Bites

Pub Date: October 10, 2017
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Here is a thing everyone wants:
A miracle.

Here is a thing everyone fears:
What it takes to get one.

Any visitor to Bicho Raro, Colorado is likely to find a landscape of dark saints, forbidden love, scientific dreams, miracle-mad owls, estranged affections, one or two orphans, and a sky full of watchful desert stars.

At the heart of this place you will find the Soria family, who all have the ability to perform unusual miracles. And at the heart of this family are three cousins longing to change its future: Beatriz, the girl without feelings, who wants only to be free to examine her thoughts; Daniel, the Saint of Bicho Raro, who performs miracles for everyone but himself; and Joaquin, who spends his nights running a renegade radio station under the name Diablo Diablo.

They are all looking for a miracle. But the miracles of Bicho Raro are never quite what you expect. (goodreads.com)

Here’s the thing: I have kind of a love/hate relationship with Maggie’s writing. I HATED the Lament series and as a result didn’t even attempt The Wolves of Mercy Falls series. I read THE SCORPIO RACES and thought it was pretty good. I no (haven’t read the last one yet). And now we get to ALL THE CROOKED SAINTS.

Meh.

I feel like this was a book where the publisher was like, Maggie write a book because you word good. And Maggie gave them a book with words and they published it. I didn’t think it was necessarily overwritten. I did like the fairy tale-esque sort of style she was going for. But I felt it was really rambly in a trying-to-be-quirky sort of way that I really wasn’t digging. This felt like sort of an experiment she was trying and for me it didn’t quite click.

All those rambly, dangly loose ends do end up tied up at the end, and rather nicely. Everything felt far less rambly and random and scatterbrained at the end and I actually rather liked the end. Just not thrilled with the road she took to get there.

I liked the world she developed so close to my own home (Arizona, this story is set in southern Colorado) so I felt pretty rooted in the setting itself. I liked the sort of magical realism she dabbled in with the miracles and the process through which people have to go through in order to come out the other side of them. I just didn’t feel all that connected to any individual character because she kept hopping all over the place to tell everyone’s stories.

It’s a whimsical story in its darkness and light, but for me it was read from a distance. I didn’t feel invested in anything. But that’s the trouble with fairy tales, isn’t it? Personally I think they’re a gamble in that you can tell a tale that either sucks a reader in or leaves them at a distance. Then again that’s really true of any writing. But doubly true to these kinds of tales.

Maggie paints a good scene. She’s descriptive in ALL THE CROOKED SAINTS without being overwritten. I just didn’t connect with the particular style she was going for. Didn’t love it; didn’t hate it. Just kind of meh. I look forward to her Ronan books though. Absolutely.

3.5

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

August 8, 2017

Published: September 4, 2016
Publisher: Self
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Rhianwyn of the Caderyn is conflicted about giving up a warrior’s life to become a wife and mother, but her love for her new husband is enough to at least make her consider it. However, with the conquering Gaians moving ever closer to her homeland a peaceful life may no longer be an option, for Rhia or for any of her people. With rival tribes, old suitors, and the dangerous General Lepidus to contend with, Rhia soon finds her new family in unprecedented danger, and her choices now must be about more than just herself… (goodreads.com)

It’s a LONG book, that’s for sure. But even with that I didn’t find myself bored with the story. It’s not a fast-moving plot. It’s a slow burn that takes its time developing the world and the characters. It definitely has more plot than something character-driving, but a lot of time is spent on the characters as well and how they react and deal with the situations that arise around them. I was really afraid it was going to be a slog, but it wasn’t. I didn’t begrudge reading the story at all, and I thought Harker balanced detail with story excellently.

Rhia is an incredibly self-aware woman who adapts to change really well despite everything. She’s brutal but sympathetic, able to be demure when the situation calls for it, but not afraid to speak her mind when it’s rendered either. She’s a dynamic character who is a breeze to follow from one situation to the next.

The story itself is vividly painted. I was able to picture everything that happened, down to details, without actually being inundated with them. Sometimes with these books you get authors who go LOOK AT ALL THE RESEARCH I DID and instead of weaving those details seamlessly into the story you get great big heaps of unnecessary detail-dumping. That didn’t happen here. I felt the world-building and the story wove together seamlessly. Some of it was a little strange, like the communal bathing where Rhia’s dad was just hanging out with her and her friends while they bathed, all tits out and making vague sexual innuendos. Not sure how necessary that particular scene was, or how historically accurate, but at least it was a one-off. For everything that happens there isn’t any gratuity in the story, sexual or violent.

Harker created some excellent characters that were really easy to follow and blended them into a great story that felt like nothing to read despite how long it was. Personally I think that’s a sign of a good writer, someone who can write these longer books without having them FEEL like longer books. The only issue I really had was the WHY of the world. The blurb says it’s influenced by Iron Age Britain, which would have heavy Roman influence. Except 95% of this wasn’t influence, it WAS Roman and old Britain. There’s a hint of magic toward the end and I’m wondering if that element of the world is fleshed out better in the next book. But as WILDCAT stands I didn’t really see a reason why it couldn’t have just been set in that real world time period and the magical element thrown in. Not like artists haven’t taken liberties with history before. Just that thought kind of dogged me throughout the book. I couldn’t help but think that a book like AN EMBER IN THE ASHES is Roman influenced. It’s a vague homage, but the author really went her own way with it. WILDCAT isn’t influenced. It’s too heavily and too closely Roman/Britain to be just influenced. It didn’t make the story bad, but it did linger a question mark over my head about it.

Ultimately it’s really good, slow burn story that begs you to take your time reading it. Harker’s taken a lot of care in researching and developing this world and he’s created some really great characters doing it. I look forward to the next book!

4

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Published: February 22, 2017
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

In celebration of the 35th anniversary of Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal, return to the world of Thra in an official sequel to the beloved fantasy film. Discover an all-new race of creatures called Firelings that live in a realm near the planet’s core, based on official character designs by Brian Froud. Years have passed since the events of the original film, and though Jen and Kira have ruled Thra as King and Queen, bringing Gelfling back to the land, they have become distracted by power and can no longer feel or see the needs of the world the way they once did. Thurma is a young Fireling tasked with stealing a shard of the Dark Crystal to restore power to her realm. Along the way she’ll befriend the young Gelfling Kensho, bring back the Skeksis and Mystics, and embark on one incredible adventure. (goodreads.com)

I was never a Dark Crystal fan, but I picked this up at BEA. Might as well give it a try. And I have to say it’s a good story. I’ve only seen the original movie once, if that, so I’m not really familiar with the story itself although I’m more familiar with some of the characters.

I definitely liked the art here. Visually stunning and eye-catching. I think it told more of a story than the words themselves. Not that the story wasn’t good. It’s this little fire creature trying to save its kind by obtaining a shard of the crystal itself. Which, of course, is sacrilege. And it ended up waking up the two main characters there, who were in stasis, which is even worse than asking for a shard.

So it has its fair share of drama. It’s still not really my thing. I’m probably not going to keep reading in the series. But I can see how The Dark Crystal is a fan favorite and I can definitely see how the comic is sure to be really popular. It just doesn’t resonate with me, unfortunately. I was hoping it would. Like I said, it’s not bad. But it’s not for me.

3

I received a copy of this comic from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Published: June 14, 2016
Publisher: ROC
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all of the different realities. Most recently, she and her enigmatic assistant Kai have been sent to an alternative London. Their mission: Retrieve a particularly dangerous book. The problem: By the time they arrive, it’s already been stolen.

London’s underground factions are prepared to fight to the death to find the tome before Irene and Kai do, a problem compounded by the fact that this world is chaos-infested—the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic to run rampant. To make matters worse, Kai is hiding something—secrets that could be just as volatile as the chaos-filled world itself.

Now Irene is caught in a puzzling web of deadly danger, conflicting clues, and sinister secret societies. And failure is not an option—because it isn’t just Irene’s reputation at stake, it’s the nature of reality itself… (goodreads.com)

I absolutely adore this book. I don’t adore books often, but when I do I ADORE them. Cogman has balanced whimsical, dark, funny, daring, crushing, romantic tension, suspense, and thrills fantastically. And the world she’s created OMG I love it. LOVE IT.

After coming off of Rachel Caine’s book with a similar concept of an all-powerful library controlling the world, I was a little skeptical. I wasn’t sure what to expect. But this idea that at the center of these multiverses sits the most expansive library ever (we’re talking like it could literally take you years to walk from one end to the other) and within it are highly trained librarians who are sent out into these various worlds to hunt down books that would be beneficial to the library to have . . . Evie would be jealous.

And then these infinite number of multiverses branch out from the center of this library like spokes from a wheel and only Librarians, who have their own powerful language, can traverse the universes and none of the universes know about each other or the Library itself. Time stands still in the Library and people don’t age. If Librarians happen to have children (which they don’t very often) they have to send them to school in one of the universes so they’ll grow up. If someone is injured and tended to in the Library they have to go into one of the universes to heal. People live for literary hundreds of years within the library and when they’re ready to retire (aka die) they choose a universe and go and live out the rest of their days there. I just . . . I love it.

Most of the Librarians are recruited from the various worlds, including Irene’s student, Kai (who is totally dreamy and I don’t normally get book boyfriends but he’s one of the few I do have). She’s assigned to take him on this mission to retrieve a very specific copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales from a world overrun by Chaos. In this book Chaos is a malevolent force that usually brings with is very disruptive fairies and other insidious creatures that overrun the world, but which the occupants ultimately view as normal, effectively corrupting people. And if a Librarian is corrupted by Chaos in some way, they’re not allowed back into the Library until the corruption is removed, which is what happens to Irene and Kai and their mission ends up going tits up real quick.

The mission ends up evolving well beyond anything they, or the Library, could have expected and things get rough. Cogman does get pretty dark, but the tone she maintains throughout the book is, like I said above, practically whimsical. But it’s not pretentious nor does it invoke some kind of Austenian flare. It’s just light and lends itself to some drier humor despite the things happening in the story.

I loved being in Irene’s head because throughout the story she’s this very composed, very professional woman that plays everything by the book. Yet in her head she’s effectively drooling over Kai and cursing people left right and center. But she filters all that out by the time the thoughts get out of her mouth so she always appears to be the air of professionalism, or whatever her cover requires her to be. She thinks fast on her feet and always at least gives the appearance of having a solution even though she might not.

Totally adding the next book to my reading list. Because things were left off at the end that I really need answers to and the little snippet of the next book there totally got my attention. Ugh. I haven’t felt like this about a book in a long time. It’s a great feeling. Read THE INVISIBLE LIBRARY immediately. If you’re a book lover you will love it. If you’re a world-building lover you’ll love it. If you have eyes you’ll love it.

5

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Published: May 3, 2015
Publisher: Self
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

For eighteen years Aia Wynnald has lived a lie. Raised as a highborn in the Kingdom of Tharien, she’s filled her days with tutors and archery lessons. But simmering beneath her polite surface is a dangerous gift, one which she must keep a secret. Aia is a Bender. And in Tharien, Benders are feared and hunted.

When her unruly power breaks free with dire repercussions, Aia’s lifelong goal of independence shatters. As she scrambles to piece her life back together while evading capture, she disturbs a vengeful force intent on destroying the kingdom.

Now, with the help of an unlikely ally, Aia will decide the fate of Tharien. To rescue those she cares about will require accepting what she is. But can she risk becoming the monster she’s dreaded to save the very citizens baying for her blood? (goodreads.com)

It’s a good premise, and the writing was compelling enough, but ultimately Morrison is in her characters’ heads WAY too much and it kept pulling me out of the story. Certainly not a bad book, but I think it could have been significantly better if more was focused on keeping the plot moving instead of constant internal monologues from the characters. Way too many questions asked within their heads as a means of substituting tension where, considering the plot, there was tension enough going on around them.

I liked the basic story and I think the premise itself was compelling. People born with this magical ability are hunted out of society for being dangerous and demonic. They’re called Shells, basically just flesh sacks for demons to take over. What they have to look forward to is a Cleansing, which will kill them, or a Draining, which is effectively a magical lobotomy that leaves them a numb husk of a person.

The story is told from two points of view, Cole’s and Aia’s (who’s also called Maia, but I don’t know why she drops the M). One is a Bender hiding in plain sight and the other is a Bender being hunted. Both end up working together to topple a theocratic regime more bent on ruling by fear than by reason.

Cole doesn’t experience a whole lot of character development throughout the story. Not really. Aia has somewhat of a lurching shift in character when she finds out about a characteristic of another character she’s supposed to be spying on. She then becomes infuriatingly passive to the point where it’s almost illogical when I just wanted her to crack some skulls. But that’s just me.

But the biggest issue I had with FROM THE ASHES, and why I’m probably not going to read further into the series, is that the characters kept getting in their own way. There was just way too much internal pontificating and in many cases it was a substitute for tension, but it just became glaring and annoying the more I read of it. It really slowed down the plot for me to the point where I was getting jarred out of it every time we got sucked into a character’s head to see how they were going to work something out. It’s one thing to be privy to the internal workings of a character when in first person point of view. It’s another thing when a scene pauses so the character can ask themselves questions about what’s coming up next. I can only handle so much of that.

Ultimately one of the better self pubs I’ve read. It’s not a bad book, by any stretch of the word. I think the world is compelling and Morrison has something good going here. I just wish the characters got out of the way more.

3

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.