For the most part, my 10 year old was bored with this book. There were brief periods that she showed interest in the story, but they were very, very brief.
As a parent, listening to this was painful. The characters are shallow, the narration is overly earnest (like someone might speak to a 3 year old), and the action drags along. There is, of course, a child trying to win against adults in this story--but nothing Jack does makes me think he *should* win against the adults. He does not go through any real struggle--rather, everything just seems to fall into his lap by luck or else because kind adults were looking out for him. This might be good for very young children that don't question magic and superheroes, but if you have a kid that likes a smart story, this one is not for you.
Admittedly, I only made it halfway through the story, but I seriously wish I could get my time back.
The only reason I'm reviewing this book is because of all of the low reviews. Many people are claiming they loved Snyder's previous books, but hate these, and that the main character is sick and twisted and the torture is horrible, etc.
If you've liked Storm Glass and Sea Glass, you'll probably like Spy Glass. Rather than a story of Stockholm Syndrome (puh-lease, if anyone had that it was Yelena!), this is a story about redemption, forgiving people, and facing your fears and inner shame. If you're worried that you might be about to listen to some abuse-supportive material, read on and be reassured. As someone that has been the victim of abuse, I can tell you this story did not raise any alarms for me. Doesn't mean it won't for others, but I don't speak for others anyway.
Have you ever dated someone that had a drug problem? That's how I see Devlin in this series--controlled by his vices and out of touch with society--but then he gets rehab and is slowly becoming someone free of that. I know I have trouble avoiding M&Ms some days--I can't imagine struggling with something as addicting as blood magic (or drugs). Of course, when Devlin becomes a major part of Opal's life, all of the terrible things he did are firmly behind him. The fact that people have such violently disapproving reactions to him shows an intolerance for imperfection in the literary fantasy world. Let me make it clear--there is a gradual development of friendship which is almost a self-healing process for Opal that develops into more. She is not being tortured or treated maliciously by him at any point after this begins. She meets with him in very controlled environments at first, and she struggles with her past experiences. It is in no way an easy transition for her! She goes back and forth internally for MONTHS with the idea of a reformed Devlin.
I think the main reason people dislike this book so much is because it doesn't follow the typical pattern for redeemed characters: 1) the bad deeds happened a long time ago or the person was "duped" in some way, thus distancing and/or excusing the actions; 2) the horrible deeds were never done to the same person that chooses to love them, ugly past and all. I admire Snyder for tackling such a difficult character and laying it all out there.
Having said all that ... This book is not all centered around Devlin (he is serving a 5 year prison sentence, for goodness sake (!) and appears mostly during Opal's inner musings). There is still an action-packed plot with lots of twists and turns. Opal is trying to continue finding ways to help people despite her loss of glass magic, and she encounters a brand new enemy that arises from deeply rooted past conflicts. (Unlike Devlin, the bad guy acts with his rational thinking mind and shows acute pleasure in others' pain.) About three hours from the end, the stuff really hits the fan. Be prepared to listen to all of that in one go. Enjoy!
Unfortunately, this final installment was a little bit of a dud for me. It started out alright, with some fun scenes that quickly deteriorated to the illogical. In a way, I was reminded of the first book a lot. Mack was obtuse in some seriously annoying and (to me) unrealistic ways, and the entire novel is centered around her anger and resentment at feeling like she has to be self-sacrificing. Added to this is the fact that, suddenly, she does not feel like it is appropriate to hold her friends accountable for their behavior! I don't know where this attitude came from, but she just kept rolling over for others and then complaining about it in her head the entire time. At one point, she justifies it because of her fear of being alone. That just DOES NOT wash with me. If she really felt concerned about being alone, she wouldn't have dropped her lifelong shifter friends (Tom, Betsy, Julia) without so much as a spare thought. Also .. Alex, Solus, Corrigan, Aubrey, the pink demon librarian, Mrs. Alcoon ... how is she alone?!
The bad guy is never really fleshed out this time around. He has got to be the least memorable of all the bad guys in this series, which is completely at odds with the fact that he's supposed to be the biggest nasty they've faced so far. What were his motives? He reminded me of a robot with no feelings that just went through the motions, as if he were just a vessel for someone else to work through.
Also, there are some very unnecessary scenes in this story, which is even more disappointing because of how well I thought the previous book was handled. There is a scene in an Unseelie club that just seems pointless, a sudden love interest for Solus that does not make any sense, and some random and sloppy gallivanting that could very well have happened behind the scenes.
I wanted to give the story 4 stars due to my relief at a happy ending ending and some closure on previously unexplored subjects, such as Mack's secret dragon nature and her mysteriously absent family. Honestly, with the way Harper had been increasing the severity of character deaths in the previous books, I wasn't expecting either Mack or Corrigan to be alive by the end of it all. Then again, maybe that's how it should have ended, because the bogus happy ending is really what dropped my rating down to 3 stars.
Before I address the ending, here's an example of Mack's rediscovered obtusity: after the first hour of this book, it will become painfully obvious to the reader that Mack is pregnant. In my experience, it is most definitely NOT the last thing on a woman's mind if she is a reproductively healthy female. Mack does not even admit to herself that there is a possibility she is pregnant, despite the fact that Mrs. Alcoon practically starts knitting baby booties and painting the spare bedroom in pastel colors. Barfing, stomach aches, detesting the smell of coffee, sudden uncontrollable shifting--come on! It would have been much more believable for Mack to recognize the possibility, then refuse to investigate out of fear or denial or putting it off because she's so busy being a martyr. Even in this scenario, we could have been introduced to her thoughts, worries, and curiosities on the subject. As it goes, Corrigan tells her she's pregnant in the last hour of the book--which I also find to be a ridiculous scenario--and she doesn't even have a "Holy crap, there's something invading my body and it's going to take over my life" moment. Her reaction is simply, "Oh, rats, I guess that makes sense! Babies are ... hmm. Well, time to go be badass again!"
Oh, and Corrigan! Talk about character backsliding! I know he was dumped publicly, but he becomes more of a hostile decoration in this book than anything. I can totally dig some good arguments, but he and Mack don't even have a real conversation until the big baby reveal at the end. Pardon me for not buying that for one second, by the way, seeing as how in the previous books they were drawn to each other like magnets and they are supposedly soul mates.
And the big happy ending? Yes, they fly off into the sunset together, but in doing so they abandon everyone they know and love. In what world is it better to leave everyone for the wolves and run away to live in hiding while simultaneously destroying your best friends' wedding? I never thought Mack and Corrigan would turn out to be cowards, but that's what this ending was. I wish they had found the inner strength to acknowledge that their own happiness was worth standing up for, even if it meant losing some political power or being criticized.
In fact, the ending doesn't make sense from any viewpoint to me. In the story, everyone depends on Mack uniting the races as a neutral power and Corrigan being a newer, gentler breed of Lord Alpha. With their faked deaths, the races will never remain united and the shifters may very well return to their old massacring ways. Despite their arrogant demands, there is no way the Summer Queen and the Arch Mage have the ability to force Mack to stay away from Corrigan--especially considering she's been pregnant with his babies the whole freaking time. That ship sailed waaaaay before they even got to the pier. As it stands, the pair end up leaving the world exactly as it was before their rise to power.
Why couldn't Corrigan just retire from being Lord Alpha and be Mack's right hand man? Why couldn't she marry Corrigan as Lord Alpha and have her children fostered in Fairyland every summer, then educated by the mages for the rest of the year in order to maintain a balanced relationship between the races? That little bit about dragonkind being cursed by auto assassins--well, there are ways to break a curse. If Mack could go off to Russia on the off chance of finding an almost extinct race of midget to get some precious metal that a friend of a friend read about in an old history document, then is it really so hard to believe in a happily married couple that kicks butt and saves the dragon race from genocide? Certainly not! Married couples can still have passion, witty dialogues, inner turmoil, and withstand hardships that separate family members under stressful circumstances. Just look at dual military families!
Helen Harper, if you read this, I hope you write one more book in which Corrigan and Mack return with some adorably chubby toddlers to fix these wrongs! BAH!
I am not the kind of person that becomes absorbed by audiobooks easily, which is why these little-known books are such an incredible surprise to me. In the Blood Destiny series, Helen Harper has created an outstanding balance between world building and character development, often conveyed in a way that I am not expecting.
This book, HANDS DOWN, has got to be the best so far in the series. I laughed myself silly multiple times--and cried a bit at the end. Mack's normal scathing wit is still present, but she continues to reflect personal growth through increased control and self reflection with none of the irritating back-sliding found in many other popular urban fantasies. A delightful turn leaves newer character, Aubrey (master vampire), as a constant source of ridiculous fun, though to be honest I almost had a nervous breakdown when he first appeared in this book. Additionally, Corrigan makes juuust enough frequent and short appearances when he is not directly involved in the proceedings to prevent the story from feeling like an obstacle to the wicked fun interactions between he and Mack.
Oh, and the story? Instead of thrusting us directly into a stagnant world of magical intrigue, Mack's new situation is conveyed through a creative slant: taking a vacation from it all. Of course, the relaxation part of the vacation goes up in a ball of fiery death almost instantly when Mack volunteers to run a few harmless errands during her free time. Who knew helping out some gentle dryads and a greedy troll could cause so much mayhem?
Almost every character that has been introduced in the series makes an appearance in either memory or reality, but their placement and timing are so well done that it doesn't feel like a single scene is frivolous. Of course, I do have some small complaints--several major characters are described exactly the same in every single book, and their descriptions are so sparse that it is a noticeable feature. It would be great to get a new detail thrown in every now and again to flesh out their image--though this may be done on purpose to allow the reader's imagination to fill in the blanks. Also, there is some rare word repetition (example: "She noticed the gleam of the silver, gleaming dagger," or something like that). The quality of the content tends to highlight these mistakes, although there are only one or two instances of it. Saskia Maarleveld does a fabulous job when this happens, never indicating any sort of awkward hitch or pause in her reading.
Oh and, by the way, I had never heard of Saskia Maarleveld before listening to these audiobooks. I don't think there's any way I could forget her after her performance on this series, though! Her skill at conveying a variety of emotions for a multitude of different characters while maintaining their unique accents, pitches, and speech patterns completely amazes and captivates me. Would I love these books so much if I were reading them directly? I honestly don't think so because my reading voice sucks toads compared to her performance, and she lends a dimension to the story that I could never give. I hope Harper and Maarleveld continue to work together for the next forty years, because I don't think they would ever produce a novel I wouldn't want to listen to. In fact, I think I'm going to go listen to the next book right now!
I loved the setting and the subtly descriptive way that the author had of fleshing out the world in this novel--Australia in the 1920s, I believe it was. However, the main character does not grow in this book. She comes equipped with every skill she could possibly need to save her life, regardless of the ridiculousness and her young age. The author has Phryne accomplish these random and sometimes quite difficult tasks with no more effort than slipping on a new hat, and tries to make a joke of it by having Phryne mention how it was jolly good luck she'd slept with that gigalo in Paris or rubbed elbows that one time with a race car driver!
In the end, while the story was entertaining, the main character came off as an inconsistently pretentious know-it-all without much thought in her head beyond social interactions, feminism, clothes, and sex. Luckily, the predictable mystery is tailored to her exact experiences, or I don't think I could ever have believed she would solve it.
Unlike the fairly tame Royal Spyness novels, this book could be considered slightly racy, although not especially graphic. The content is a solid PG-13, and does not necessarily contain realistic consequences for anyone's actions. I don't think I would recommend it for men, as the only men in the story are witnesses, criminals, or foreign lovers that are never developed beyond a flat and stereotypical role.
As for the narration, it was somewhat mediocre with the occasional spot on voice for a minor character. Nothing irritating, but also nothing incredible here.
Here's what you need to know if you are debating about whether or not to buy this book.
1. Do you like the *friendships* in Nora Roberts' books?
2. Do you like Chicken Soup for the Soul?
3. Do you prefer your audiobooks to have nothing more than a deep kiss here, a coy look there, and nary a swear word in sight?
4. Do you live in Northern California, Oregon, or Washington, or find yourself drawn to people that are from these states?
If you answered yes to all of these, you will probably adore this book. If you answered yes to 1-3, you will probably really enjoy this book.
Still unsure? Let me give you some more details.
The narrator does not have an incredible range of voices, but she does have the perfect cadence. Her voice hypnotized me without putting me to sleep, and her slow, careful reading caused me to slowly and carefully soak up the world within this audiobook.
The plot is pleasant and without suspense. A woman is told she is a witch after stumbling across an internet spell, and she meets a witch family and starts training with them. Most of the characters in this story are family or lifelong friends, so there is an undertone of affection in almost all of the interactions. The second book introduces a few characters that do not always get along or like everyone, so if you need a little conflict I would recommend that you skip to that one. If you're looking for a cheerful, relaxing listen that will give you a dose of positivity, you've found it.
This book was a surprise to me, and I know from browsing other reviews that a lot of people were disappointed by it. However, that disappointment seems to stem from the shift in setting, and less from a change in the ability of the author.
First, the setting of this book is like a classic fantasy novel, with little to no relation to the settings of the previous novels (urban fantasy vs high fantasy). If you hold extreme dislike for high fantasy, you may not like this book.
Second, as with most high fantasy novels, there is a lot of world building, which accounts for the length of this novel. It is more than twice the length of the previous books.
Third, a lot of character development takes place in this book. Characters make choices that have a permanent effect on their place in Kara's life, as well as affecting her behavior and feelings. Many of these changes are negative, and a lot of people appear to dislike the betrayals, newfound friends, etc.
Fourth, there is only an abstract mystery versus the normal "examine the clues to catch the killer." Everything about the world she is in is a mystery, with no clear resolution to be had.
Normally, I would not enjoy a book like this. However, the characters are what make the books so awesome for me, and it is why I spent all of my free time enjoying this audiobook. Rowland does not lose her touch with the realistic portrayal of emotional reaction, and she never forgets to question things in the right places or address sticky situations. Despite all of the world building, there is still a lot of time devoted to dialogue, and the plot is never allowed to grow stale or stagnate. I felt what Kara felt, and it is why I loved this book.
As always, the narrator is excellent. In fact, if I read this book instead of listened to it, I may have had more trouble with the transition from urban to high fantasy. If you're on the fence about this one, I recommend trying it out. You can always return it if it's not for you!
While I finished the book, the story was slow and only mildly interesting. It was a struggle to finish, but I neither liked nor hated it. The narrator was good, and created a large variety of voices.
This book is about a woman that is temporarily employed to clean up a mansion. She begins to learn quilting from the owner, and eventually learns about the owner and her family's past.
I liked the realistic quality of the human interactions and conflict. That being said, I found the main character's low self esteem and lack of confidence to be grating, sometimes. She's supposed to be older than I am, but her spineless moments seem better suited to a teenager with little experience in the real world. Also, there were times when a character wouldn't make a logical jump, but they had all the information necessary to make it. There is nothing more frustrating than a writer that makes her characters slow on the uptake. Oh, and the men in the story are all flat, two-dimensional characters--even Sarah's husband and Sylvia's "wild" brother!
I think I enjoyed the end more because it meant I was finished with the book than because it actually satisfied me. Everything came together too neatly, like a fairy tale, and all the flaws that made the people realistic before the last two chapters suddenly disappeared or were resolved in a day--including 50 years of bitter animosity.
Altogether, I only recommend this if you really like quilting and repressed people, or quaint stories with strong morals and a PG-rating, and not a lot of introspection, deep or otherwise. If you have never quilted, expect your eyes to glaze over when they discuss technique--which is not too often, thankfully.
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