[Book Review] When the main character moonlights as a story framing device

[Book Review] When the main character moonlights as a story framing device

Devil’s Daughter by Hope Schenk-de Michele, Paul Marquez, Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff

If there’s one thing you need to know, it’s this: Devil’s Daughter reads closer to Christian fiction than Urban Fantasy. While the story takes some liberties with the religious mythology, it stays true to its themes of redemption and love, what it means to be a good person, the danger of good intentions and shortcuts, the power of choice. You know, the works.

With that out of the way, back to the story:

“Lucinda is as old as humanity itself, yet perpetually young, beautiful, and endowed with supernatural powers. She lives a double life human and immortal.

In her human guise, she manages Lucinda’s Pawnshop & Antiquary, the doors of which can open to any street anywhere in the world at any time. Mortals who have arrived at a moral or spiritual crossroads are drawn into the mysterious shop. If they acquire one of its cursed artifacts, they may find themselves drafted into Lucifer s service.

Born out of a betrayal of trust between the first woman, Eve, and father Lucifer, Lucinda has worked covertly and subtly for millennia to be true to her mother’s love by subverting her father’s schemes.”

After reading that blurb, you’ll be forgiven for thinking this story is all about Lucinda’s struggle against Lucifer and quest to figure out where she stands, all culminating in a grand standoff during which she singlehandedly saves the world.

That’s what I thought too, so let me stop you right there. Continue reading

[ Book Review ] Almost like the lovechild of Twilight and Shakespeare

Meg’s Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

The reading experience of  Divergent fell neatly into the ‘like watching a train wreck’ category. I could not look away, not even though I was way, way too close to the tracks. When the train flipped, surely it was going to take me out as well.

My Nook went everywhere with me in hopes that I might be able to sneak in a few pages during lunch breaks and line waits. Because I had to know–had to know–whether or not the world was simply going to implode on itself by the final chapter.

In post-apocalyptic (or at least future dystopian) Chicago, the city’s dwindled population is split between five factions, each devoted to a certain positive characteristic of humanity. Beatrice was born in Abnegation–the faction devoted to selflessness. But as that would make for an amazingly boring book, on her Choosing Day, she selects to transfer to Dauntless–the faction that believes that courage is the order of the day. She must go through their abrasive and violent initiation–and, in the process, discover what the hell to do with herself. Because she doesn’t belong in just one faction. Her aptitude test shows that she is the most dangerous of all citizens: a Divergent with traits of more than one faction. Continue reading

[ Book Review ] The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan

Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan

Book Two of the Kane Chronicles

Throne of Fire is Rick Riordan’s second book in the Kane Chronicles and it picks up just a few weeks after The Red Pyramid. Carter and Sadie are back in action…along with the majority of the Egyptian pantheon, most of the Egyptian sorcerers, and all of the forces of evil. The Kane kids are convinced that the only way to stop the world from falling to chaos is to wake the sleeping sun god, Ra. Everyone who’s anyone in the Egyptian pantheon thinks that’s a terrible idea.

I’ve never known enough about Egyptian mythology to make a call about whether or not their plan makes sense. The way it’s presented throughout the story seems to jive with my view of the cosmos–a central figure who represents order (plus supporting cast) is opposed by a bad guy who represents chaos and all things evil. In the universe of the Kane Chronicles, your order guy has been asleep for a long time and needs someone to wind up his alarm clock. Fine, I can go with that.

Of course, it’s not that simple and the kids deal with lots of “what if’s”, “what then’s”, and “oh crap, this other god figure who’s really ticked about losing power is going to eat us now.”

The narration wastes no time in leaping directly into the shenanigans; the characters introduce themselves in the midst of a night-time museum break-in caper—a museum that happens to be hosting a wedding reception. But really, what wedding reception is complete without a group of flaming plague spirits running amok amongst the bridesmaids?

True to Kane tradition, in the midst of the heist (which serves as an excellent way to introduce new characters and their abilities) Sadie and Carter receive an ominous warning, and we’re off at a breakneck pace that rarely slows to less than a sprint. Even moments of introspection and character growth are delivered in true teenage fashion: Retrospective one-liners are almost apologetic and, more often than not, belligerent as the character is forced (kicking and screaming, or as they’re dragged away by an ancient demon) to acknowledge that some of the less admirable situations are entirely of their own making.

The way the narration was set up, with small breaks in the story flow as the siblings bicker with one another over who can speak into the recorder, made Sadie and Carter even more three dimensional. This was a real teenage brother and sister poking at how annoying the other can be. The inter-adventure moments of “I shoulda seen that coming” add that great touch of humor to the story.

Even with outstanding humor and every action sequence propelling you through the story,  Throne of Fire is a second book.

Second books are often a bit like the awkward adolescent years of pimples, cracking voices and trying to understand what the heck is going on down there… ahem. The point is, I could really feel the novel’s growing pains.

After an eternity of pain, fights, loss, sacrifice and “girl likes boy but boy might like someone else”, “boy likes girl but girl is hosting an Egyptian river goddess and currently in suspended animation in a hidden tomb”, and “girl likes boy but also has a thing for the ancient Egyptian god of funerals” drama, the characters kinda win.

KINDA win?

I did not go through chapters of “OMG, he’s really hot, but sometimes he has a jackal head” issues to get a KINDA victory.

I understand that this is just one adventure within the greater story–one battle in the war–but there was no resolution at the end of my candy corn adventure! I want a resolution!

I want the decisive victory–or at least one real victory in the manifold of issues facing the heroes. I can think of no less than ten problems that our heroes are dealing with and not  a single one was solved to my satisfaction. I seriously can’t come up with a PG sentence to vent my frustration, and I’m considering severing a lot of canaries in my rating.

Can I just give halves? Is that legit? If I give 5 halves–does that mean I like it a lot, but it really ticks me off? I don’t like the ending, I wasn’t satisfied. It doesn’t feel like a happy ending or even the close of an adventure. It feels like a hook for a “buy my next book.”

Excellent story, great characters, phenomenal action and humor, fun and fun and fun and lovable,–blew the dismount.

[ Book Review ] A Zombie Walks into a Presidental Election…

Meg’s Review: Feed by Mira Grant

When an author decides to throw literary mechanics out the window, one of two things happen:

1. They sprout wings and carry the narrative over the rainbow-of-awesome-new-literary-skills.

or

2. They go splat.

So there I was, reading Feed, and along came the absolute climaxthat very moment when I should have been gasping/crying.

And I laughed.

Mind, the moment was heart-breaking—it truly was a masterfully-planned twist—but the author made such a bizarre narrative choice that I was utterly thrown. I wasn’t winded by the blast of emotional angst. Instead, I choked on it. Author, what did you just do?

And this still colors my feelings towards the rest of the book.

But let us start at the beginning.

Feed follows adoptive siblings Shaun and Georgia Mason and their friend Buffy as they blog about the campaign trail of presidential hopeful, Senator Peter Ryman with whom they’re traveling. Sounds benign enough until you realize the entire world is now overrun by zombies.

I expected a straight-forward zombie-shooting adventure, but Feed actually leans more towards political thriller with the added complication of the walking-dead running around. And that pleased me greatly: I love me some political thrillers, and there is nothing that scares me more* than zombies. A wicked conspiracy is rumbling just below the surface of the entire narrative, even as the main characters have to survive to untangle it.

The story itself is told 90% through the eyes of Georgia Mason and 10% through the characters’ blogs. The tactic is a clever spin on a first-person narrative, like a modern call-back to the epistle writing that was so popular in the 19th century. Indeed, I suspect I’d have enjoyed the book all the more if Grant had gone the whole way and presented the story entirely in blog form: Georgia Mason narrative voice rubbed me wrong as it meandered between valley-girl-aloofness and downright snarky, righteous bitch. On the other hand, I was quite fond of Rick and Shaun and would have liked to have more of their voices present in the story.

"Every person on the planet is infected."

The blogs also served another purpose—back-story. Georgia’s narrative focuses almost exclusively on her attempts to uncover what was causing the zombie attacks to occur with scary regularity in Ryman’s camp. But the blogs told the story of how the zombies came to be (a nifty bit of science that was just vague enough to work) as well as how the world dealt with the aftermath. I was enthralled with the world Grant created, especially with the mechanics of the zombie infestation; one does not have to be bitten by a zombie in order to become one. Every person on the planet is infected; once you die, you are immediately reborn as a brain-nomming monster. (This has to be an excellent world to be a hitman in, I thought while reading. Every person has to be killed twice, which means double the assassination fees.)

So after all this praise, why the confused canary?

Well, I can’t tell you. It would completely ruin the end of the book. Instead, let me make an analogy:

Just like Feed, I read Twilight at a breakneck pace. I had to know (HAD TO KNOW!) if Bella and Edward ended up together. Immediately after finishing Twilight, I rushed out and bought New Moon—but, actually ended up reading a book in between (the first Dresden Files book, for the curious). And when I went back to read New Moon, I was picking it up when a voice in my head said, “Wait…Twilight wasn’t even a good book. At all.” I dropped the book and never looked back.

And the same thing happened with Feed. I read it in a couple days, quickly bought the sequel, Deadline, and then had a family dinner that effectively derailed my inertia-driven enthusiasm. When I finally did sit down to read, that same voice said, “Are you really going to engage the sequel after the first one did THAT with the narrative?”

"Grant broke a cardinal rule of writing, and I can't decide whether she pulled it off."

I still haven’t decided if the voice in my head is just a book snob who needs to get over herself, or whether she has a point. I mean, Feed is about 800-million times better than Twilight, but I think Grant broke a cardinal rule of writing, and I can’t decide whether she pulled it off. And I’m too flustered with the indecision to commit to Deadline.

That said, I would definitely recommend Feed to anyone who enjoys zombie fiction, political intrigue, or has a less persnickety internal voice than mine. It’s a fast, multi-layered novel that even kept me reading through my zombie nightmares.

* Except sharks, but that’s a phobia to be dealt with in a review of Jaws.

[ Book Review ] Academy Dropout Wanted for Captaincy.

Chirp, I have no idea.

Trading in Danger by Elizabeth Moon

(Vatta’s War series)

I have a weakness for space fantasy, so when I saw this cover staring out at me, I thought, “Oh no, I am absolutely not–“, but my hand was already reaching.

I started Trading in Danger at 10:23pm yesterday and finished it in one swoop. The last half I power-skimmed, bleary-eyed but enthusiastic. It was five minutes till four in the morning when I reached the back cover. As a result, I have no idea what to rate this book. All I know is this: it kept me turning the pages well past any semblance of a normal sleep schedule. And I love it for that.

Ky has just been kicked out of the military academy.  Of course, she still has her family business and support to fall back on: the Vatta trading corporation’s run by her father, and he’ll find her a place in it. The problem? She’s failed again–and she doesn’t want to be seen as the irresponsible, pampered girl she used to be.

When her family gives her a ship and sends her on a trade route to get her away from the media mess she’d caused, it’s two-parts well-meaning banishment, and one-part opportunity. And then things begin get complicated.

Warships and pirates complicated.

Continue reading