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Archive for the ‘Reading Round-Up’ Category

Taken Mage apprentices have been vanishing without a trace—and someone on the council might be involved. Alex Verus has no evidence, no witnesses, and no suspects. All he knows is that someone is keeping tabs on him. And after assassins target his own apprentice’s classmate, Alex sees that he doesn’t know the half of it—and that he could be the next to disappear…

I am all caught up on Benedict Jacka’s delightful Alex Verus series. This is a British Harry Dresden, urban fantasy from across the pond. I love wizards, I love books set in London, I love this series. This was an excellent installment, although it didn’t have nearly enough Arachne. The only downside to catching up on a favorite series is that it means I have to wait for the next in the series to hit the shelves. In this case, the title is Chosen and it is coming soon to a bookstore near my kindle e-reader on August 27, 2013.

The Curse of the Wendigo While attempting to disprove that Homo vampiris, the vampire, could exist, Dr. Warthrop is asked by his former fiancé to rescue her husband from the Wendigo, a creature that starves even as it gorges itself on human flesh, and which has snatched him in the Canadian wilderness. Although Warthrop also considers the Wendigo to be fictitious, he relents and rescues her husband from death and starvation, and then sees the man transform into a Wendigo. Can the doctor and Will Henry hunt down the ultimate predator, who, like the legendary vampire, is neither living nor dead, whose hunger for human flesh is never satisfied?

So, I read a lot of books this month. Some of them will get more extensive treatment later when I do a full series discussion down the road a bit. The Curse of the Wendigo is likely to be one of those. It is the second book in Rick Yancey’s three book series that starts with The Monstrumologist. I love this series – gothic horror written in the style of Charles Dickens. The protagonist, Will Henry, is awesome with a side of adorable. And some of the stuff in this book will turn your stomach. In the best and most literate way possible. Rick Yancey rocks.

The Edge of Never Twenty-year-old Camryn Bennett thought she knew exactly where her life was going. But after a wild night at the hottest club in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, she shocks everyone-including herself-when she decides to leave the only life she’s ever known and set out on her own. Grabbing her purse and her cell phone, Camryn boards a Greyhound bus ready to find herself. Instead, she finds Andrew Parrish.

Sexy and exciting, Andrew lives life like there is no tomorrow. He persuades Camryn to do things she never thought she would and shows her how to give in to her deepest, most forbidden desires. Soon he becomes the center of her daring new life, pulling love and lust and emotion out of her in ways she never imagined possible. But there is more to Andrew than Camryn realizes. Will his secret push them inseparably together-or destroy them forever?

I wish I could say I liked this book. Heck, I wish I could say that I found this book tolerable. Sadly, it would not be true. I hated this book. It is poorly written, the main character is annoying, and I nearly DNF’d it at the midpoint. The cover is sort of pretty, though, so there’s that. It is designated as category “NA” which should probably be renamed category “hot-bad-boy-falls-hard-for-good-girl-with-lots-of-slut-shaming-on-the-side” except that would be too long. I give up on this NA bullshit and I will read no more. If this is the future of publishing, I am going to need to find a new hobby.

The Ruining Annie Phillips is thrilled to leave her past behind and begin a shiny new life on Belvedere Island, as a nanny for the picture-perfect Cohen family. In no time at all, she falls in love with the Cohens, especially with Libby, the beautiful young matriarch of the family. Life is better than she ever imagined. She even finds romance with the boy next door.
All too soon cracks appear in Annie’s seemingly perfect world. She’s blamed for mistakes she doesn’t remember making. Her bedroom door comes unhinged, and she feels like she’s always being watched. Libby, who once felt like a big sister, is suddenly cold and unforgiving. As she struggles to keep up with the demands of her new life, Annie’s fear gives way to frightening hallucinations. Is she tumbling into madness, or is something sinister at play?

As you can see from the plot summary, The Ruining billed itself as a bit of a psychological thriller, and it started out with PROMISE. Promise of chills. Promise of thrills. Promise of lots and lots of suspense. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the book all right, and I will definitely give this author another shot. But, in the end, there was a little too much damsel in distress, a few too many convenient solutions, and a little too much girl-gets-saved-by-boy for me. I wanted more than this book ended up being. I will give a thumbs up to the author’s use of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s iconic – and psychologically terrifying – novella The Yellow Wallpaper.

Beguilement Troubled young Fawn Bluefield seeks a life beyond her family’s farm. But on the way to the city, she encounters a patrol of Lakewalkers, nomadic soldier-sorcerers from the northern woodlands. Feared necromancers armed with mysterious knives made of human bone, they wage a secret on-going war against the scourge of the “malices,” immortal entities that draw the life out of their victims, enslaving human and animal alike. It is Dag–a Lakewalker patroller weighed down by past sorrows and present responsibilities–who must come to Fawn’s aid when she is taken captive by a malice. They prevail at a devastating cost–unexpectedly binding their fates together as they embark upon a remarkable journey into danger and delight, prejudice and partnership . . .and perhaps even love.

Toward the end of the month, I was looking for a little foray into high fantasy. I had picked up Beguilement for (I think) .99 for my e-reader at some point. I’ve never read anything by Bujold except a little standalone Renaissance fantasy called The Spirit Ring a couple of years ago. I decided to give this one a try. I liked it. It is a very sweet, not at all epic, high fantasy that tells the story of Fawn, a young farm girl, and Dag, her Lakewalker lover. The course of true love never does run true, and especially NOT in high fantasy. This one was nice, though, and I will definitely read the sequels at some point.

*All italicized plot synopses taken from Goodreads under the fair use doctrine.

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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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In addition to the various readalongs and the classics I’ve been reading, I read some newer books. September was a phenomenal month for new releases in the Young Adult category. I am lucky enough to have a group of close friends who share a book club account on amazon, to which we each contribute a $25.00 gift card every month. This gives us an enormous amount of buying power. Each participant has the opportunity to pick one book for purchase, no questions asked, and then we propose, discuss, negotiate, and select the rest of the books we are going to buy through a process in a goodreads group that is almost as much fun as reading the books themselves.

So, a couple of rapid recaps: Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier, which was released on September 11, was my September pick. I love Juliet Marillier – her books manage to be both fantastical and familiar simultaneously. I think that it is her use of Celtic legend and ancient Irish/Scottish settings that provides that sense of dreamy familiarity, but whatever it is, I love it. Shadowfell is not her best work, but it is still a well-told tale with an appealing heroine, and a strong and compelling hero.

Marillier’s stories often have elements of chaste romance, and this was no exception. Neryn, the main character, and Flint, the male lead, have a lovely developing relationship that is sure to be further developed in the forthcoming additions to the series. Marillier is an auto-buy for me at this time, based in large part on her gorgeously written retelling of the Six Swans fairytale, Daughter of the Forest, which begins her Sevenwaters series. Daughter of the Forest and Son of the Shadows are exceptional books. The downside to buying and devouring the first in a series upon it’s release is the waiting that ensues upon setting the book down after finishing it!

I also read Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin, which had been on my kindle for a while. The cover is absolutely gorgeous, and it is a retelling of the rather famous, albeit very short, story written by Edgar Allen Poe. This one had a lot of potential: elements of horror, steampunk, and dystopia, all wrapped in a fairly glittery YA package. It rather failed in the execution, though, in my opinion. Not a bad book, but it dragged in places, the main character wasn’t particularly likeable, and Ms. Griffin fell into the must-write-a-YA-love-triangle trap that seems so ubiquitous at this point. I have gotten to the point of really hating the YA love triangle because it is so overdone, and, in this book, neither of the love interests were particularly compelling. The villain, Prince Prospero, was also one-dimension of evil.

I had not read Poe’s famous story before reading this book, but I picked up a Poe anthology after reading it so I could compare it to the source material. The Masque of the Red Death by Poe is a very short story, about 5 pages long. It did have a lot of potential as something to mine. The book by Ms. Griffin seemed almost to be a prequel to the story. I am not sure that there was enough content to the Griffin book to sustain a series. It wasn’t a bad book, but it also wasn’t a great one.

Four more September releases waiting for me on my kindle! I love Maggie Stiefvater, and The Raven Boys is up next

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