Monday, July 30, 2012
Jane Silverlake has a unique relationship with the world; she can feel the souls of man-made items. Her friend Nathan believes that she is the key to reaching another world--the Empyrian--and insists on experimenting with her. But when he disappears, Jane learns just how obsessed he was with her abilities, and how dangerous the cult leader who he followed is.
The White Forest is set in the late 1800s, just after the Crimean War, and McOmber imitates the structure and style of novels of the Victorian Gothic. However, he manages to strike a clean balance between the dense, often trudging prose and pacing of such works and contemporary expectations of plotting and style. Thus, the novel was beautifully written yet not difficult to read. Likewise, the plot and structure were just different enough to be intriguing and reflect the sensibilities of writers such as Poe yet not so different that a contemporary reader would find it inaccessible.
For those unused to nonlinear storytelling, the opening might be a bit difficult, but working through the first two or three chapters is worth the initial confusion. Also, the first few chapters allow the reader to adjust his or her reading to the old-fashioned style before diving into the complications and intrigues of the plot itself. Once explanations begin, the novel is a slow burn, but the flashbacks and revelations come quickly. Therefore, though solving the mystery of Nathan's disappearance takes nearly the entire novel, it still moves due to the sheer amount of background information needed to understand his disappearance.
On a more personal note, this book kept me company during a very difficult weekend spent sitting vigil in a hospital, and I'm glad that I had something so good to read to keep me distracted and thinking rather than brooding.
The White Forest will be available in September 2012.
5/5 stars (a note on my rating system)
Sunday, July 15, 2012
Aria Rose has lost the last two weeks of her life, two weeks during which her family tells her she carried on a torrid love affair with Thomas Foster, the heir of a rival political family. They claim this affair has made them see the light, and that her marriage to Thomas will unite the families once and for all--against the mystic woman running for office. For mystics have been banished to the lower reaches of the city, drained for their power, and feared for their abilities. Now the mystics want equal treatment, and with Violet Brooks' bid for power, they look poised to get it--unless the union of Rose and Foster can allow the rich to crush the mystics once and for all.
Mystic City is a politically complicated novel with twists, turns, betrayals, and suspense. Based loosely on Romeo and Juliet--but with some twists--the novel follows the intrigues of city politics through Aria's eyes as she learns just how depraved her family and their supporters really are and just how badly they've been treating the mystics. For all the complications, however, it's never too difficult to follow or to keep track of the many threads running through it. The ending is surprising for a YA novel, going practically full Shakespeare (which will make sense when you've read it, but I don't want to spoil it).
The one (fairly major) complaint I have is with the romance. Not that it exists, per se, or even that there's a triangle--because it's not a typical YA triangle, which I appreciated. What bugged me was how long it took Aria to figure out who the person she'd really had the torrid affair with was (I apologize for that sentence). I had it figured out by page 50-something; Aria didn't figure it out until he came right out and told her. Despite lots and lots and lots and LOTS of clues. Ridiculous numbers of clues. The only thing that might excuse her is that the love letters she has from those missing weeks are overwrought and overly flowery, which isn't how the Boy In Question speaks at all.
Otherwise, there's a very good concept here that's executed rather well and promises more good books to follow as Aria and the Boy In Question rebuild their lives and prepare to fight for equality for the mystics.
Mystic City will be available on October 9, 2012.
3.5/5 stars (a note on my rating system)
Sunday, July 08, 2012
Interestingly, I don't have a lot to say about this book. I liked it; it's got an interesting premise, good execution of that premise, and three main characters who manage to be wildly different yet clearly similar. Each chapter is told in first-person from the POV of one of the sisters, and their differences in worldview and priorities kept me from having to double-check the chapter header to remind myself which sister was talking.
The ending kind of snuck up on me; there's not a sense of winding towards an ending of this installment, like you get in a lot of series works. Rather, this makes a mad dash to the end of the book and yells at you to follow into the next one (which isn't available yet--of course) at the same headlong pace as the rest of the book. It gives a sense of being one story broken into chunks rather than three separate stories which happen to have an overarching unity. Yet the end wasn't unsatisfying; quite the opposite. It set up the next book without quite being a cliffhanger or reaching any conclusion, which is quite a feat.
While not as OMGBBQPONIES as some of the other YA I've read recently, this is a solid, well-written effort and I look forward to reading the rest of the series.
4/5 stars (a note on my rating system)
Thursday, July 05, 2012
I burned through this book in about 4 hours. It's incredibly fast-paced and well-plotted, and I had to know what was going to happen next. The chapters are very short and tend to end on mini-cliffhangers, as well, which helped the speed with which I read it.
Plague Town is a classic zombie tale, which you'd expect from a screenwriter/actress who worked on Army of Darkness, Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead. It's blurbed as "Buffy meets The Walking Dead" and that's not far off; the wild cards are just enough extra-normal to give them an edge in zombie-fighting, but normal (and untrained) enough to be in real danger from the zombies. They wisecrack and pop-culture-reference their way through the "zompocalypse," which for a geek like me is hilarious and enjoyable (especially since I understood all but one reference, and I only partially missed that one). To keep it from being too predictable, however, there is one zombie-type that is completely unexpected and creepy as hell, and I can't wait to see what Fredsti does with that.
The only thing(s) that keep this book from a solid 5 stars are frequent (and irritating) nomenclature mistakes (they're magazines, not clips, and that sound the ex-military survivalist heard was safeties being released, not M-4s being "cocked"). Also, the first couple of combat scenes are cringeworthy, and the only way I made it through them was by reminding myself that the wild cards have had maybe two days' worth of training by this point. (That doesn't explain why they keep using their melee weapons instead of their guns, or why slinging their rifles doesn't hinder their movement in any way.)
Those small irritations aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and will definitely be reading the rest of the series.
4/5 stars (a note on my rating system)
Wednesday, July 04, 2012
I really enjoyed Cinder. It began predictably enough, with all the Cinderella tropes being set up, but the middle of the book was a radical departure from the fairy tale, and when the end of the book returned to the traditional structure, nothing was what I expected anymore. I did see the major reveal/twist at the end coming, but that doesn't mean it wasn't brilliantly set up and executed.
Meyer struck an interesting balance with her characters, managing to keep the bad ones--like the stepmother and the evil queen--shallow and two-dimensional while allowing the good ones--like Cinder and Prince Kai--to be fully realized characters. And yet the bad characters don't feel like speedbumps (like the ones in Home From the Sea), but true impediments and threats to the characters' lives and happiness. Also, Cinder isn't nearly as dependent on Kai as the traditional Cinderella is on Charming, and I enjoyed seeing her story depart from the tradition to allow her to be an autonomous character with goals beyond marrying the prince.
The cliffhanger at the end made me argh a bit, especially since we have to wait until February for Scarlet, but at the same time, it was a satisfying ending. It ended exactly where it needed to; any more probably would have felt draggy and "get on with it!"
I had actually put off reading this for awhile because it seemed too . . . something . . . to be true; I feared that the premise couldn't possibly produce a good story. I'd like to go on record and apologize to Meyer for doubting her. I'm very much looking forward to the rest of this series.
4.5/5 stars (a note on my rating system)