This book had a great premise, the alternate history was well thought out and the politics were believable without being too complicated to follow. The mystery aspect was interesting although not as mysterious as the author might like it to have been. I had two problems with the book. The first was how it was told part in first person and part in third person, it just didn't really work for me. More importantly, the book ended rather abruptly and left me really unfulfilled. I know that in real life everything doesn't wrap up all nice and tidy, but these are books. I took a peak at the review for the next book, and it doesn't seem to pick up on the same story. The ending was disappointing. Other than that it was great.
This book sounded from the synopsis and the rave reviews like it was going to be so great, but partway through, I caught myself continuously checking the 'time remaining', first to see if I could figure out if/when actual plot might happen and eventually to see how much longer I was going to have to suffer. Basically, the book drags on and on without any change whatsoever to any of the characters (main or otherwise) or any important plot.
I suppose it's trying to be a coming-of-age story about Eff, but as a character she doesn't grow at all. From the start of the novel (where she's the world's most precocious five year old...I mean really, has the author met many five year olds??) to the end (Eff is 18 then), neither her inner dialogue or her actions nor her interactions with others change in any way shape or form. Sure it's sort of about her getting over being a 13th child, but since she's the only one who gives a hoot about that fact after the first few chapters, it's hard to see it as a major influence in her life. Maybe if the bullying and whatnot had continued when they moved west, I could see it more, but it's mostly abandoned through the book.
My other major problem with the book was the author's cavalier attitude towards background. There were a lot of weird historical changes that were completely unnecessary to the plot (like changing it from North America to North Columbia) and weren't explained in terms of including magic into history. Whenever I see this sort of thing in books, it just makes me think that the author was too lazy to do proper research and so just changed a few things in order to claim that any rational historical criticism can't apply. Frankly, I hadn't reviewed the plot summary before I started the book and for the first few chapters I had no idea if it was taking place in 1800 or 1950.
This book seemed to have lots of things going for it. Interesting premise, variety of different and intriguing characters, individual problems and civil unrest, a mix of fantasy and steam punk. But for some reason I still didn't really like it. I still have trouble pinpointing exactly what I didn't like.
Maybe it was that the political background wasn't really explained that fully, and so it's hard to get emotionally invested in the conflict which drives the main plot. Lots of books I find get too wrapped up in explaining the intricate political and social system that they've created, so much so that it swamps the plot. But this one could definitely have had more context.
Or, maybe it's that while almost all the characters have interesting back-stories they just don't seem to interact naturally. The conversations and interactions seem forced and stilted. Characters do things for reasons I don't understand. So, between not caring about the civil war and not understanding why the characters do what they do, it's sort of hard to care about what happens at all.
Once this book got going, I quite enjoyed it. The plot moves quickly and the characters are realistic enough. There are fourteen of them, but for the most part it isn't hard to keep track of who exactly is who (except some of the little kids, but it doesn't matter much). It's easy to draw parallels to Lord of the Flies, but it is a rather telling statement about people these days (not just kids) that they struggle to survive in a vast super store with food and supplies but without the internet. It just wouldn't have been realistic to say that these kids could have made it in the wilderness.
Anyway, I was looking forward to giving this book a higher review, but then it ended. Just kind of ended in the middle of things. It sort of set itself up for an ending that would have done enough wrapping up without drawing it out or making it too 'happy ending' but then for some reason it doesn't. It almost seemed to me that the author maybe decided to write a sequel and so changed the ending to allow for that? In any case, the ending disappointed me, but not so much I wouldn't recommend it.
Alright, I buy these cheep teen paranormal romance novels when they go on sale, and I never go into them with high hopes. Yet they continue to disappoint. Putting aside the overall concept of the town run by vampires, it's just another bland series of events culminating in a predictable crisis brought on by the characters' own stupidity. Really, when you have a prodigy genius (who was accepted to Harvard, MIT, etc) as your main character, you kind of expect her to be a little bit brighter. I mean, at one point she suspects there might be vampires in the library, so breaks into the locked room, and then is SO surprised that there are vampires in there and doesn't know how to get away... Anyway, if you're looking for a teenage paranormal romance novel which features an odd group of friends who are combating supernatural forces without any parental supervision (and one of them is actually a ghost), then go read Maggie Steifvater's "The Raven Boys". It's about a million times better than this sorry excuse for a book.
I had high hopes for this book, it's in an era I love and Glyndwr is such a neat historical figure. It wasn't that this book was bad, so much as not really a novel. It follow the entire life and career for Glyndwr (and many of the other important figures associated with him) in the book by means of single chapter long snippets. Sometimes there's years and half a kingdom distance between the snippets, sometimes they follow more like novel chapters. Anyway, because it jumps around characters and covers so much of the man's life, I found it hard to really get a sense of character. The author tried to put in the character development and emotional conflicts, but it just didn't work for me. The narrator did a good job, but lots of the dialogue was spoken significantly quieter than the narrative bits, making listening kind of difficult.
Valcor. Vartex. Mannik. Wissik. Buy this book.
Ok, it won't work on you, but what if, if you knew the right words, you could persuade anyone to do anything. That's the premise here. Specially trained Poets can manipulate just about anyone. But when a single word is discovered that could potentially destroy civilization, withstanding 'compromise' becomes the most important thing.
I wasn't sure what to expect when I bought this book, I had optimism but so many books let me down. This wasn't one. Right from the get-go, this book gets you hooked and just keeps running. Usually, I can see where a book is going pretty early on, but this one just kept changing things up. Every time you think you have a handle on what's going to happen, everything changes. Good guys might be bad guys. Bad guys might be good guys, or they might be super evil guys. Barry keeps you guessing. It was great!
Don't let the trite "she falls in love" in the plot synopsis make you think that this books is a fluffy thing about romance. It's more about Emily's consistent lack of ability to follow the rules. Sure love is one of those things, but I think the synopsis rather overstates it. This book is about so much more!
As some of the other reviews have pointed out, the female narrator's Australian accent is a bit sad, but I try not to get too hung up on that kind of thing if the rest is quality.
This book was recommended to me by a friend, and it was definitely an enjoyable listen but doesn't really break any new ground. There's enough steampunk out there now that it uses all the cliches that we have come to expect: clever detective with adorable sidekick, Queen Victoria, allies at Scotland yard, dirigibles, killer automata, two seemingly different mysteries which are actually related, etc. etc. I'd say it's got more plot than say Gail Carriger but is less intense than Mark Hodder. I also liked the characters in this book better than the "Ministry of Peculiar Occurences" novels, although I'd say they are otherwise on a similar level. Actually, I recently read The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man by Hodder and it was interesting to see how Hodder and Mann handled the same elements: automata and zombies. The narrator was good, although his female voices were a little too high and over exaggerated sometimes. There were also a number of editing slip-ups, where the narrator stops suddenly, does some rather hilarious vocal exercises then carries on. Bottom line: standard steamed fare
Explaining the parallel universe concept and outsider criticism of society seemed to be far more important to the author of this book than actual plot was. The assortment of characters were kind of interesting enough to get you through, but the whole thing left me wishing that there was more to the novel. It kind of reminded me of Brave New World, where the author has spent so much intellectual time on the backdrop that they don't have any effort left for making the characters do things. The only conflict in the novel which seems to have anything hanging on its outcome is the trial in the Neanderthal universe, and even that is so bogged down by repetition and talk of social order that it looses any weight.
As always, Jonathan Davis is the world's greatest narrator. The novel seems determined to highlight Canada's multiculturalism, so there are tons of accents, which Davis does admirably. Ok, I won't lie, his French Canadian accent maybe leaves something to be desired, but he's so great at everything else that I'm not going to hold it against him.
This book was somewhat less enjoyable than the first one in the series, but it was still a good listen. There are basically two plots in the book, what happens in Dallas and what happens with the murder in BonTemps. I guess since there wasn't really enough plot in either to make a single book, they got kind of jammed together into one book. They're both in there, but neither really has much to do with the other.
I would have given the story four stars, but the Dallas section of the plot kind of pissed me off in spots. For a psychic and a bunch of old, supposedly clever vampires the Sookie crew really makes some stupid decisions. You would think they know better. But, what are you going to go? :)
Like most (probably) I got this because I enjoy Carriger's Parasol Protectorate books. If you liked those books, you'll probably like this. It's an adorable kind of book. If you haven't read her adult books, I don't know what you'll think of this book. There is a lot about the England this book takes place in that isn't really explained (aka not explained at all), like any background whatsoever with regards to the supernatural.
I couldn't give the plot more stars for two reasons. Firstly, the book really doesn't have much of a plot. Things just sort of happen as it becomes necessary for characters to do things rather than just exist. It's definitely more about meeting beloved characters that we know well as adults and setting the scene for future books than it is about the 'mystery' or whatever you'd like to label the plot here. Now, if you don't think too hard about anything and just happily go with the flow, then this lack of plot won't bother you. Just have low expectations.
My second issue is with the intended audience. I imagine most readers will be (as mentioned) adults who liked her other books. But it's definitely intended for a young adult audience....or so it sort of seems. Now, Sephronia is young for most young adult heroines, and there isn't any romance whatsoever (which is just fine, the girl is 14!). That's all fine and well, but given what else is out there for teen readers, this book will probably come across as rather tame. Younger teens might like it, but vocabulary might be a concern for tweens.
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