I'll admit I went into this with low expectations and, alas, they were met but, with the movie coming out and one of my coworkers making her way through the book, I figured I'd give it a shot.
Beautiful Creatures is a YA novel typical of many YA novels of its type. Here we've got small town boy meets new girl who is different by dint of being the new girl and, therefore fascinating although both characters are neither. This may seem harsh, possibly, but I have cause to wonder why, when many of the secondary characters are so entertainingly full of life, the protagonists were so very dull.
I also get the feeling this book could have been a great deal shorter without all the back and forth over whether or not the heroine would be chosen as light or dark which carried on interminably until I was forced to give up on the book altogether. This coupled with the narrator's florid descriptions of his girlfriend's wonderfulness and gorgeousness (etc., etc.) none of which did very much to convince me he was in awe of her as anything more than the concept of a girl; the platonic ideal, if you will, of what a girl should be. "Hormones, my friend," I wanted to say, "you have a lot of them, but what you do not have in any way is chemistry."
All in all, it was an underwhelming read, thin on engaging plot, paced awkwardly in ways that may have been meant to be atmospheric but read as meandering and self-indulgent. The narrator wasn't bad, though. His reading of the protagonist's constant visits to the clouds was pitch perfect, just as his readings for Ama were feisty and amusing. It's the writing with which I find fault, not the narrator's performance. I might have finished the book for the sake of the secondary characters alone but I got tired of the lifeless romantic maundering and couldn't quite bring myself to manage.
I loved Etiquette and Espionage so much that I was excited for the sequel and, while the sequel is lovely, it doesn't quite hold up to the sheer, wondrous "yay!" I felt in the first. Don't take this as discouragement though, readers! Curtsies and Conspiracies is every bit as endearing as it's predecessor, maintaining that thread of friendship and teamwork I so loved in the first, albeit with a few added roadblocks.
Carriger made me fall in love with all of the characters all over again with their quirks and charming idiosyncrasies and, while the Curtsies feels, to me, as more of a bridging book than a stand alone, I cannot wait to read the next installment.
And, as always, Moira Quirk is a brilliant narrator.
The headline probably summarizes it all. This entire novel, while funny, is a comedy of errors so painfully avoidable perpetuated by a character who really should learn to censor herself that I was torn between laughter and cringing in almost physically debilitating mortification the longer I attempted to endure.
Backing up a step, I probably should have prefaced this review by informing the reader that I was lured in by the title (and a deep and abiding love for British mystery novels) but, really, Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death is a wonderfully ludicrous title and I feel that I really can't be faulted for either my curiosity or the fact that it set my schadenfreude senses tingling. All of these things turned out to be true, right down to the absurdity but I won't be finishing the series because Agatha Raisin is a marvelously incurable disaster; a true menace to herself and everyone near her. This could be funny if it weren't so painfully self inflicted because, Ms. Raisin really, really needs to learn to swallow her dubious pride and lie a little less often.
I wanted to enjoy the book but I fear that it just doesn't jive with my own sense of humor. Instead I am left with a chronic case of secondhand embarrassment.
That being said, the narration was spot on, right down to Miss Raisin's bewilderment at her own foibles.
I may have to preface this review by saying that I have so many fond feelings for this book that they threaten to spill over into noises only dogs can hear. Possibly dolphins.
It's always a joy to find a book full of lively and interesting characters with improbably ridiculous names and go off to find adventure while learning to be proper ladies. Have you seen many books with that premise? I have not, but I'm glad this one exists.
The book itself is entertaining, highly engaging and often extremely hilarious. I found myself laughing out loud at the beautiful absurdity of the premise and many of the equally hilarious situations the characters found themselves powering through. I think it's pretty safe to say that I fell in love with nearly every character in this book, each of them wonderful and unique people, lovingly rendered, but what impressed me most about this book was the overwhelmingly positive female characterization. Here are girls who are strong in very different ways, who accept that they are different and that they are all, in their own ways, important. It's refreshing to find in any novel but especially in a YA novel because we, as girls, all struggle with issues of identity and self worth, with finding a place for ourselves while we figure out who we are, just as the girls in this book do.
Last, but not least, the narration is amazing if maybe a little more slowly paced than I'd like. I'm eagerly awaiting the next book in the series. I hope it's as lovingly absurd and engaging as this one has been.
I enjoyed this and a liked the narrator, particularly the way she voiced the secondary characters who were all quirky and fun. The book, in general, was also quirky and fun but, man, the heroine is the kind of crazy that maybe could be spelled with a "k."
That being said, it was a fun read and had me laughing out loud in parts, even so, I'm not sure I want to pick up the next book in the series because people who fly off the handle and take stupid risks set my teeth on edge, no matter how hilarious their antics. That's still up for debate, though. Like I said, it's a damned funny read.
I've read a lot of fantasy novels over the years. Many with characters who have mysterious powers that no one understands, possibly because the author has no clue what those powers are either. Perhaps some of my discontent with this novel stems from the fact that I have become increasingly jaded about stories with unexplained magics. I have, on the other hand, read a number of fantasy novels where the magics have solid rules, but Cast in Secret is not one of those novels.
Nor does it have a cast of characters compelling enough for me to put aside my differences with the aforementioned shortcomings. Sagara's heroine is dull and often infuriating. Nightshade is mysterious and cryptic but, beyond that I fear there may be little depth, and our heroine's buddy lacks nearly any personality at all. Beyond these three we find a slew of well meaning busybodies giving extremely vague advice or refusing to explain anything at all based on Kaylin's apparently inability to pay attention to anything for longer than it takes a goldfish to swim around its tank. This last, to me, is most frustrating because, sometimes, a characters questions are a starting block one can use to build a world and, I am very sorry to say, that I really can't connect with the world in this book at all. It is very small and, unfortunately, like the magic doesn't seem to be rooted anywhere solid or believable.
I like this story and its twisted premise. I do. I even sort of like the narrator but, Maria Snyder, why did you not take this potential ALL THE WAY? Because it would have been so good and the sequels would probably have been a lot more interesting.
I've never been able to finish a C.E. Murphy novel which is why it was probably heinously stupid of me to download this in the first place but there was a preview at the end of one of my other books and I thought, "OK, maybe it won't be so bad." It's pretty awful.
Murphy's heroine is cast as a tough, smart woman but she's not. She's a hypocrite who makes extremely poor decisions who lives in a land where her job is mentioned every now and then just to we remember she has one--or that it's part of her identity. Alas, Murphy seems to have no idea what it is a lawyer actually does and also seems to be allergic to telling things straight. I mean, would it really be so difficult to say: "He poured whiskey into a tumbler and pushed it across the table" instead of waxing rhapsodic about the color of the liquid as if flowed into the glass? For one thing, the phrasing does nothing for the tone of the story. If your heroine is a tough-as-nails, take-no-b.s. kind of girl, wouldn't she tell it like it is?
Eve Bianco, you are not always my favorite narrator but you are also wasted on this book.
I was a little thrown at first by the narrator, but she grows on you. I say this as someone who's listened to the rest of the series. As for the book itself, it grows on you too. I feel like it reads a bit like a TV pilot and, for a while, I wasn't sure if I liked it but by the time I'd his the final chapter I knew I'd have to keep reading--er, listening. I can only give it three stars, though, because I'm probably one of those pretentious readers who want art--either that or I'd rather reserve a higher rating for the books that follow.
As a long time Willis fan, I want to give this story a higher rating but I can't. There are several things I find problematic about the story itself, pace being one of them. It does go on far too long, although often in enjoyable ways. It's a fun read but not her best.
However, I can't fault the narrator. As always, Kellgren does an excellent job.
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