Book Review

Shadow Study (Soulfinders #1) by Maria V. Snyder

16130758I love Maria V. Snyder’s books. She always has just the right amount of romance, action, and mystery to make me happy. My all time favorite book of hers is Poison Study, and so I was excited to see she was starting a new series with Yelena and Valek, the main characters of her Study books. This Soulfinders series can be read without reading anything else from her, but I would read the Study series first just because I think you get a better grip on who the main characters are if you start from the beginning.

For those not familiar with these characters, Yelena is an official liaison between two territories, Ixia, a land where magic is banned and Sitia a land full of magicians and magic. She is also a Soulfinder, a person who finds lost souls and guides them to wherever they are to spend eternity. The problem arises when it appears that Yelena’s magic is gone completely, and the whole book we are trying to find out what has happened, who is trying to kill her, and also what the Commander in Ixia is up to. There is also a side story about illegal goods being shipped and who and how they are getting across that we have to figure out.  Along the way we get to meet some new characters and have some laughs when we get to read from Janco’s point of view. The thing about Maria V. Snyder’s books are that she really has a knack for making her side characters so interesting and loveable and so it’s nice to read about new characters that you know are going to be so awesome in the future.

I have to say that I was a bit disappointed because I was excited about reading more about Yelena and Valek, but yet again they seem to be apart for most of the book. Yes, they are really cool characters but I think they are better when they are together, and sadly this doesn’t happen. I was glad we got three different point of views, but when I started reading it, all I really cared about was Yelenas. Valek’s chapters had a lot of flash backs and they ended up being a bit boring for me. I have read though, that some people really liked reading about his past and how he became an assassin so I guess it’s just a matter of preference. Plus I have to say that Valek’s loyalty to the commander has always bothered me, and I dislike reading about it.

I’m not saying not to read or to give up on this series, I’m just saying this book felt like a set up for the next books (even though it had a tidy conclusion) and perhaps in the coming ones Yelena and Valek will be together.

So the bottom line is that if you are familiar with her Study series you will be happy to see the characters you love again, but it’s really just a book you read to get to the next one. For those who are new to anything Maria V. Snyder has written, then I would say start with Poison Study first, even though technically you don’t have to. Shadow Study will be released February 24th.

Also Shadow Study is out in audiobook over at Audible. I highly recommend giving it a listen. Gabra Zackman has been the narrator throughout the series and has consistently done a good job. Here’s a small clip to listen to…

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Note: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

I heard great things about Warm Bodies, but was very skeptical about a zombie romance book. Let me tell you right off, this isn’t a yucky kind of romance, something you would see on an episode of Taboo. It’s really just a quiet kind of love, a slow understanding of sorts between a zombie and the girlfriend of one of his victims.

Details, Please
Basically R is living his life in the way he’s accustomed, shuffling here and there, taking the occasional ride up and down the escalator, eating people, eating brains and experiencing other people’s memories…but on a certain night, he decides to keep a living girl safe, and not for a leftover snack. He honestly wants to protect her and I’m not sure he even fully understands why at first.

So what?
I listened to this on audiobook.I turned it on as background noise while doing homework and immediately got sucked in. I wasn’t expecting to be surprised. Needles to say I had to turn it off because then I couldn’t concentrate on my homework. I have to say that Kevin Kenerly does an amazing job narrating. I think listening to it really made me enjoy it so much more than if I had read it myself. I really encourage you to listen to it on your daily commute.

Basically a lot of what is narrated is in R’s head since he is unable to express it outwardly being a zombie and all, but for a dead guy R’s more alive than some living. I really loved R so much that sometimes the memories of other people made me want to rush past it, but I could tell that even those parts were needed in R’s story, because it wasn’t just about his journey. Also I can’t really say what happened at the end, because I’m not sure myself but it was an enjoyable experience getting to that point.This book could have been really corny, but it wasn’t. It was lyrical and poetic. It’s about what makes us human, about hope and tenacity.While writing this all I can think of are Albert Schweitzer quotes like:

“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”

 “A man does not have to be an angel in order to be saint.”

“The tragedy of life is what dies inside a man while he lives.”

Seriously, I probably have no idea what I’m talking about but quotes like that came to me when thinking about this book. I wouldn’t usually use the word “beautiful” in the same sentence as “zombie,” but you know, for a zombie book, it really is beautiful.

Chalice by Robin McKinley

I’ve read her Damar books, Beauty, Sunshine and now finally Chalice. I realize now I’m a Robin McKinley fan. Her writing is so beautiful I just want to read her books out loud and pretend I have an audiobook voice.

Details, Please (Publisher’s description)
As the newly appointed Chalice, Mirasol is the most important member of the Master’s Circle. It is her duty to bind the Circle, the land and its people together with their new Master. But the new Master of Willowlands is a Priest of Fire, only drawn back into the human world by the sudden death of his brother. No one knows if it is even possible for him to live amongst his people. Mirasol wants the Master to have his chance, but her only training is as a beekeeper. How can she help settle their demesne during these troubled times and bind it to a Priest of Fire, the touch of whose hand can burn human flesh to the bone?

So what?
It’s almost like a fairy tale and so warm and sweet. It made me crave honey and I don’t even like honey. The characters in this book seem real, and it is easy to identify with their problems. Mirasol as a heroine is now in my top five. I admired her a lot. She feels inadequate as the new Chalice, and reading what previous Chalices have done only helps so much in her case, as there has never been a honey Chalice and a Fire Master before. So she is adding to the rule books really. She has so much courage and even though she feels like a failure at times, she never lets it show. Basically she went from being a beekeeper to the second most important person in the land.

The Master is an interesting character trying to remember what it’s like to be human again, and trying not to burn what he should help cultivate, and exhausted by the effort. He is isolated during festive events because everyone is afraid of getting burned. It sucks to be a nice guy in a fire body. The Master and Marisol are both duty bound and love the land, and it’s sweet how much they are willing to do to protect it, and how they learn to work together.

There were some parts that jumped backward in narrative and then forward again and I was a bit confused, but it was all written so beautifully I didn’t mind too much. I wish there was a sequel, but I doubt there will be. Also, anyone heard “Latika’s Theme” from the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack? It reminds me a lot of Marisol. If you’re a fan of Diana Wynne Jones, or Juliet Marillier then I think you’d really like this book. Even if you’re not, it’s a great read.

Excerpt:

There were several ritual ways a Chalice could hold her cup; she chose the one—only practical on the slender, stemmed Chalice vessels—that allowed her to weave the fingers of her two hands together around it while her crossed thumbs held the other side:connection, joining, linkage. She tried several phrases from the incantation book she had left behind, but none of them suited her; none of them felt right, none of them settled to the work before her. She felt the earthlines listening—listening but waiting. Waiting to hear the thing that would reassure them, that would knit them together, that would call them home.She reached the end of the crack and paused. It had, she noticed with some small relief, stopped growing. But when she turned and looked back along the length of it, it seemed leagues long; the two big work-horses as small as mice in the distance; the heavy ropes hanging off their harness and disappearing into the crack were barely visible threads.

“Please,” she said clearly, aloud, as if she spoke to a person. “Please be as you were. I will try to help you.” She hesitated, and pulled out the handflower honey and added a little more to the mixture in her cup. The water was faintly gold against the silver cup; the small stones in the bottom shone like gems. She did not want gold and silver and gems; she wanted ordinary things, commonplace things. Trees and birdsong and sunlight, and unfractured earth. “Let the earth knit together again, like—like darning a sock. Here are the threads to mend you with.” And she threw a few drops from her cup into the trench. She saw them twinkle in the air as if they were tiny filaments; the pit was quite shallow here, and she could see tiny spots of darkness where they landed. Her fingers were sticky with honey. Absentmindedly she put one in her mouth; the taste of the herbs was clear and sharp, but the honey’s complex sweetness seemed to carry mysteries.

There was a sudden sharp new tremor under her feet. Her heart leaped into her throat and she froze.

The jolt loosened the dirt on the sides of the trench, and it pattered down. Quite a lot of it pattered down, till the trench was barely a trench at all, little more than a slight hollow.

“Here are the threads to mend you with,” she said again, having no better spell or command to offer, and she tossed more drops from her cup into the wound in the earth.

The trench began to fill up.

She walked slowly back toward the deep end, murmuring to the earth and the earthlines, tossing sweet mysterious drops into the shadows of the ravine. The earth under her feet still shook, but the shaking now seemed more like that of something shaking itself back together again after a shock or an unbalancing blow: like the turning sock in the hands of the darner.

The crevasse was disappearing.

Probability Angels by Joseph Devon

This is my last entry for the R.I.P challenge.  I wasn’t able to do as much as I planned with school being so hectic but I really enjoyed participating and can’t wait to do this again.

Details, Please

The premise of Probability Angels sort of reminded me of City of Angels where there are angels walking around everywhere. You know, the scene where all the angels are in black trench coats at the beach at sunrise? That’s how I imagine these characters, except more mischievous and not in a good way really. I can’t say I warmed up to them immediately because they were tough to like. They definitely didn’t become probability angels because of their sainthood. However they did make an important selfless decision to become what they are. Matthew Huntington is still considered a noob in the angel world doing minor mischief like making foreigners fight over directions and encouraging a heart-broken man to go after his just married love. You know, that sort of thing.

We soon find that Matthew has to make an important decision to either shadow the life of a loved one and eventually fade, or move on to the next step and become a tester, a tester being someone who pushes a person to their moral breaking point. Which isn’t fun at all, but challenges reveal the man and eventually sharpen them. However if he chooses this route he is told what will happen once the tether snaps,

“You will know for certain that you are entirely alone on this earth, and that you are loved by no one. You will be cast adrift with no compass and no oar. Your brain will expand in ways you never thought possible, but your heart will remain frozen in the same place forever containing nothing but the memories of your two choices.”

Pretty harsh, right? Well he becomes a tester and meets some others like him Kyo, Mary, and Bartleby along with their trainer and strongest of them all Epp (Epictetus). Of course it’s at this point where they meet with some trouble. Hey even probability angels need some opposition as well. Another type of undead trouble is waiting for them.

Overall

My review really doesn’t go into the complexities of the book,but I will say things get pretty interesting. Most importantly for those of you who like zombies you might like this book. There’s an army of zombies. If you like to read about a group of paranormal misfits sort of like Dead Like Me, then you might like this. It took me a while to get into this book, but it was an interesting premise and pretty creative. The second book called Persistent Illusions came out this year as well. It’s getting pretty good reviews, so read this one first if you can.

Cotillion by Georgette Heyer

Details, please

Kitty Charing has been brought up by her rich guardian, Matthew Penicuik. Out of the blue, Matthew decides to name Kitty as his heiress, but with conditions: she will only receive her fortune if she marries one of his great-nephews. The horrid thing is the cousin she wants to marry (Jack) doesn’t even come to claim her hand, leaving her to pick from the rest of her weird cousins or be left destitute. She plans to runaway and runs into Freddy Standen another cousin who arrives unaware of his uncle’s intentions. Being a favorite of hers, she begs him to fake propose and take her to finally see London under the guise of being introduced to his parents. They plan that after a month they’ll quietly break it off and at least she would have seen London. Her real plan of course is to make Jack jealous and force him to finally propose, but what if Freddy is really the one for her?



So, what?

This book was hilarious. Both Freddy and Kitty willingly put themselves in this farce, and although he knows Kitty has another plan he doesn’t know it involves the rakish Jack. Kitty sounds pretty conniving, yet I wouldn’t call her that in a negative way…like she’s crafty in a sweet way? If that makes any sense. Also, I love Freddy. He is the weirdest hero for sure. He’s described as being a dandy, very much interested in clothes and the latest fashion. Look at this description of him:

When he relinquished his coat, his hat, his cane, and his gloves into the landlord’s hands, a slight look of anxiety was in his face, but as soon as a penetrating glance at the mirror had satisfied him that the high points of his shirt-collar were uncrumpled, and the intricacies of a virgin cravat no more disarranged than a touch would set to rights, the anxious look disappeared, and he was able to turn his attention to other matters.

I guess he was the Ryan Seacrest of his day or something, and he doesn’t readily seem like a hero at all. I think that’s what’s so cool about this book, because of his growing love for Kitty he becomes a hero doing things he would not normally do. He becomes someone she can rely on, and he goes out of his way to make sure her wishes are granted. I love the trust between the two, and how he does everything in his power to help the people she loves.

I know some people have issues about the extreme details on all aspects of regency life in Heyer novels, but it wasn’t that bad. Sometimes the language confused me, but I liked reading all the regency slang (dashed well making a cake of me!), and the view of fashionable London through Kitty’s eyes.

Overall

I’m not an expert on Georgette Heyer, or if this is good book to start with. I often hear that if you are new to her novels you should start with Frederica, Venetia, or The Grand Sophy, but I really enjoyed Cotillion. It was witty, and fun to see all the couples in this book end up with who they should.

An excerpt:

“Well, if this don’t beat the Dutch! First the fellow brings you to a devilish place like this, and then he dashed well leaves you here!”

“Freddy!” cried Miss Charing, jumping almost out of her skin.

“And don’t you say Freddy to me!” added Mr. Standen severely. “I told you I wouldn’t have it, Kit, and I dashed well meant it! Have the whole town talking!”

Kitty looked very much bewildered, but as it was plain that Mr. Standen was filled with righteous wrath she refrained from protest, merely saying in a small, doubtful voice: “Frederick? Should I, in public, call you Mr.Standen?”

“Call me Mr. Standen?” said Freddy, thrown quite out of his stride. “No, of course you should not! Never heard such a silly question in my life! And it ain’t a bit of use trying to turn the subject! Not one to take a pet for no reason, but this is the outside of enough, Kit!”

“I wasn’t trying to turn the subject! You said I must not call you Freddy!”

Mr. Standen stared at her. “Said you wasn’t to call me Freddy? Nonsense!”

“But you did!” replied Kitty indignantly. “Just this moment past! I must own, I think it was very unkind in you, for I had no notion it was wrong!”

“It’s my belief,” said Mr. Standen, with austerity, “that you’re trying to fob me off, Kit! Well, it won’t fadge! I saw you walk into this place on Dolph’s arm! Seems to me there’s something deuced havey-cavey going on between the pair of you. Time I had a word with Dolph! Where the devil is he?”

Enlightenment dawned on Miss Charing. She gave an irrepressible gurgle of mirth. “Oh, Freddy, is that what brings you here?”

“Yes, it is, and it ain’t anything to laugh at!” said Freddy.

“Good God, you don’t suppose I’d come to a place like this for no reason, do you? I’d as lief visit Westminster Abbey again!” He levelled his glass, and swept a condemnatory glance round the room. “In fact, liefer!” he added. “I don’t say those effigies weren’t pretty devilish, but they weren’t as devilish as this freak you was staring at when I came in.

You know what?–you’ll start having nightmares if you don’t take care! Lord, if it ain’t just like Dolph to choose a place like this for his dashed flirtations! Shows you he’s queer in his attic.”

“He did not bring me here to flirt with me!”

“Now, don’t you tell me he wanted to look at curiosities from the South Seas!” said Freddy warningly. “I ain’t a big enough bleater to swallow that one! Just a trifle too loud, Kit!”

“No, of course he did not. Oh, dear, how awkward this is! I wonder what I should do?”

“Well, I can tell you that!” said Freddy. “You can stop making a cake of me. What’s more, if you let Dolph go on hanging round you forever I’ll tell everyone that our betrothal is a hum!”

“Freddy, you would not!” exclaimed Miss Charing, turning pale. “What can it signify to you, after all?”

“Does signify. Here’s mother wanting to know what I’m about to let you go all over town with Dolph! Never felt such a flat in my life!”

“Oh, I am so very sorry!” said Kitty contritely.

“Yes, I daresay, but I’m dashed if I see what your lay is! If you wanted Dolph, why the deuce didn’t you accept his offer? No need to have dragged me into the business at all.”

Kitty laid an impulsive hand on his arm. “Freddy, you could not think that I would ever marry poor Dolph?”

“Well, no,” admitted Freddy. “In fact, I’ll take dashed good care you don’t!”

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

I was seriously prejudiced when starting this book. Like many other of my reads I finally read Outlander because I kept hearing people rave about it on Tumblr and so forth. I opened the book and read the first sentence of the brief summary:

Claire Randall is leading a double life. She has a husband in one century, and a lover in another.”

*slammed book shut*

“Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire.”

This suspiciously sounds like one of those books your aunt gets caught reading from the book stash hidden under her bed. Plus I hate infidelity…I don’t care if your husband and your lover will never meet because while with one the other wasn’t born yet, or with the other your lovers been dead 200 years. Pfft. How convenient.

Details, Please

So in 1945 while on her second honeymoon, former nurse Claire Randall ends up touching some random boulder in an ancient stone circle while out collecting plants and –Bamf- gets transported to 1743 Scotland. Freaked out and landing in possibly the worst place ever she ends up between a feud with Scots and the English. Now she constantly has to defend herself because everyone who’s anyone thinks she’s a spy or a witch. She meets Jamie Fraser a younger Scots warrior and complications arise. What’s a time traveling girl to do? Stay with her younger warrior or return to her husband in the 20th century…

So what? *Slight spoiler warning*

I heard it’s difficult to classify this book because its historical fiction, fantasy and even science-fiction, but you know what? It’s basically an angsty romance. I guess you could call it a fantasy…the Loch Ness Monster makes an appearance. But Gosh, I got over my initial prejudice about this book, because I was curious and I heard the first chapter on audiobook while packing. It was interesting. I mean the one scene that made me curious is when Claire’s first husband sees a Scotsman ghost staring at her from outside her window. I kept reading. Here’s the thing: It’s brutal.

I did not take pleasure in worrying about whether someone was going to get flogged, raped or assaulted at every corner. I felt like I was peering through sadistic windows, becoming an unwilling voyeur. I had to take a break half way through and read Harry Potter fanfiction. Dude, that’s how upset I was.

I felt bad for her first husband probably going out of his mind looking for her. I felt like the author was trying to justify Claire not going back to her husband because her first husband’s six-time-great grandfather is the villain of this book. Plus, some of the sentences just made me laugh:

“I was now shut in the room of a rural inn, awaiting a completely different husband, whom I scarcely knew, with firm orders to consummate a forced marriage, at risk of my life and liberty.”

I had a legit reason to marry another man in a different century! Pfft. Please.

Overall

Read it, just so you can say you read the book all the girls are fangirling about, but only if you don’t care about wasting your time. I just got tired of feeling uptight. The book has some controversial scenes. I mean the majority of it took place in the 18th century so of course women of today would be scandalized by some scenes. I don’t know what to think of them except I didn’t like reading about someone getting beaten within an inch of her life, and it being acceptable at the time.The ending was happy, but it wasn’t worth the crap I had to trudge through to get there.

I can’t go any further. I’m emotionally spent. I hear someone gets sold into slavery in the next book? No thanks. I’m not coming back to this world. I’m touching the stones at Craigh na Dun and I’m going back home.

To be fair, here’s a GoodReads link so you can find some positive reviews of this book if still interested.

Flawless by Lara Chapman

Flawless is a contemporary retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac. Thankfully it doesn’t end as grim.

Details, Please
Sarah Burke senior in high school has learned to deal with her nose, as it’s been the source of all her insecurities and unhappiness. To put it bluntly, it’s just really huge. She thought she was fine with it, until she develops a crush on Rock the new boy from Atlanta. Unfortunately she’s not the only one smitten, Kristen her best friend is as well. Because Kristen isn’t into literature or poetry she enlists Sarah to help woo him on Facebook, but how long can this go on with Sarah’s own feelings getting in the way… not to mention she’s deceiving pretty much everyone, including herself.

So What?
I like this book for its exploration of loyalty, friendship and embracing self. I think in this sort of situation it would be easy to become catty with your friend, but that isn’t the case for Sarah and Kristen. They remain close friends throughout the book. Though Sarah sort of learns a lesson the hard way because of it, and lets opportunities pass her by because of her insecurities.

Towards the end there were some random plot bunnies that were kind of just thrown in there. I still don’t know what the point was. I suppose to change-up the plot a bit. Also I found myself with the second male lead syndrome. He wasn’t even mentioned that often but from what I heard of him I liked him better.

Overall
This came off like a Disney Channel movie. That’s not necessarily bad, I TiVo those things… It’s just the kind of book you give your niece in high school to read. Well it’s meant for that age demographic anyway. It wasn’t perfect, but I think the overall message was important. I rather liked this happier approach to the tale then being overly dramatic and sad. If you know a younger kid with self-image problems then this is one book to recommend.