Bites
October 14, 2017

Published: May 1, 1994
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Why is her boyfriend Tom avoiding her – while other boys pursue her as never before? Jenny Thornton has changed. So have her friends. Because of Julian, the Shadow Man, who has returned to terrorize them with a new game, a hunting game, Lambs and Monsters. They’re the lambs, to be stalked, pounced upon, and lost to the Shadow World forevermore. The monsters are the Lurker , a ghostly wolf, and the Creeper, a phantom snake. One by one, Jenny’s friends disappear, leaving behind only a paper doll – and a riddle with clues about who will be next . . . Jenny must find Julian’s hidden base and save her friends before it’s too late. But how can she resist the predatory prince of darkness who has returned to make her his own? (book back blurb)

I reviewed the first book a while ago and my recap for it just went up last month at The Devil’s Elbow. This month I’m recapping THE CHASE and having never read it before, of course it needed to be reviewed here too. Oh such Labyrinth-y goodness.

Granted I was a bit torn with THE CHASE. The pacing was a little all over the place and the first sentence in that blurb is really misleading. Jenny doesn’t have dudes falling all over her now. One guy asked her to the prom who wasn’t Tom. The blurb could have started with the second sentence and have been fine. Anyway, pacing. It lingers on minutiae in this book where it didn’t in the last, giving me drawn out scenes when they were postering (as in handing out posters with Summer’s face on it because everyone thinks she’s just missing) that didn’t really advance the plot at all, or the whole thing with this guy pursuing Jenny, which really wasn’t much of a thing. There’s a fair amount of cigarette lighting in the book and things don’t really start to get rolling until a little more than halfway into the book, which is far. I often felt like telling Smith to get on with it up to that point.

However, I did like the total mindfuck going on up to Game #2. They were just spaced far enough apart in that first half that they didn’t connect too well and too much time passed between them to really maintain interest. Plus Smith likes to drag on with unnecessary physical details and expounding a little too much on what’s going on in people’s heads so that slowed the plot down too. But the mindfucking was good. I wish she spent more time there.

About a third of the way through the book I started having real issues with the type of focus Smith was giving Dee, her Aba, and then a Polynesian woman. It seemed like every POC that popped up in her books were in some way otherworldly and deserving of this . . . other type of description that no one else got. Then I remembered Wing from DE mentioning not liking Smith’s othering of Dee. Not sure what that meant I looked it up. Yup. That’s it. That’s what was really bothering me. It’s almost like Smith’s overcompensating by making all of the POC in her book mystical and gorgeous and unreachable . . . except that just plays into typecasting, doesn’t it? Dee, the angry but beautiful black girl who’s regularly described as having lioness and panther-like qualities, who wants to fight constantly, and who is regularly described as having a savage or barbaric smile (OMG NO). Aba, the mystical black grandma offering pearls of wisdom to help the children along. And the Polynesian women, a cop and there for a second, was described as being model beautiful. It was just so glaring and off-putting.

Meanwhile Michael has some variety of spaniel eyes, Audrey has spiky lashes and bangs, and everyone else kinds of blends in. Smith has a real bad habit of using rather unique descriptors repeatedly. They stand out “nicely.”

Anyway, I’m a big fan of psychological thrillers and horror and THE CHASE fits better into that arena than anything else. I really, really liked the mind games Julian played, wearing the group down before taking them one by one. Truly, it’s perfect. But then we get sort of a repeat ending from book one and I want to say it’s lazy but it also plays into Julian’s character so I’m not sure which way to sway on that one. But I like that Smith went with the brain game with book two. Considering how mentally mangled those kids would be after what they went through, and with losing Summer (I have a feeling she’s not actually dead . . .) their brains would be ripe for poking. And Julian did just that. It’s demented and dark and it made me like the story even more. Jenny is standing more on her own two feet and barreling headfirst into things. Tom is no longer her crutch. Instead she stands on her own and that’s kind of awesome.

I’m looking forward to working my way through book 3 next month. Be sure to check out my recap going up at The Devil’s Elbow on the 23rd!

4

My recap of the first book in LJ Smith’s The Forbidden Game series, THE HUNTER, just went live at The Devil’s Elbow! Come see just how much Smith was inspired by Labyrinth and if she wasn’t I’ll eat my shoe. Not to mention, in the grander scheme of shitty YA horror from the 90s, THE HUNTER is probably one of the least shittiest. I actually enjoyed this story in all its twisted horror and Labyrinth love and Smith kept the crappy characters to a minimum. Considering the proliferation of teens-as-caricatures in 90s YA horror, I’ll take what I can get.

So come check out my recap of THE HUNTER at The Devil’s Elbow now!

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.