Friday, August 23, 2013

Review: Ironskin, by Tina Connolly

Author: Tina Connolly
Series: Ironskin #1
Rating: ✮✮✮

Jane Eliot wears an iron mask.

It’s the only way to contain the fey curse that scars her cheek. The Great War is five years gone, but its scattered victims remain—the ironskin.

When a carefully worded listing appears for a governess to assist with a "delicate situation"—a child born during the Great War—Jane is certain the child is fey-cursed, and that she can help.

Teaching the unruly Dorie to suppress her curse is hard enough; she certainly didn’t expect to fall for the girl’s father, the enigmatic artist Edward Rochart. But her blossoming crush is stifled by her own scars, and by his parade of women. Ugly women, who enter his closed studio...and come out as beautiful as the fey.

Jane knows Rochart cannot love her, just as she knows that she must wear iron for the rest of her life. But what if neither of these things is true? Step by step Jane unlocks the secrets of her new life—and discovers just how far she will go to become whole again.

I have to confess I've never read Jane Eyre. Really. It's on my list of classics to eventually read, though my goal of reading forty classics in 2013 fell by the wayside. (Damn you, comics! But not really, I love you.) As a result, I went into Ironskin completely unaware of what was a retelling and what was original story (well, obviously the fey stuff is original), which led to a pretty interesting reading experience.

The first two thirds of the novel unfold much like you'd expect it to. The story revolves around our main character, Jane, who is scarred with a fey curse on her cheek. Or the entire left half of her face, it's hard to tell at times. This scar is actually a bit of fey magic bomb shrapnel that sticks to the victim and lets out waves of some sort of emotion - in Jane's case, anger and rage.

This is where Ironskin thrives: in the world building and fey touches. There aren't huge dumps of exposition to describe Jane's world, but we experience the world through her instead. The fey aspects are so ingrained in her world and her life, that we get bits and pieces of the fey history, the fey-human war, and Jane's curse. Speaking of which, I really liked that bit of Jane's characterization. She wears an iron mask to protect others from being hit by the rage of her curse, but doesn't that mean all that rage has nowhere to go but within? Jane has spent years fighting against the anger she feels, and seeing it play out in her interactions and emotions is great.

The romance between Jane and Rochart, her employer, was very lukewarm to me. I just couldn't see what she saw in him, and it prompted me to accept it simply because that's how it's supposed to happen in Jane Eyre.

Then we get to the last third of the novel.

We've just spent the first part of the novel living through Jane, through her attempts to work with Rochart's daughter, through the lukewarm romance. The fey aspects of it are around in their daily lives, but never overt. A little mystery begins to unwind as Jane spends more time on the Rochart estate. This is all expected, right?

Then the fey stuff takes over quickly and completely. I can't even describe it without spoiling for the last sixty or so pages, but damn.

The last bit of Ironskin really threw me off. In any other novel the fey aspects of the plot would have delighted me (even if some parts made my skin crawl), but it seemed to come out of nowhere. Yes, seeds of it were planted early on in the novel, but the jump from placid country setting to FULL BLOWN FEY BATSHITTERY was insane.

And kinda fun. But mostly insane.

Two stars for the romance, four stars for the crazy.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

I'm Back!

Hello, all! If you're still hanging around...

After a very long hiatus and step away from book blogging, I've decided to make my way back. Going to college full time sapped my will to do anything once I was done with work/study, but after a couple of semesters, I think I've got the hang of things. And to be completely honest, I really miss book blogging. I miss writing reviews, keeping up with my progress, and most of all, talking to all the awesome folks I've met along the way.

I've been reading over the past year (as you can see by my Goodreads), but not really reviewing. That's going to change!

I'll be jumping right back into the thick of things this week with some reviews. And who knows, I may even get a meme or two in there.

It feels good to be back.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mini Reviews: Timeless, Bunheads, Breadcrumbs, When She Woke, Everneath

Timeless, by Gail Carriger
Series: Parasol Protectorate #5
Rating: ✮✮✮✮
Book Depository | Indie Bound | Goodreads

The Parasol Protectorate is one of my favorite series to date, so I was super excited for Timeless for so long. I love Alexia, Conall is one of my favorite book boyfriends, and the entire cast of characters, including the Maccon family's new addition, are wonderful. I love the change in scenery to Egypt, while keeping the action at home in London fresh and moving forward by splitting the POV with Biffy. Biffy! Wonderful, cravat wearing, fashion conscious Biffy. He really made the book for me, and was lovely to follow as Alexia's adventures in Egypt took a turn for the crazy. (As they tend to do.) The main plot itself didn't feel as though it was totally thought out, but as always, Alexia and the cast of characters I've grown to love make up for it.

Bunheads, by Sophie Flack
Rating: ✮✮✮
Book Depository | Indie Bound | Goodreads

Bunheads is a surprisingly slow, calm story. We follow the life of Hannah, a dancer in the prestigious Manhattan Ballet Company and all that entails. For a novel about ballet dancers, it's obvious Sophie Flack knows what she's talking about with all the little details, the emotional highs and lows, the pressure and ambition. Thing start to falter a little when it turns out that the entire novel is based around Hannah's growing realization that there might be more to life outside the ballet. It's a decent character growth novel, but ultimately, Hannah didn't seem to be a strong enough character for that to be all it is.

Breadcrumbs, by Anne Ursu
Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮
Book Depository | Indie Bound | Goodreads

I very rarely give out five stars, but Breadcrumbs earns every single one of them. A novel that straddles that strange time between childhood and the start of the journey toward adulthood, it was so delightful to read Hazel's journey. The juxtaposition of reality versus the fantastical journey Hazel takes is wonderful, and there are so many themes woven along the way; what friendship is and how it changes, how adulthood can change us, and that the cold, stark reality of being alone is something that will always be there. How you deal with it is what matters. I haven't been struck this hard by a book since I read Patrick Ness's A Monster Calls. Something about translating adult emotions and matters for middle-grade readers without being condescending produces some amazing work out of authors. I love it.

When She Woke, by Hillary Jordan
Rating: ✮✮✮✮
Book Depository | Indie Bound | Goodreads

Set in a future where church and state are the same thing and changing someone's DNA to change the pigmentation of their skin is a crime deterrent, we follow the story of Hannah, a woman (girl, really) who is convicted of murder after she has an abortion. Though it sounded like everything that would get my blood boiling (separation of church and state and women's rights being hot button topics for me), I thought Hillary Jordan handled this really well. Hannah's journey is a slow moving but interesting one, and I felt for her every step of the way. The writing wasn't as strong as it could have been, but I really appreciated that while the novel takes religion head on, it also makes a point to have Hannah's faith stay strong and point out that there is a good and bad to belief, just as there is in every other aspect of life.

Everneath, by Brodi Ashton
Rating: ✮✮
Book Depository | Indie Bound | Goodreads

I was really looking forward to this since I first heard about it, and boy, was I disappointed. The way Brodi Ashton retells the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, as well as her take on the Underworld is great, but the execution doesn't live up to the idea at all. I knew going in that it would involve a lot of true love, but I wasn't expecting 300 pages of our main character, Nikki, moping about and trying to figure out a way to say goodbye to her loved ones by doing absolutely nothing. Everything that happens to her is due to outside forces -- and by forces, I mean Cole and Jack, the boys in her life. Nikki doesn't do much but do some sleuthing and a lot of knitting. I did enjoy Jack, and the last 20 pages of the book picked things up considerably, but that didn't make up for the rest of it.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Review: Chicks Dig Comics

Very rarely do my reviews here crossover with my other big love and endeavor, Girls Read Comics Too. Anything having to do with comic reading gets put over there, but I wanted to add this review here as well, because this book needs to be seen in as many places as it possibly can.

Chicks Dig Comics
Editors: Lynne M. Thomas & Sigrid Ellis
Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮
Release: April 10th, 2012
A copy was provided for review by the publisher.

In Chicks Dig Comics, editors Lynne M. Thomas (Hugo-Award-winning Chicks Dig Time Lords) and Sigrid Ellis bring together essays by award-winning writers and artists who celebrate the comics medium and its creators, and who examine the characters and series that they love.
Gail Simone (Birds of Prey) and Carla Speed McNeil (Finder) describe how they entered the comics industry. Colleen Doran (A Distant Soil) reveals her superhero crush, while Jill Thompson (Scary Godmother) confesses to being a comics junkie. Jen Van Meter (Hopeless Savages) sings the praises of 1970s horror comics, and Seanan McGuire (the October Daye series) takes sides in the Jean Grey vs. Emma Frost battle.

Other contributors include Marjorie Liu (Dark Wolverine), Rachel Edidin (Dark Horse Comics), Jill Pantozzi (Newsarama), Kelly Thompson (Comic Book Resources), and SF/F authors Sara Ryan, Delia Sherman, Sarah Monette, and Elizabeth Bear. Also featured: an introduction by Mark Waid (Kingdom Come) and exclusive interviews with Amanda Conner (Power Girl), Louise Simonson (Power Pack), Greg Rucka (Queen & Country), and Terry Moore (Strangers in Paradise).

First off, a huge congratulations to Lynne M. Thomas and Sigrid Ellis, who managed to not just get together an impressive list of names, but also put each piece where it seemed to belong. There’s an amazing range of talent here, and there’s no denying that this book is what someone like me has needed for so long. I don’t even enjoy non-fiction that much, and I read this in one sitting.

There’s a great range of interests and pieces here. From interviews with Amanda Conner and Greg Rucka (yes, there are male contributors, and they are awesome) to wonderful pieces on creating comics, a journey into cosplay and everything in between, it feels like there’s something for every comic book lover here. These women not only create and work with comics, but they love them, and you can see it with every word they write.

My favorite piece is Tammy Garrison’s I’m Batman, where she doesn’t apologize for how much of a dick Bruce Wayne is, but explains how he can be inspiring in other ways. Anika Dane Milik’s Captain America’s Next Top Model, which talks about the art of stealth cosplay, is a favorite of mine. So is Jill Pantozzi’s dissection of the Green Lantern corps and how it relates to comic fans, Sara Ryan’s poignant comic panel vignettes, and Marjorie Liu’s love for stories.

Every single piece is worth the read, and I’m so glad Chicks Dig Comics exists.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

In My Mailbox (7)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren, featuring the books I've received in some way, shape or form this week. For more info, check out the introduction post.

I didn't do this last week, so I'm including what few things I've got since then!

Dance of the Assassins, by Hervé Jubert, Anthea Bell (Translator)
The Clan of the Cave Bear, by Jean M. Auel
Just Listen, by Sarah Dessen
The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd

Birthday Gift:
Inside Out & Back Again, by Thanhha Lai

From the Library:
A Little Wanting Song, by Cath Crowley
666 Park Avenue, by Gabriella Pierce
Everneath, by Brodi Ashton

For Review:
Chicks Dig Comics (for Girls Read

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Shelf Candy (5)

Shelf Candy is a weekly meme created by Steph at Five Alarm Book Reviews. Each week I'll feature a book cover I find gorgeous, evocative or interesting in one way or another. For more info on the meme, check out the introduction post here.

By Mindi Scott

Why I chose this cover: Even if the title of the book didn't give you an idea of what it's about, this cover certainly will. I love negative space in anything, and it's used so well here. The black background makes the shattered glass stand out even more, and it's very compelling. I certainly wanted to know just what this book was all about when I first saw it.

Synopsis: Seth McCoy was the last person to see his best friend, Isaac, alive, and the first to find him dead. It was just another night, just another party, just another time when Isaac drank too much and passed out on the lawn. Only this time, Isaac didn't wake up.

Convinced that his own actions led to his friend's death, Seth is torn between turning his life around...or losing himself completely.

Then he meets Rosetta: so beautiful and so different from everything and everyone he's ever known. But Rosetta has secrets of her own, and Seth soon realizes he isn't the only one who needs saving.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Reader's Progress (7)

Oh goodness, the last time I did one of these was back in February. Life has been picking up for me lately, as I've got a new job, and my 27th birthday was just on the 3rd. On top of all that, I got my very first prescription for eye glasses, so I've officially joined the stereotypical book reader slash librarian (even though I'm not, I like to pretend I am) ranks. This is going to be a big Reader's Progress, just how I like 'em.

Reader's progress is a bi-weekly post of what I've read, what I'm reading, and what's up next to read. (It's supposed to be, anyway.)

Currently Reading: 

The Goose Girl, by Shannon Hale
A wonderful bit of fantasy YA that I'm having a bit of trouble getting into when so many other books keep clamoring for my attention. I need to get back to this and give it the proper reading time it deserves.

Breadcrumbs, by Anne Ursu
Middle grade reading set in that nebulous period of time where you still want to be a kid and believe in fairy tales, but you have to grow up soon. Very wonderful, I'll be finishing it soon.

Black Powder War, by Naomi Novik
After a few years apart from this alternate history with dragons series (I don't even remember why I stopped), I'm getting back into it. Happily so.

A Dance With Dragons, by George R.R. Martin
Finally getting to this beast, though it's not top priority and I anticipate reading it in bits and pieces for over a month.

Kill Me Softly, by Sarah Cross
Yay NetGalley arcs! Interesting modern twist on Grimm's fairy tales. I'm sort of torn on what I think on it so far.

Next Up:

My bookshelves sort of exploded in the last month. Honestly I must have gotten about 50 new books in the past five to six weeks, half of which were winnings from some giveaway or another, and the other half are my wallet crying after I discovered Goodwill bookstores have $2 paperbacks. But I'll go ahead with ARCs I need to get to and library books I have right now:

The Immortal Rules, by Julie Kagawa
Eeee vampire post-apocalyptic dystopia from Julie Kagawa! I was thrilled to get this ARC, and I'm reading it right away.

The Peculiars, by Maureen Doyle McQuerry
This looks so ridiculously fascinating and steampunky and intriguing, I can't wait to start.

The Kiss Off, by Sarah Billington
Veeery excited to get to this one, I haven't read some straight up contemporary in...oh, I don't know, a few weeks.

Innocent Darkness, by Suzanne Lazear
Um, steampunk plus fairy folk? YES PLEASE.

666 Park Avenue, by Gabriella Pierce
This spoke to me from the library shelves. "I look interesting," it whispered, and when I picked it up and read the back, it crowed, "See? Witches in your popcorn literature! Take meeeee!"

A Little Wanting Song, by Cath Crowley
I've seen Cath Crowley's name held up on a pedestal on Goodreads so much that I had to finally dive in, and this was the only one my library had.

Recently Read:

The City's Son, by Tom Pollock (Review to come)
Timeless, by Gail Carriger (Review to come)
Bunheads, by Sophie Flack (Review to come)
When She Woke, by Hillary Jordan (Review to come)
Grave Mercy, by R.L. LaFevers
The Catastrophic History of You and Me, by Jess E. Rothenberg
Pandemonium, by Lauren Oliver
I've Got Your Number, by Sophie Kinsella
Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
Partials, by Dan Wells
Article 5, by Kristen Simmons
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, by Jennifer E. Smith
The Disenchantments, by Nina LaCour
The Miseducation of Cameron Post, by Emily M. Danforth
Catching Jordan, by Miranda Kenneally
Born Wicked, by Jessica Spotswood
Silent in the Grave, by Deanna Raybourn
Shut Out, by Kody Keplinger
The Mockingbirds, by Daisy Whitney
Austenland, by Shannon Hale
The True Meaning of Smekday, by Adam Rex
Tomorrow, When the War Began, by John Marsden
Friends with Boys, by Faith Erin Hicks
Blood Rights, by Kristen Painter
Darkness Falls, by Cate Tiernan
Fracture, by Megan Miranda

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Review: Grave Mercy, by R.L. LaFevers

Grave Mercy
Author: R.L. LaFevers
Series: His Fair Assassin #1
Release: April 3rd, 2012
Rating: ✮✮✮
Book Depository | Indie Bound | Goodreads
Received for review from NetGalley; this had no effect on the outcome of this review.

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae's most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

So, take YA historical fiction, throw in a dash of paranormal, a heavy heaping of romance, a bit of intrigue and some ASSASSIN NUNS, and you have Grave Mercy. It's definitely a unique book, as I haven't read anything like it in YA lately.

Ismae is an incredibly strong character - from the start of her journey toward being an ASSASSIN NUN to the main plot and the way she weaves herself into it, she's always very present, and you're always very aware of her. Whether you like or dislike her as a character, there's no doubt she leaves an impression. I found myself wanting to shake her at times, even dipping into the occasional bout of dislike in certain chapters, but eventually she won me over. Some of her character progression was predictable, but I enjoyed reading the conflict between her ASSASSIN NUN life and her budding romance.

The plot interesting. So much intrigue, so many twists and turns, and yet it all gets buried under the romance. I found the romance aspect nice, but there came a point where it got to be too much when I just wanted to find out who the traitor was. At times, this felt way too much like a historical romance novel that had been branded YA simply because of Ismae's age and the toned down violence. Everything about it from the tone to the plot to the depth of the romance seems to scream adult fiction. Which isn't a bad thing, don't get me wrong.

It was a decent read. The aspects I liked (the intrigue, Ismae's growth) just barely outweighed the ones I didn't (romaaaaaance), and I especially enjoyed that there was only a dash of paranormal, and it's treated as normal in Ismae's world. I don't know that I'd immediately recommend this to anyone, but it's worth a shot if you're the type of person who really likes a little intrigue and ASSASSIN NUNS in their YA historical romance.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Mini Reviews: The Catastrophic History of You and Me, Pandemonium, I've Got Your Number

The Catastrophic History of You and Me, by Jess Rothenberg
Rating: ✮✮✮
Book Depository | Indie Bound | Goodreads

Following the afterlife of a girl who dies from a broken heart -- literally, her heart breaks in two -- this is a sweet, quirky novel about what it means to move on. Brie spends most of the novel going through the various stages of grief over her own death, and though they're clearly written out in the narrative and by Patrick, her guide to the afterlife, it's all very well done. It's not a perfect novel, and at times I really wanted to shake Brie, but I devoured it in two sittings (as I waited in line for The Hunger Games and in bed after!).

Pandemonium, by Lauren Oliver
Rating: ✮✮✮
Book Depository | Indie Bound | Goodreads

I loved Delirium, so I was definitely looking forward to Pandemonium, even keeping in mind that sophomore novels can never live up to that wonderful rush of the first novel. Pandemonium tries hard to kick things up a notch, but ultimately it seems to fall a tiny bit short. Only a tiny bit! Lena's story is still engaging, and it's nice to follow her again. The one thing that knocked the fourth star off this review, however, was the new love interest (highlight for spoiler) and a cliffhanger that inevitably introduces a love triangle. Why, Lauren Oliver? WHY?

I've Got Your Number, by Sophie Kinsella
Rating: ✮✮✮
Book Depository | Indie Bound | Goodreads

This was my first Sophie Kinsella novel (I know, right?) and I found incredibly pleasing in a Hits The Right Chick Lit Spot kinda way.  For something that required nothing but a minor investment in the characters, it was a lot of fun. The main character, Poppy, was a little too much at times (when she starts meddling, oh God, just stop and think for a second, girl) and parts of the plot wrapped up a little too neatly to make things easy for her -- not to mention the big climax that was totally written with a movie scene in mind. I see what you did there, Sophie.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

In My Mailbox (6)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren, featuring the books I've received in some way, shape or form this week. For more info, check out the introduction post.

I've discovered two different Goodwill bookstores in my area, so I had a ball going in and discovering all their paperbacks were $2 each. Boooooks! Add getting my very first paycheck in a long time, and I've had a great week.

Yeah yeah, books etc etc but LOOK AT MY BRAND NEW NOOK! I bought the Nook Simple Touch because I don't need much out of my e-readers, and my old generic one finally bit the dust last week. I'm so excited about the Nook, and the e-ink display has been so much better on my eyes than a back-lit display. I named it Shepard, after the character in Mass Effect (and my micro SD card is my favorite romance option in the game, Kaidan).

Books I bought from Goodwill:
Moon Called, by Patricia Briggs
Midnighters, by Scott Westerfeld
Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides
Girl with a Pearl Earring, by Tracy Chevalier
Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella

And books from the library, which I keep forgetting to picture as well:
When She Woke, by Hillary Jordan
Breadcrumbs, by Anne Ursu

Yay books! If you're here via the meme and follow me, let me know and I'll reciprocate!