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Book Description: (from Amazon)
In a future world, vampires reign. Humans are blood cattle. And one girl will search for the key to save humanity.
Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a vampire city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten.
Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them. The vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself is attacked—and given the ultimate choice. Die…or become one of the monsters.
Faced with her own mortality, Allie becomes what she despises most. To survive, she must learn the rules of being immortal, including the most important: go long enough without human blood, and you will go mad.
Then Allie is forced to flee into the unknown, outside her city walls. There she joins a ragged band of humans who are seeking a legend—a possible cure to the disease that killed off most of humankind and created the rabids, the mindless creatures who threaten humans and vampires alike.
But it isn’t easy to pass for human. Especially not around Zeke, who might see past the monster inside her. And Allie soon must decide what—and who—is worth dying for.
It’s official, Interwebs… I have gone to “The Dark Side.” While my primary preferred method of reading is definitely real physical books, I have to admit to installing the Kindle and iBooks apps to our iPad, and making liberal use of both lately.
A great deal of my reading this winter has been of the smut variety… Two Nora Roberts Trilogies, in fact. While they may be wonderfully escapist and make great entertainment for the time I spend on the elliptical, I don’t find myself particularly inspired to write reviews about them. If you’re looking for a fun diversion during the rainy spring months, don’t hesitate to check out the Irish Born trilogy and The Inn Boonsboro Trilogy. I particularly enjoyed my time spent with the feisty Concannon clan in County Clare.
The one perk of having an e-reader is that I can finally make use of the fantastic resources out there for book bloggers, and can finally make good use of having signed up for Netgalley. In preparation for the release of The Eternity Cure (on April 30!!), Netgalley had The Immortal Rules available for download this month. I’m really not sure how I let this one slip under my radar… Perhaps it was a bit of YA Fatigue, and seeing yet another angsty-face cover didn’t make me inclined to give it a second look during my book-buying jaunts?
In any event, I am SORRY Julie Kagawa. I will never stray again. Plus, great call on the new paperback cover. It is bitchin’.
For the first time in a few months, I’ve found myself talking about a book and its heroine. As I mentioned, I was starting to weary of the YA dystopian heroine, who all too frequently falls in and lets her story happen TO her. Allie Sekemoto is the exact opposite of this, and would belong more in the company of Katniss Everdeen than Bella Swan. In attempting to explain this book to Army Boy, I actually referenced both characters.
“It’s like… The Hunger Games meets Twilight… only Allie is Edward… and the world is more like The Passage, with crazy vampires running around killing indiscriminately instead of being veggie-vamps or whatever the Cullens were…”
Allie is an UnRegistered living in the vampire city of New Covington, where every day is a struggle to stay alive and to remain under the radar of the city’s vampire officials. After finding a cache of food one day, Allie brings her gang outside the city walls, with disastrous results for all involved.
Forced to leave her old life behind, the reader is caught up as Allie learns about her new life from her sire, and struggles to come to terms with being what she most despised. She’s got spunk, and is determined not to lose her humanity, no matter how difficult that may become. Her loyalty to the human race could be her undoing, and her affection for Zeke continually tests her. She’s a character that the reader both admires and empathizes with, because at heart she’s still a scrappy teenaged girl who allows herself to care too much about the “wrong” people.
Best of all, Julie Kagawa doesn’t write “down” to her audience. She doesn’t rely on some of the clichés that running rampant through the YA genre right now (Love Triangle, I’m looking at you!), and instead gives us a story that’s both epic in scale and personal for Allie. I’m thrilled that I was able to go right into The Eternity Cure.
Five out of Five Kitanas.
FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book via Netgalley for review.
Book Description (From Amazon): In the magical underworld of Victorian London, Tessa Gray has at last found safety with the Shadowhunters. But that safety proves fleeting when rogue forces in the Clave plot to see her protector, Charlotte, replaced as head of the Institute. If Charlotte loses her position, Tessa will be out on the street—and easy prey for the mysterious Magister, who wants to use Tessa’s powers for his own dark ends.
With the help of the handsome, self-destructive Will and the fiercely devoted Jem, Tessa discovers that the Magister’s war on the Shadowhunters is deeply personal. He blames them for a long-ago tragedy that shattered his life. To unravel the secrets of the past, the trio journeys from mist-shrouded Yorkshire to a manor house that holds untold horrors, from the slums of London to an enchanted ballroom where Tessa discovers that the truth of her parentage is more sinister than she had imagined. When they encounter a clockwork demon bearing a warning for Will, they realize that the Magister himself knows their every move—and that one of their own has betrayed them.
Tessa finds her heart drawn more and more to Jem, though her longing for Will, despite his dark moods, continues to unsettle her. But something is changing in Will—the wall he has built around himself is crumbling. Could finding the Magister free Will from his secrets and give Tessa the answers about who she is and what she was born to do?
As their dangerous search for the Magister and the truth leads the friends into peril, Tessa learns that when love and lies are mixed, they can corrupt even the purest heart.
Soundtrack: “Be Here Now”~ Ray Lamontagne
The shimmering strings in this one and the lovely message make me think of Tessa and Jem. (Those crazy kids!)
Best Enjoyed With: A cup of fizzy lemonade. Preferably not spiked with Warlock powders.
It was such a treat to return to Cassandra Clare’s version of Regency London, I have no idea why I didn’t do it sooner. This book picks up immediately after the events of Clockwork Angel, and I have to admit that I actually enjoyed this book more than the first book in the series. (Considering my feelings about YA series in general, that’s high praise.) The plot took off like a runaway carriage, keeping the reader breathlessly following the events after Mortmain’s attack on the London Institute at the end of book one.
It’s imperative that the Shadowhunters discover more about the infamous Magister in order to attempt to discover his motives and his eventual plan of attack. Meanwhile, other Shadowhunters are questioning Charlotte’s competency of running the Institute. The consul gives them two weeks to discover the Magister’s plans, or Charlotte will be removed as director of the Institute, and the unsavory Benedict Lightwood will take over.
Meanwhile, Tessa is caught in a whirl of uncertainty. Not only is she not entirely sure where her powers come from, she’s fallen in love with two young men who she just happens to live with. Cassandra Clare kicks the romantic tension up a notch in this installment, and does a fabulous job of it. While the love triangle could a bit overused in the young adult genre right now, Will and Jem (short for James, if you haven’t started this series yet) are both so totally dreamy that it’s understanding why Tessa is torn. Unlike Jace and Simon in the Mortal Instruments books, there really isn’t a “best choice” between the two of them, and I found myself just as confused as Tessa. With two equally vivid heroes to fall in love with, we’re reminded exactly why the love triangle is such an effective plot device. It’s been a while since I’ve had a legitimate book boyfriend, and I might have to fight Angela for Jem.
Aside from gushing over the main characters, this book was a feast for the imagination. The characters leave London and travel by train to Yorkshire, where the stark beauty is described perfectly. There are plenty of grand manor houses and beautiful clothes, and what regency novel is complete without a masked ball? I think that writing within the Victorian conventions of propriety added some great dimension to the story. The love scenes were steamier because of it, and the exploration of character relationships on all levels were very authentic.
Another aspect of Cassandra Clare’s writing that I seemed to have forgotten was the humor she manages to sneak into various scenes. While her characters in the Infernal Devices series are bound by the constraints of society, there’s a degree of truth to the fact that they’re still teenagers, with all of the inherent snark that comes with that job description. Revisiting some of the characters that cross between the two series is a delight as well.
I’m eagerly awaiting the release of Clockwork Princess, and not just for the drop-dead gorgeous cover art.
Four and a half automatons.
Book Description (From Amazon) :
Deborah Harkness exploded onto the literary scene with her debut novel, A Discovery of Witches, Book One of the magical All Souls Trilogy and an international publishing phenomenon. The novel introduced Diana Bishop, Oxford scholar and reluctant witch, and the handsome geneticist and vampire Matthew Clairmont; together they found themselves at the center of a supernatural battle over an enchanted manuscript known as Ashmole 782.
Now, picking up from A Discovery of Witches’ cliffhanger ending, Shadow of Night plunges Diana and Matthew into Elizabethan London, a world of spies, subterfuge, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the mysterious School of Night that includes Christopher Marlowe and Walter Raleigh. Here, Diana must locate a witch to tutor her in magic, Matthew is forced to confront a past he thought he had put to rest, and the mystery of Ashmole 782 deepens.
Soundtrack: “I Won’t Give Up”~ Jason Mraz
When we saw Deborah Harkness at her author signing, she made a remarkable point. The first book in the All Souls Trilogy was about the ease with which Diana Bishop and Matthew fell in love, arguably the easiest part in most relationships. The second book is about their life together, and learning to stay in love, which is where the true magic lies.
Best Enjoyed With: Something rustic and primitive. A giant turkey leg and a stein of beer, perhaps.
A completely unexpected side effect of being in training is that – get this- the trainer actually ENCOURAGES us to read during the many breaks that we get during the day. With a training class of over 30 people, there are constantly questions and technical difficulties, so I’m suddenly finding myself getting a ridiculous amount of progress made on the books that I’ve chosen to bring. For example, I pounded out roughly 200 pages of Shadow of Night over the course of the day yesterday. Apparently my fears of losing my reading time were totally unfounded. (Thank Gawd!)
Also, there are FOUR girls in the group currently reading the Fifty Shades series. I can’t help but find it adorable.
I feel no reservation in proclaiming this the book of the summer- the anticipation for it was just huge after the ending of “A Discovery of Witches,” and if the turnout for Deborah Harkness’s book tour is any indication, women are craving something a little more sophisticated than Ana Steele to enjoy on their summer vacations. Sophisticated does not mean “less fun,” just “far better written” and “actual steamy sex.”
“Shadow” begins immediately after “A Discovery of Witches” ends, with the result of Diana and Matthew’s timewalk to the past. I loved how Deb Harkness set this up, with an enoromous wink and a *HINT HINT* toward their eventual destination, that had me finishing the book with a huge grin. Rather than feeling like a cliffhanger, it simply built enormous anticipation for the next volume in the trilogy, while still feeling oddly satisfying as a stand-alone novel.
I’m going to try to discuss this one as spoiler-free as possible, because while there are many out there that have finished it already, there are lots of you who are still eagerly awaiting getting your hands on a copy. Unfortunately, most of the book could be considered a spoiler for the ending of ADOW, so if you haven’t read that one please stop now. Otherwise don’t get pissy with me if I ruin your fun.
With the help the Bishop house and various and sundry creatures, Diana and Matthew have decided to timewalk to the past to guarantee their safety from the Congregation and to help Diana explore more of her magical powers. They’re also going to attempt to locate Ashmole 782 intact, before its secrets are disguised by whomever tore out some of the alchemical illustrations and before its donation to the Bodleian library.
One thing that Diana does not anticipate fully is the implications of being married to a vampire who has been around for hundreds of years. She has experienced present-day Matthew, but not Matthew in the context of the 16th century. From the moment they arrive in Elizabethan England, she is rubbing elbows with the members of the School of Night, including Christopher Marlowe (a demon) and Walter Raleigh. She’s also forced to contend with the many differences between modern society and the “normal” of the past. She immediately stands out with her height and her American accent, and it quickly becomes clear how much work she’s going to have to do just to blend in.
The other thing that they didn’t exactly take into account was that they were planning to arrive in a time where witch hunts were just beginning to heat up (pun intended) across the European continent. It is not a safe time to be a witch, much less a witch with Diana’s unique capabilities.
The plot takes off right away, as Matthew is summoned to Sept-Tours by his father Phillipe. From that point on, the action slowed very little as we follow Matthew and Diana on their quest to track down Ashmole 782 and increase Diana’s knowledge of her talent. It’s evident that Deb Harkness is in her element writing about the time period that she studies, and took great pleasure in bringing her scenes to life. Once again the text was full of wonderful sensory allusions of smell and taste, coloring the reader’s impression even further. From the streets of Prague to Matthew’s lodge at Woodstock, the settings are rich and varied, and the cast of new characters introduced is fascinating. Her delight in populating the pages with historical figures shines through in each interaction. The depth and complexity of the plot is greatly satisfying, as the world that was introduced in the first book and the interesting caste system of the three supernatural races is embellished upon. In this case, creating a mixture of historical fact and reference with the fictional world is very successful.
The reader learns a great deal more about Matthew’s role in the past and his motivations, for better or for worse. Much like Diana, we’re forced to see Matthew in a new light, deal with his imperfections and decide whether he’ll continue being the epitome of the perfect man. For the most part, he does not disappoint.
Once again, I’m left impatiently awaiting the next and final installment of the trilogy.
Four and a half Venison Pasties.
There’s a little sports competition going on over in London right now, perhaps you’ve heard of it? Ah yes, the 2012 Olympic games… I have made absolutely no secret of my love of all things relating to the British Isles, so I was so lucky to be able to get down with my geeky self and send oodles and oodles of love to England while watching the Opening Ceremony.
I am uber-fortunate to have a husband who is understanding of my fascination, though I suspect that may have had to do with promises of the cocktails that were consumed while we watched.
Also: I admit to being TOTALLY bent out of shape when the ceremony-haters started popping up on Facebook and Twitter. Alas, that’s the danger of social media. I just didn’t really expect the Haterade when it came to the Olympic Opening Ceremony. You know, the celebration of the tradition of countries around the world coming together for some good old-fashioned sport?
Anyone who didn’t get a little choked up when they showed children’s choirs in each country singing has a heart of stone. That’s basically what I’m saying. It’s not about one-upmanship, and being “better” than Beijing- just appreciating the amazing show that played out for the world, and accepting the invitation to share in the festivities that was so graciously offered.
JK Rowling, the Queen skydiving, Mr. Bean and Kenneth Branagh didn’t hurt either.
About six months ago I mentioned in a post that I was so disappointed that it didn’t look like I was going to be able to attend BlogHer this weekend in NYC. Amy and I were going to finally live it up with the people we’ve been following for all these years, and were totally going to rock it out at Sparklecorn.
And then our central A/C unit died, killing my trip.
In the long run, my not being able to go to BlogHer has been a GOOD thing. Amy just started a new job, and is away in Florida training this week.
And Operation New Job has FINALLY paid off for me. I start my new position tomorrow, which would have been a lot to take in after a weekend of partying in the City that Never Sleeps. (Especially based on the amazeballs photos that have been appearing on Instagram all weekend!)
I guess the point that I’m trying to make is that everything happens for a reason, even if it seems really strange and inconvenient at the time.
I’m even more sure of that after my last day at my old job. Yes, my coworkers were amazing and blew out all the stops to make sure that I felt appreciated and knew that I’d be missed. After almost five years with the same group of quirky fun people, it was hard not to get choked up multiple times throughout the day. Bidding farewell to the Frat House and the Lego Block of Doom was really surreal when it actually came time to leave.
However, some new developments came to light that REALLY reinforced that now is the time for me to make my move, and that even if I hadn’t been on the move out now, I’d definitely be in a hurry to find something, ANYTHING else. The company was making some big changes, and my department barely resembled what it was when I was hired.
Perhaps the most disappointing thing for me was that once I gave my notice, nothing was said or done to attempt to keep me. There was no discussion regarding the unhappiness that had prompted me to start looking for a new position, and no searching for a solution to the fact that there was little potential for advancement. After giving them five years, I basically got a “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!”
So yes, this is a good move for me. I’m going to be gaining experience in some new areas that will definitely increase my marketability in the long run. I’m taking an entry level job that pays as well as my old one, and offers the potential of a promotion. The possibility of earning some overtime is appealing as well. Kids, don’t buy the myth that they’re selling you. Being “Salary” isn’t necessarily the way to go anymore. It’s a way for companies to trap you at an absurdly low rate of pay and expect you to work overtime without any additional compensation.
This will obviously mean some changes for Army Boy and I, notably a vastly different work schedule for me and six weeks of training. It will also greatly cut back on the time that I can spend visiting my favorite blogs each day, and I will miss stopping by and seeing what is happening in the lives of all of my Internet friends. Fortunately, that’s only temporary, and I’m going to make every effort to keep up with regular posting and commenting in the evenings.
I wish that I was sharing this to say “I have finally made the step where I get to do nothing but read all day and write while wearing my fancy uniform of yoga pants and Life is Good,” but that could still definitely be on the horizon.
Plot Summary (from Amazon):
In the court of King Henry VIII, nothing is free–
and love comes at the highest price of all.
When Kitty Tylney’s best friend, Catherine Howard, worms her way into King Henry VIII’s heart and brings Kitty to court, she’s thrust into a world filled with fabulous gowns, sparkling jewels, and elegant parties. No longer stuck in Cat’s shadow, Kitty’s now caught between two men–the object of her affection and the object of her desire. But court is also full of secrets, lies, and sordid affairs, and as Kitty witnesses Cat’s meteoric rise and fall as queen, she must figure out how to keep being a good friend when the price of telling the truth could literally be her head.
Soundtrack: “Secret” by The Pierces
“Because two can keep a secret when one of them is dead…”
After finishing A Storm of Swords, reading Gilt was the literary equivalent of taking a bite of chocolate mousse- rich and light, and a wonderful treat. The story takes a closer look at the life and untimely death of Henry VIII’s fifth wife, Catherine Howard, as told through the eyes of her supposed childhood confidante Kitty Tylney.
Catherine Howard was, in essence, Henry’s midlife crisis wife. He had divorced his first wife for Anne Boleyn, only to turn around and execute her for treason. His third wife (and some argue the love of his life) Jane Seymour died shortly after giving birth to his heir, and his attempt at a fourth marriage with Anne of Cleves was a disaster. In his fifties and starting to face his own mortality, Henry sought to reclaim some of the sparkle of his youth, and how better to do so than to marry a woman less than half his age? (Uh, knock knock… I can think of a LOT of ways, bud.)
In this book, Cat is portrayed as always being the star of the show. From the “Queen of Misrule” at the Dowager Duchess’s house to the eventual Queen of England, all of Cat’s life was spent, well, thinking of Cat. She was the Blair Waldorf of Tudor England, and if she wanted to sit on the Met steps with you or bring you to court, you considered yourself lucky to escape the tedium of servitude in the country. She has never been portrayed terribly sympathetically, and Katherine Longshore does little to change that fact. She gives us a Cat who is self-obsessed, selfish, and not above trying anything to advance her own status. All of life is a game, and throughout the book we see Cat “practicing” her scenes, from the perfect curtsy to get her
boobs noticed at court, to the most effective way to place her head on the block for her execution.
(Should I have thrown a “spoiler alert” there?? It’s history… there’s not much I can do to keep that little tidbit from you.)
We are treated to a far more delicious character in Kitty Tylney, Cat’s best friend and frequent partner-in-crime. Of less prominent social status, Kitty considers herself lucky to be one of the ladies chosen to be in Cat’s inner circle. Unfortunately, she doesn’t realize exactly how thorny her life is about to become once she’s entrusted with all of the Queen’s secrets. She starts the book as a bit of a wallflower, but her evolution to a woman strong enough to stand up to the Queen and some smarmy courtiers is a pleasure to observe.
In addition to our main characters, Ms Longshore populates her novel with some other great historical figures- Archbishop Cranmer, the devious Duke of Norfolk, and Thomas Culpepper are among some of the notable ones. A great scene between Kitty and Culpepper colors the tone of their relationship throughout the novel, and gives a striking example of the darker side of court life. There is a pseudo-love triangle, though it is used more to examine the difference between genuine affection and the dance of courtly “love.” The knowledge of the inevitable ending lends a bit of knife-edged tension to the whole tale- the reader is just waiting to see what will lead to the Queen’s eventual undoing.
I think that this is a well-written version of tale of the ill-fated queen, and I hope that the fact that it’s Young Adult will grab the attention and imagination of a new population who may not yet have been exposed to historical fiction.
Four out of Five Emerald Brooches.
Plot Summary (From Amazon) : Diana: Her True Story was originally published in 1992 under the guise of a quasi-authorized biography, with mostly unnamed courtiers and royalty as the accredited sources. It instantly became a sizzling, international bestseller that lanced the boil of Windsor family dysfunction, triggering a chain of events that led to Charles and Diana’s divorce. After her tragic death in 1997, Morton revealed that Diana had not only been the main source for the book, but had also edited his original drafts for accuracy. In return for this gold mine of information, Diana wanted complete anonymity for fear of retaliation from the queen–a fear that seems reasonably justified after reading the icy, inhuman portrayal of Her Majesty.
Beyond the racy and irregular royals, Diana: Her True Story gives a full account of the princess’s rocky childhood, her bouts with bulimia, the rejection she felt by Charles and the royal family, and her tenacious ability to overcome adversity.
Let’s skip the soundtrack on this one, shall we? It feels a little too light-hearted for the subject matter.
After watching the 2010 mini-series “The Queen,” I was intrigued to read the scandalous book that brought so much angst to the royal family by its very publication. At the time, this biography drew the curtain back on what Diana’s life was really like among the Windsors, and the immense sense of isolation she felt. Initially published as a collection of stories from anonymous sources, Andrew Morton later revealed that a great deal of the text came directly from the Princess herself.
I can see how the book would have been a total scandal at the time, from shattering the image of the “People’s Princess” by revealing a woman at war with her own demons, to portraying the monarchy as cold and out of touch. It’s particularly poignant now, from what we are shown of the relationship that Prince William and Kate cultivated over a number of years, to view the seeming contrast between William’s marriage and his mother’s.
The book portrays Prince Charles horribly, as an emotionally stunted creature who missed his chance with his true love Camilla Parker-Bowles, and settled for Diana to quiet the demands for an heir. He even informs Diana that should “this marriage business” not work out, he would return to his bachelor ways. He made no secret throughout their marriage of his continued closeness to Camilla, even wearing cufflinks from her on his honeymoon with Diana. His disappointment upon the birth of Prince Harry (instead of his wished-for daughter) was the emotional nail in the coffin of his marriage to Diana, and their relationship never recovered.
Diana is depicted as unspeakably lonely and trapped within the royal system, feeling that she could trust very few and that every aspect of her life was on display. She battled depression and bulimia (which was emphasized far too many times throughout the book), while struggling to find her own sense of purpose. She received very little positive reinforcement from the royal family on her own successful public image, and frequently had to deal with Charles’ jealousy about her popularity. (PS- Did I mention the bulimia?)
All in all, this was a very somber read, but it was clear how much joy William and Harry brought their mother. She in turn exposed them to experiences not typically given to the royal family, including bringing them on her many charity visits. Her influence is visible in the open way they interact with the public today.
Although I enjoyed the subject matter, I wasn’t overly fond of Morton’s writing style, which tended to lean a little too much toward name-dropping and was extremely dry. I’m currently reading “Elizabeth The Queen,” and the difference between the authors’ styles is extremely evident. I can’t seem to get enough of Sally Bedell Smith’s charming anecdotes about HRH.
Three out of Five Scandalous Phone Calls.