Nemo @ Young Adult At Heart
Review
4 Stars
BINGO: Sinner - a werewolf in Los Angeles
Sinner - Maggie Stiefvater

Maggie Stiefvater’s Sinner is what you get when you really want to write a book about the shitty horribleness of behind the scenes reality TV and you already have the perfect character from a previous series to star in it, a washed-up charismatic teen rock star. Add in a cold and mean yet somehow irresistible love interest, perfect prose, and a love letter to Los Angeles and you have the fourth book in the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy series, Sinner.

 

It’s been a while since I read the series, but I remember loving it enough the paperback set and then sell that and purchase the beautiful hardcover box set. I’m pretty sure I didn’t like Cole and I might have been lukewarm about Isabel, but this book caused me to really get to know and even admire Cole (mostly through his undying and everlasting love for Isabel), and to admire and possibly even love Isabel for being the kind of give-no-fucks confident mean girl I’ve always wanted to be. I loved getting to know Cole through his swaggering overconfidence and how he mostly said and did stuff because he thought it sounded or looked cool. I loved how he was determined to do things his way. And I loved that he had many strings of relationships in the book, not just Isabel. His guileless friendship with not-quite-fatherly-figure Leon is one I hope to remember for a long time.

 

A lot of the plot revolves around Cole trying to see Isabel, Isabel somewhat denying her feelings because she doesn’t want to fall back in love with him, and Cole’s adventures as star of the reality webisode series just waiting for him to meltdown. I really bought the honesty of their relationship, although it did take me a little while to warm up to them.

 

When Sinner was first released I wasn’t entirely sure why. It wasn’t set in Minnesota, it didn’t star Sam or Grace, and quite honestly, it being about Cole didn’t really sell me. I bought it because I wanted to complete my set, but I’m really glad I’ve read it because Stiefvater’s writing is gorgeous, as usual, (and this convinced me to finally get into the Raven Boys series) and now I do understand that this unexpected fourth instalment gave us closure when it came to Cole and Isabel.

 

 

 

Read by candlelight or flashlight: 'Yuri' from Her Russian Protector by Roxie Rivera.

 

Black Cat: Coraline by Neil Gaiman

 

Diverse Authors can be spooky fun: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

 

Supernatural: Goldenhand by Garth Nix

 

Grave or Graveyard: Up from the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

 

Vampires vs Werewolves: The Vampire Stalker by Alison van Diepen

 

"Fall" into a good book - Sinner: The Wolves of Mercy Falls #4 by Maggie Stiefvater.

 

BINGO!

 

FINALLY

 

It took me almost the entire two months of this challenge, but I made a bingo!

Review
3 Stars
The Vampire Stalker: A Book Boyfriend Fantasy
The Vampire Stalker - Allison van Diepen

SUMMARY
Amy is in love with the brooding fictional hero of a book series called Otherworld. Alex is a vampire hunter who accidentally finds himself in Amy’s world. Can the two figure out why their world met, and can Alex stop the vampire he’s hunting before Amy’s world is turned as dark as his own?

PLOT
I really liked the plot of The Vampire Stalker because it involved what the author called ‘literary physics’, the theory that some authors don’t make up a fictional world but somehow tap into another dimension and write about that one instead. I like it because I had the same theory when I was a teenager. I was really pleased to see someone actually make a story of this theory, even if it did involve a vampire hunter with a fan following akin to Twilight or Harry Potter. I mean, vampires are so last year, amiright? But it worked in this book.
I liked how Alex was as well-rounded a character as a real person, and even took offence to ‘his’ Chicago being referred to as ‘Otherworld’. He had a purpose and didn’t really have time for a romance to distract him. The only part of the plot that I didn’t really buy was the curfew enforced on Amy’s city when the police ‘realised’ the serial killer was a ‘real vampire’. I mean, it just seemed so fake. Even this current terrifying clown epidemic hasn’t caused any curfews, and no one is actually going to believe a real vampire is murdering people.

CHARACTERS
Another thing I found unrealistic was Amy’s close and personal friendship with her school librarian. I’m a book nerd but I would never visit my librarian’s house for dinner after ‘working late’ or whatever it is she was doing, or consider her a friend. It seems pretty inappropriate for a member of staff to be interacting with pupils that way, especially out of hours. Also it seemed that Amy wasn’t that close to the librarian to begin with, then all of a sudden they have this history together and she trusts her with Alex’s secret. And this librarian is OK with this weird teenager just coming to live with her.
And of course Amy was the kind of mousy-haired, non-makeup-wearing, book-loving YA heroine every brooding bad boy goes nuts for. And her book boyfriend just happened to be the less popular of the two male leads in the book series – because the more popular one is already in a relationship with a female vampire. But the thing I missed most was any kind of chemistry between the two – here was more chemistry when Alex was yelling at her and saving her life rather than any sweet, romantic moments between the two. I still don’t see what Alex saw in Amy – she’s your paint-by-numbers typical YA heroine, bland as beige and designed to appeal to the masses.

WRITING
Mind you, there was nothing particularly memorable about the writing. The best thing about this book was the literary physics theory – oh yeah, did I mention that ‘helpful, friendly high school librarian’ who is more than happy to run around two teenagers to book events also used to be a physicist who came up with the theory? That’s why she recognises Alex. I did find the reaction of the poor author who thought she imagined this world quite realistic – once she recognises her own villain is out to get her, she can only call her hero for help. But really, the whole point of this book is to bring some teen girls’ fantasy to life and see what it might actually be like if your book boyfriend stepped into your world and got to know you.

OVERALL
With a bland heroine and no spark between the two romantic interests, the positive is that if you don’t take it too seriously the book is a cute, fluffy, quick read and the other characters all seem well-rounded. I thought the somewhat original premise was given a great boost by the literary physics theory but unfortunately the writing itself lacked punch as well.

 

 

Read by candlelight or flashlight: 'Yuri' from Her Russian Protector by Roxie Rivera.

 

Black Cat: Coraline by Neil Gaiman

 

Diverse Authors can be spooky fun: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

 

Supernatural: Goldenhand by Garth Nix

 

Grave or Graveyard: Up from the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

 

Vampires vs Werewolves: The Vampire Stalker by Alison van Diepen

Review
4 Stars
The Thief
The Thief - Megan Whalen Turner

I was drawn to read The Thief because I’d heard amazing things about its sequel, The Queen of Attolia, and I wanted to get into the series and see what everyone was so excited about.

The Thief is the story of a – you guessed it – thief named Gen who is forced into using his considerable talent against his will for the benefit of a king he’s not particularly loyal to. Gen was a likeable character if not an entirely reliable narrator and I think that helped elevate the story. Out of the other characters which were overwhelmingly men, there were several I never grew warm to and one I never could quite figure out. Luckily Gen can carry the novel with the strength of his narrative and his integrity, even as a thief with honour. He was a likeable protagonist who worked hard and had a problem with giving up, which I found appealing.

During the road trip part of the novel there’s a lot of world building including vivid descriptions of geography and mythology retold by the various characters. At first I thought all of the world building was slowing the story down a little, but during the unfolding of the narrative it soon became clear why I was handed so much information. Particularly the geographical notes were essential to one of the puzzles Gen had to figure out, and I loved the originality in mythology, and I think it helped create quite a firm idea of Gen’s world.

I loved the way Turner combined several out-of-time real-world items to create her own world. While not based on the Greek Pantheon of gods and goddesses, the landscape was clearly Greek inspired and with inventions from all over time including gunpowder, the pocket watch and the printing press all smushed together in one book it is clearly not based on any particular time period or place, but it works together as one cohesive story.

I found the pace to be a little slow even when there was a deadline for narrative goals, but it was certainly worth pushing through those slightly dull moments to finishing the book and I think it was a great introduction to what I predict will be an enjoyable, imaginative and original fantasy series.

I received this book for free from the Coop Bookshop in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
3 Stars
An Average ending to a Brilliant Series
Up From the Grave - Jeaniene Frost

SPOILERS

 

I’m not reviewing this for my blog but I am claiming it as part of Halloween Bingo and I do have some feels about the final book in the Night Huntress series so let me just say…

 

-read more-
Resisting the siren's call of ARCs

I'm down to one requested ARC in my review pile and it's not released until February so I can take my time reading what I want to read for a while.

 

But Edelweiss just had a big update with stupid HarperTeen, Balzar+Bray and Katherine Tegan Books, three publishers i adore, all released ARCs for next year.

 

AND I WANT THEM.

 

I am so close to having ZERO review books but all of the ones I want sound amazing and are already on my to-read list.

 

I am forever doomed to succumb to the lure of ARCs.

Review
4 Stars
Review of partial review copy, not full book
Goldenhand - Garth Nix

First of all, I had absolutely NO IDEA that the ebook I was given to review from Edelweiss was only a partial copy of the book. There was no warning anywhere – I had to stumble over an announcement made on Goodreads from Nix himself saying it was only a partial review copy before the rage in me simmered down from what I believed was a cliffhanger ending and an unwrapped up plot. I was HOPPING MAD that Nix could betray a trusted reader like that, and I am so glad I was wrong, but it still colours my review of this book because I didn’t get to read all of it.

What I did read was very good, but I was aware that as we moved along at a greater pace than I expected, that the protagonists weren’t going to achieve whatever it was they needed to by the time the climax was supposed to come around.

So basically the plot follows Lirael as we see her side of the story from Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case and what happens directly after that – getting Nick to the Clayr’s Glacier where he will have better healing and Lirael can research the combination of Free Magic and Charter Magic inside him – and also be the prodigal daughter returning home no longer part of the Clayr but part of the royal family and the Abhorsen-in-Waiting to boot. The other half of the plot follows a new character called Ferin as she travels from the far north to deliver a message to the Clayr from Lirael’s biological mother, now long dead, and the struggles she overcomes as she is hunted by powerful magical tribes from the north.

As always, I loved Nix’s writing. The set up seems slow but by the time you realise you’re knee-deep into the story it’s barrelling along and all you can do is hold on tight and trust Nix not to crash us. Which in this case, unfortunately I did crash but only because my copy was literally missing the ending few chapters that would have wrapped everything up.

I’m adding the physical copy of this book to my collection anyway, so I’ll get to read the proper ending. As such I have to withhold judgement on whether or not I recommend the book for others – I’ll certainly enjoy it, but as I’m not reviewing the full copy, I simply can’t say.

I received this book for free from HarperCollins Australia in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

Read by candlelight or flashlight: 'Yuri' from Her Russian Protector by Roxie Rivera.

 

Black Cat: Coraline by Neil Gaiman

 

Diverse Authors can be spooky fun: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

 

Supernatural: Goldenhand by Garth Nix

!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
4 Stars
A Spoiler Filled Review of Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
Three Dark Crowns - Kendare Blake

I don’t normally write really spoiler-filled reviews so take note, THIS REVIEW IS DARK AND FULL OF SPOILERS.

 

spoilers

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SUMMARY

Three girl triplets are born to every generation, three queens who one day must battle to kill each other with the victor crowned queen of the island.

 

PLOT

Each triplet born is supposed to be gifted with a magical power, one of possibly five. The three most common are poisoner, the ability to ingest any poison and live; naturalist, the ability to control plants and bond with a special animal ally known as a familiar – the fiercer the better; the elemental, able to conjure and control storms and the elements. The lesser powers are the war mages, gifted with some kind of battle magic, and I think, from what I remember, there’s another power, one of precognition, that is so feared the babies are drowned at birth rather than grow up and go mad from visions. The mother supposedly knows which triplet is gifted with which power.

 

So once the mother gives birth she races off the island as fast as she possibly can with her king-consort and leaves these baby triplets to live together and be raised (can’t remember by whom, there are three factions on the island) until they are six years old. Then they’re separated and raised by foster families, the leaders of the factions, until they turn sixteen. Then there’s this massive ceremony and all this traditional stuff like meeting possible suitors, who each have to meet every queen and guess which one is going to live and woo that one, despite the fact that only one of them is going to live, and the queens must perform and show off their powers in front of everyone at this massive gathering of all the factions, and this is all supposed to happen without the queens meeting one another. And only then, after all this ceremony, the queens are given one year to murder each other and the victor given the throne until she gives birth and races off the island to leave behind three tiny babies. This didn’t make much sense to me. Why is there even a ruling queen when it’s clearly the queen’s faction that runs the island? And how can the religious priestesses decide whom they want to be queen when they’re not even part of a faction? And why is everyone convinced Mirabella, the elemental queen, is going to be the victorious one? And if it’s because the other two sisters haven’t shown much of a gift yet, why isn’t it officially a Sacrificial Year, where there is one strong sister and two powerless ones? And how come the priestesses feel they have the right to murder the young queens at any time even though it’s supposed to be done by the sisters themselves?

I had SO MANY QUESTIONS.

 

CHARACTERS

three-dark-crowns-poisoner

 

I actually liked all of the queens and I couldn’t pick a favourite. I loved Mirabella’s compassion, despite the fact that everyone was expecting her to murder her sisters. I loved Katharine’s (the poisoner queen) defiance and will to survive, although I do wish she fought back against the nasty abusive character. And I loved Arsinoe’s resilience and fierceness even after all the tragedies that had befallen her. I loved how Mirabella and Arsinoe each had best friends, and I even liked Katharine’s little ‘teach me how to seduce a boy’ romance with Pietyr.

 

What I didn’t like was Joseph. I know his actions were due to Arsinoe’s desperate use of low magic, but I couldn’t stand how he and Mirabella just shagged on the beach after knowing each other for all of five minutes, unprotected and without even hesitation like they were both grown ups with plenty of experience and no feelings  rather than virgins who didn’t know what they were doing and driven by hormones they don’t understand.

Feed Your Fiction Addiction wrote this wonderful blog article about how the YA community was so jumping on the anti-slut-shaming bandwagon that casual sex was on the rise and even being encouraged, and I tend to agree. In the rush to make our heroines sexually liberated and free from being abused because of that, the casualness of sexual encounters is becoming so numerous it’s confronting.

“I kind of feel like, in our mad rush to avoid slut shaming, a lot of books have swung in the other direction, and the message is being portrayed that sex really should be casual – that it’s more fun or somehow better that way. That waiting to have sex until you’re really sure of your feelings about someone is a bit passé – you shouldn’t have to be sure of your feelings because feelings aren’t necessary for sex (which is obviously true in some ways), and (girls especially) should own their sexuality in this new way by not really worrying too much about that.”

Is Celibacy Shaming A Thing? Let’s Discuss! by Feed Your Fiction Addiction

 

The casual sex was way too casual, between strangers, unprotected, it involved a guy cheating on the girl he loved and a girl taking advantage of an obviously delirious guy, and the whole thing made me feel kinda icky. And worse than that, once Joseph knew what he’d done he continued to do it, and continued to proclaim his love for Jules while having it off with Mirabella every chance he got. And then, when Jules was finally ready to forgive him and consummate their love, he just wanted to hold her. I just… argh. I found him very frustrating.

 

And then what the fuck was up with Pietyr? Who the fuck was he working for? Does he really want Katharine dead and if so, why didn’t he let the priestesses do it? And how come no one stopped the priestesses importing all those crates of knives anyway? And how come, once the priestesses decided to kill Arsinoe, they let her get away and didn’t try to kill her again?

 

WRITING

 

three-dark-crowns-elemental

 

Sometimes I was just downright confused. Sometimes the writing was really jerky. I didn’t particularly care for the present tense narration either, I don’t think it quite worked. I think it was supposed to help create the element of tension and fast pacing but to me it kind of felt more like I was being told the story rather than shown it. “And then the characters do this, and then they do that, and they go here, and this happens.” The concept was awesome, but the worldbuilding was confusing. If the queens only have ruling power over some magical island that appears in a mist every so often, and only for about ten years before they give birth, why are the mainlanders so invested in the outcome? What’s so special about this island?

 

PACING

I liked how the book started out, with each chapter dedicated to each queen preparing for her birthday. I liked less how as the book went on the chapters got shorter and shorter, sometimes only two pages long, in an attempt to make the book’s pace appear faster in light of so much structured ritual for the narrative to follow.

 

OVERALL

Look, I did really like Three Dark Crowns due to the sheer originality of the worldbuilding, and I think it’s a series I’d love to follow to the end, but it did have issues with getting the fantastic concept onto the page in a satisfying way and of course the main goal of the narrative, the murder (or redemption) of two sisters until there is only one queen standing obviously didn’t happen in this first book, even though I felt like it could have very easily been a stand-alone and wrapped everything up within one novel.

 

I received this book for free from Pan MacMillan in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

 

Read by candlelight or flashlight: 'Yuri' from Her Russian Protector by Roxie Rivera.

 

Black Cat: Coraline by Neil Gaiman

 

Diverse Authors can be spooky fun: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

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Scholastic mail!
Scholastic mail!

Husband texted me saying I had a package from Scholastic. A 'big' package. I asked for a picture.

Video

A Dog's Purpose by W Bruce Cameron

 

DO NOT WATCH THIS VIDEO UNLESS YOU ARE OK WITH CRYING.

 

I suspect the film will have significant differences because it’s translating a written medium into an audio/visual medium. That being said, the book was wonderful and I suspect the film will be too, based on the beautiful trailer.

!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
4 Stars
You’ll Weep Following A Dog’s Purpose
A Dog's Purpose - W. Bruce Cameron

Warning: Don’t read this book unless you are prepared for all the feels. I don’t even consider myself a ‘dog’ person and I wept several times through this.

 

SUMMARY

A dog is born. He lives. He dies. He is reborn. Again. And again. Along the way he learns what his true purpose is.

 

PLOT

The dog goes by several names in this book, but he spends the longest as Bailey, so we’ll call him Bailey. First he’s a feral puppy who winds up in an illegal shelter. Then he’s a golden retriever and bonds instantly with ‘his boy’, Ethan, who’s about eight at the time and goes through a whole bunch of adventures with Bailey. Then he’s a German Shepherd rescue bitch called Ellie, who works hard and learns to find and save people. Then he’s a black Labrador, and everything he’s learned in his previous lives leads him back to Ethan, now an old man. Stop crying. I did warn you.

 

CHARACTERS

Bailey/Toby/Ellie/Buddy is our star, the dog who lives four lives and finds meaning and purpose in all of them. Ethan is Bailey’s first real owner, whose love and affection shines through the pages of the book. If there ever was a man/dog BFF ship, it’s those two. Through Bailey’s eyes and limited understanding of the world (and also his ability to interpret everything to be about him, of course) we see Ethan’s parents divorce, find out a neighbourhood bully killed a neighbourhood dog, see couples get married and start families all without Bailey explicitly telling us so.

 

Reborn as Ellie, she has two owners in her time – a depressed widowed police officer who is wounded on the job and a female cop who wants the challenge of working with Ellie but might not be up to it. And Ellie’s an amazing recue dog. I cried when she jumped into a storm drain to rescue a lost kid because I thought yeah, she’s learned her purpose, she’s gonna die now. And then finally as Buddy, Bailey finds his way back to Ethan and puts everything he’s learned in his life to use to make ‘his boy’ happy.

 

WRITING

I couldn’t get over how fantastic the dog’s voice was. Narration by a dog! Not entirely original, no, but the voice and style really blew me away. Of course cats are useless, Bailey. Of course when your owners get married everyone’s really there to watch you walk down the aisle with the rings. You’re the star, the centre of their world. Of course you are, you ridiculous doodle dog. I couldn’t get over the narrative voice. Also, Josh Gad is voicing Bailey in the film. JOSH GAD. You know he’s going to be AMAZING.

 

Some choice quotes:

 

“Dogs have important jobs, like barking when the doorbell rings, but cats have no function in a house whatsoever."

 

“Humans were capable of so many amazing things, but too often they just sat making words, not doing anything.”

 

“This was, I decided, my purpose as a dog, to comfort the boy whenever he needed me.”

 

PACING

It was easy to tell when the dog’s life was winding up and at the end of each death I had to put the book down and have a big, chest-heaving, sobbing, ugly cry. Apart from that the pace was good – often in the early times of Bailey’s life, when he was still a puppy and before he had met his new owners, the pace would drop a bit because of the limited interactions, but apart from that, I found the pace easy going, not breakneck or anything, just a pleasant journey with an old friend.

 

OVERALL

Oh my god just read this book.

Review
4.5 Stars
Behind Chlorr of the Mask: The Lost Abhorsen's Origin Story
Clariel (Abhorsen, #4) - Garth Nix

SUMMARY

Clariel is better known as the centuries-old necromancer and later the Greater Dead creature Chlorr of the Mask in Lirael. This is her early story.

 

PLOT

Clariel wants nothing more than to live as a Borderer in the Great Forest of Estwael. So when she is dragged by her Master Goldsmith mother Jaciel to Belisaire, to marry the Governer’s son Aronzo and forever be trapped in a life she is desperate to escape, Clariel takes steps to ensure her own freedom – even if it comes at a great cost.

This is not your typical origin story. This does not detail how Clariel becomes Chlorr the necromancer – rather, it details the early steps taken by Clariel so that you can understand how someone from the ‘good’ side of magic can become so twisted and corrupted. Clariel is not gifted with strong Charter Magic nor much knowledge of the Abhorsens due to a family feud, but she is gifted with the beserk rage familiar in both Touchstone and Sam, and that is tainted with Free Magic. Through the Free Magic, Clariel works to get what she wants – but doing the wrong thing for the right reason is still the wrong thing, and that’s a lesson I Clariel doesn’t learn, and I suspect still doesn’t learn later in her life and contributes to her downfall as Chlorr.

 

CHARACTERS

Clariel is of course our protagonist. She’s strong-willed and knows exactly what she wants in life, even at only 17. She’s also trapped under her mother’s tyrannical reign. It’s super easy to identify with Clariel’s chafing need to spread her wings and be independent, knowing she will thrive in her chosen career as a Borderer, and feel the helpless obedience that comes with being a dependent child. She’s also asexual, which I think, for some, might be interesting. I couldn’t really tell if it was just used as a minor plot point to keep rejecting certain suitors’ advancements on her. It certainly was easy to feel her horror as news of her arranged marriage came through. She’s not particularly selfish but she is self-absorbed to the point where that’ll the catalyst, she’s abrasive to the horror of other characters and doesn’t want to take part in their charades.

 

We see little of Clariel’s parents, her father who does the admin side of the goldsmithing business despite being a talented smith himself, and Jaciel, who is more obsessed with her work than he own family.

 

Also appearing is the Abhorsen-in-Waiting-in-Waiting, Belariel, or Bel, who is Clariel’s cousin and friend from the Academy. Bel is concerned that the current Abhorsens, in a family of 300 strong, are too busy ceremoniously hunting to face the tasks required of the real Abhosren, so Bel’s been training at night and reading The Book of the Dead in secret.

 

Also popping up for a pretty major role in corrupting Clariel is Moggett, the wiley twisty little feline-bound Free Magic creature who cannot be trusted!

 

WRITING

The biggest issue I had going in was that I was expecting more of clean and cut origin story when really, it sort of hinted at Clariel’s weakness and her eventual downfall to come. Imagine writing a Joker origin story where at the end he’s just getting involved in crime but he doesn’t fall into the vat of chemicals that changes him forever; or a Batman Begins without Bruce Wayne ever making the Batsuit; or a Superman story that is basically Smallville where we never see Supes don the cape, but while that works for Smallville, it took me until actually finishing the book to realise I wasn’t going to get Clariel’s tragic fall into the Joker vat of chemicals after all. We don’t see her become a necromancer – we see her fight the urge. We don’t see her do anything evil, really – she still tries to save lives and even though she does murder people, that can be viewed through a justice or revenge lens.

 

PACING

This book tricks you. It tricks you into thinking it’s got a slower pace than it does. We follow Clariel around the city for the first third before anything of interest really happens, much like following Lirael in the library – it’s all a big set up that you don’t even realise is happening. Then it’s all go-go-go all the time until you’re screaming at yourself to stop reading so fast, it’ll all be over soon.

 

OVERALL

I certainly think Clariel is a book you’ll only get the most enjoyment out of if you’ve read the previous Old Kingdom books.

 

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Video

Dark Horses by Cecily von Ziegesar

"Wild Horses"

 

I like this whole linking videos on my reviews thing, I might keep it up if I can think of the right video.

Review
4 Stars
Dark Horses + Dark Actions = Dark Story
Dark Horses - Cecily Von Ziegesar

SUMMARY

When Merritt walks out of her SATs and goes on a bender, her parents send her to an equine rehabilitation camp called Good Fences where she meets Big Red, a former racing Thoroughbred recovering from injury and with a Big Bad Attitude to match. Red takes a liking to Merritt and claims her as his own, and when the two impress their sponsor and join the professional show circuit, Red won’t let anyone or anything come between him and his human.

PLOT

I really liked the idea of reading alterative points of view from both Merritt, a damaged teen girl, and Big Red, and equally damaged and somewhat unhinged beautiful chestnut Thoroughbred. Merritt had no idea Red was so malicious though, although she loved him, she still only thought of him as a horse whose responsibility she could pass over to someone else. Red and Merritt don’t even start off liking each other and that’s the best kind of relationship I like reading about. Red very soon decided that if he ‘belongs’ to Merritt then he’s going to behave and do his best for her, and that’s when they get pulled into the professional show circuits because let’s face it, someone who walks out of their SAT isn’t exactly going to go to university. Merritt’s parents are largely absent and although she seems to bond with fellow competitor Carvin, he quickly cools off. Instead, the sponsor’s reckless, out of control daughter Beatrice, working as Red’s groom, revolves into Merritt’s life and VERY briefly makes the audience question if there’s going to be a bisexual romance before Big Red takes matters into his own… um… hooves.

It’s Red’s jealousy that I’m torn up over how I should feel. Because 1) I mean come on, he’s a loyal herd animal and he clearly has chosen Merritt as his ‘person’, much the way one of my three cats has chosen me as her ‘person’ and is practically my little shadow an that is seriously one of the best feelings you can get from an animal you love. 2) I know Red knows he does the wrong thing on occasion but he does try to be good for Merritt.

CHARACTERS

I loved Red’s narrative voice. Because playing a radio soothed him, he knew a lot of lyrical references and forever threw them into his own narrative. Even though he doesn’t speak, he sure gave off a lot of feeling and despite his nasty streak I really empathised with him. He was such a great character that even though he does bad things, I’m finding it hard to judge him harshly. He’s smart and loyal and loves Merritt.

Merritt Wenner (whose name I like to think of more like ‘Merit Winner’) doesn’t handle abandonment issues very well, so when people in her life leave her or she just can’t cope, she likes to drink and take random drugs to deal with it, which is what landed her at Good Fences. She’s abrasive and rebellious and the only thing good in her life is basically Red. I didn’t really feel like she had as much of a character arc as the horse did because at the end of the novel she’s in the same place she was at the beginning, and I was really disappointment when she half-heartedly entered a plot to steal Red only to quickly abandon him. Like she almost couldn’t decide whether she loved him or not.

WRITING

The writing was contemporary, not exactly graceful, but fun with Red’s lyrical inputs. I didn’t really have an issue with it, it wasn’t over the top purple or lyrical and it wasn’t gritty and urban it just kind of was the middle of the road. Definite the best thing about the writing was Red’s narrative voice. I really felt like I was looking out of the eyes of a slightly deranged horse. Although it was kind of weird how smart he was… like he knew how much he weighed, for example. I thought that was weird.

PACING

The pace of this book was like that of a Thoroughbred – almost to the point of reckless. It felt rushed, like how quickly Bea’s feelings for Merritt grew and then BAM that’s all over. We completely missed Merritt’s winter training in Florida and went straight to the professional circuit. It seemed like the author was just so keen on getting everything down and telling this somewhat thrilling story that the whole thing seemed rushed and could have done with some padding out. For example, the girls at the Good Fences all jumbled into one, even when one of them was plucked out and promoted to supporting character rather than bit player.

OVERALL

I really enjoyed Dark Horses. Because of the plural in the title I kept expecting another horse to be dark like Red but nope, it was just him. From the first moment I loved the idea of a horse over its rider and this book really delivered pretty much what I expected and what I wanted. I would really recommend it to YA readers who like a bit of a thrill or those readers who enjoy troubled teen stories.

 

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Video

Halloween Bingo | Black Cat | Coraline

 

I was unable to add the film trailer to my review, but then I found this clip about the black cat and thought it was better.

Review
4 Stars
Halloween Bingo | Black Cat | Coraline: A Satisfyingly Creepy Tale
Coraline - Chris Riddell, Neil Gaiman

There was a film adaptation of Coraline released in 2009 that was amazing and will be referenced throughout this review.

 

SUMMARY

Coraline Jones, a bored tween, finds a more interesting life through a magical portal in her new house’s drawing room where her Other Mother wants to love her and keep her forever and replace her eyes with bright, shiny black buttons. Other Mother will do anything to keep Coraline…

coraline-title

 

PLOT

Coraline is a disenchanted, bored tween in a new house before her new school has started and her parents don’t have time to entertain her. The old house they’ve moved into has been split into four apartments, and while strange neighbours live above and below them, the apartment opposite Coraline’s has a strange door in the drawing room that is blocked off with bricks. Determined to find the secret behind the blocked-up door, Coraline’s adventure takes her into another world where a creepy monster known as the beldam imitates her mother and insists on being called her Other Mother. While Other Mother treats Coraline with love and respect, and spoils her with delicious food and interesting entertainment, she’s desperate to hold on to Coraline, and will even take her real parents hostage. Meanwhile, Other Mother has devoured the souls of children like Coraline before, and the three little ghosts beg Coraline to set them free. If Coraline stays in the Other world, she’ll need to let Other Mother sew black buttons on her eyes, and let Other Mother love her and care for her forever (and possibly eat her?). But if she wants to escape, she needs to find her parents and the souls of the three ghost children with the help of a sardonic and somewhat aloof black cat. It’s notable to mention that in comparison to the film, which I adore, there is no Wyborn character. I believe he was created for the film so Coraline wasn’t wandering around muttering to herself all the time.

coraline-bored

 

CHARACTERS

Of course as I was reading this I kept comparing it to the film, which I love. In comparison, Coraline from the book isn’t as spunky as Coraline from the film. Film Coraline is downright rude and even somewhat bratty. Book Coraline is more reserved and less aggressive. Both of them are smart and brave and have a certain amount of un-child-like common sense that allows them to achieve their goals.

Similarly, film Mother seems almost mean compared to book Mother. Film father seems more lively than book Father. Film Beldam seems scarier than Book Beldam, but maybe that’s because they model her so excellently on a spider and the reveal is very slow. Like I said earlier, Wyborn doesn’t exist in the book and neither does his grandmother so that makes a very minor plot point moot. The Misses Fink and Forcible are more lively and far more amusing in the film, as is Mr Bobo and his moues circus. It’s not that the book is bland, it’s just that the film took a really good idea and made it so much better.

 

WRITING

Coraline is super creepy and I think it’s fantastic for a middle grade/young YA book. It never treats its younger readers with anything but respect and expects them to be able to figure out problems alongside or even before Coraline does. I kind of wished that Gaimen had written the early adventures as if they were a dream, like in the film. I also found the book’s climax to be more satisfying than the film, but I recognise, similar to my response to Gaimen’s Stardust, that certain elements work better on the screen. Although Gaimen is wonderful at description and dialogue, they do say that a picture says a thousand words, and so I think the film was more successful in getting its message and meaning across.

other-mother

 

PACING

I didn’t find anything wrong with the pacing. The plot moved quickly enough to keep my attention, even though it’s only a short book and even though I roughly knew what was coming thanks to the film. I was excited to get back to the book when I put it down. There were a couple of subplots that were built into the book but like I said it was a shorter novel so I’m not fussed about missing them.

 

OVERALL

If you’ve seen the film you’d probably really enjoy this book. Even if you haven’t seen the film, (I’ve played the video game based on the film and really enjoyed that, too!) I think it’s a really engaging, thoughtful, creepy story that treats its younger audience members like grown ups. There’s no holding back on the creep, horror or suspense.

 

 

Read by candlelight or flashlight: 'Yuri' from Her Russian Protector by Roxie Rivera.

Magical Realism: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Witches: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone illustrated Edition

Genre Horror: Fat Vampire by Johnny B Truant

Black Cat: Coraline by Neil Gaiman

 

Diverse Authors can be spooky fun: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake (currently reading)

Ghost stories and Haunted Houses: Ghost Girl (#1 3rd Freak House) by CJ Archer

Young Adult Horror: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Scary women (authors): Arise (Hereafter #2) by Tara Hudson

Reads with Booklikes friends: The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle.

 

Grave or Graveyard: Up From The Grave (Night Huntress #7) by Jeaniene Frost

Genre: mystery: We Were Liars by E Lockhart

Edgar Allen Poe Raven image: Enshadowed (Nevermore #2) by Kelly Creagh

Gothic Seared with Scars (#2 2nd Freak House) by CJ Archer

Creepy Crawlies: Parasite by Mira Grant

 

‘Fall’ into a good book: Sinner (The Wolves of Mercy Falls #4) by Maggie Stiefvater

Locked room mystery: Dead Famous by Ben Elton

It was a dark and stormy night: Storm Glass (Glass #1) by Maria V Snyder

Set in New England: Little Vampire Women by Lynn Messina

Full Moon: Fire Spell by Laura Amy Schlitz

 

Vampires vs werewolves: The Vampire Stalker by Allison van Diepen

Supernatural: Dangerous Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Classic Horror: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Pumpkin: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Set on Halloween: “Ghost Town” by Malinda Lo, short story in Defy The Dark ed by Saundra Mitchell

Review
3 Stars
First read down
Her Russian Protector Boxed Set - Roxie Rivera

I am WAY behind because I was determined to finish some other books before I started on my Halloween Bingo card.

 

Anyway, I finished 'Yuri', book 3 in Her Russian Protector box set by Roxie Rivera, who's a dirty-writing sexy romance/erotica kinda gal whose books I love (also writes under Lolita Lopez). I read the whole box set on my phone when I was unable to sleep, but I didn't start Yuri until after September 1, and it's a book in its own right.

 

I'll just give a quick rundown since I normally only review Young Adult and this review won't even go on my regular blog, youngadultatheart.com:

 

Yuri is a billionaire in love with PR princess Lena Cruz, and when she confronts him over what she mistakenly suspects is shady dealing trying to undermine her club, the two start dating. There's lots of hot sex and lots of talk about feelings and are we moving too fast because it takes place over the course of about one week. Of course there's some gang/mob trouble but nothing a big tough Russian can't handle.

 

I like Roxie Rivera's books because the guys are always huge and alpha male but when they look at their woman they go all dopey and sweet. I love a big man, my husband's seven feet tall, although I could do without the inherent bossiness in Roxie's men and also the women's complete happiness to be bossed around. She tries to make the relationships equal but often fails, but even then I don't really mind, it is fiction after all. I love me a big sexy Russian.

 

I probably won't go on with the series, it just seems to melodramatic and it's always the same thing: the house gets broken into, the woman is threatened, the Russian goes all alpha male.

 

Probably the star of the book is Sasha, the enormous Caucasian shepherd who, obviously, hates everyone but falls in love with Lena at first sight.

 

 

My name is Nemo.

By day I work in IT, by night I turn into a vigilante kitten snuggler.

This blog used to be called The Moonlight Library.

 

"A good book resting unopened in its slot on a shelf, full of majestic potentiality, is the most comforting sort of intellectual wallpaper."

- David Quammen