereto
Title: The Wilde Passions of Dorian Gray, a Novel
Themes: immortality, youth, searching for new physical experiences, violence, rape, sex, debasement

Plot: From Amazon "Inspired by Oscar Wilde’s classic novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, Mitzi Szereto’s Wilde Passions of Dorian Gray continues where Wilde left off with the Faustian tale of a man of eternal youth and great physical beauty who lives a life of corruption, decadence and hedonism. The story begins in the bordellos of Jazz-Age Paris, moving to the opium dens of Marrakesh and the alluring anonymity of South America. In his pursuit of sensation and carnal thrills, Dorian’s desires turn increasingly extreme and he leaves behind yet more devastation and death. He ultimately settles in present-day New Orleans, joining with a group of like-minded beings known as The Night People. They inadvertently return to Dorian his humanity when he falls in love with a young woman he rescues from becoming their victim. She will be his redemption, but she will also be his final curse."

My Thoughts: Szereto's The Wild Passions of Dorian Gray was a surprising "sequel" to Oscar Wilde's classic. I was not expecting erotica. I was certainly not expecting such violent erotica. Of course I can see where the author was coming  from with this idea, and I can see how it could be a logical continuation of Dorian Gray's story. I'm not sure it made for a great story, and the violence made me extremely uncomfortable through the entire book.

I appreciated the different locations Dorian has to run to to escape anyone noticing his eternal youth (Paris, Marrakesh, Brazil, etc.) and how quickly the decades seem to pass for him.

I did find the ending rather abrupt and less than convincing. It seemed a rather forced end, as though the author simply did not know how to wrap up Dorian Gray's escapades.

Rating: 1/2 star....


I read 120 books last year. And only managed 8 posts. Sad! I doubt this year will be more productive, but let's try.