Bites

Published: May 4th, 2010
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Since their mother’s death, Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, her brother has traveled the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane.

One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a “research experiment” at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives.

Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them —Set— has his sights on the Kanes. To stop him, the siblings embark on a dangerous journey across the globe – a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family and their links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs. (goodreads.com)

Believe it or not, this is my first foray into Riordan’s work. I have the Percy Jackson series on my shelf, but ancient Egypt is far more compelling for me. It’s been a love of mine for as long as I can remember, to the point where I actually wanted to be an Egyptologist (with my eye on the Egyptology program at UCLA) until I was 14 and my dad talked me out of it (limited educational scope, very limited income potential, etc.; at least my dad had foresight enough on that one). But I’ve still stuck with reading about Egypt and I really hope I can visit the country in my lifetime without running the risk of separating my head from my neck.

With that being said, this was a fun jaunt through history as these kids try to navigate through a world of awakening gods and nominal possession while they try to save their dad. As far as I could tell Riordan played things fairly accurately when the situation called for it. Obviously there were a ton of liberties taken and I wouldn’t use THE RED PYRAMID as a text book any time soon, but he wasn’t shotgunning random Egyptian words into a story without them having actual context in what was going on.

I do wish Phoenix played a bigger role than it did, simply because I live there now. It just amuses me whenever I see a place I live or know in a book because I can orient myself in the story that much better. But Phoenix was mentioned at the beginning of the story and then the kids didn’t get there until the very end and even then Phoenix was merely a vague place with a mountain called Camelback. It ultimately wasn’t very relevant aside from its desert location. But that’s okay. It didn’t detract from the story any. Just kind of an ‘oh man’ thing going on.

I really liked Sadie and Carter. All things considered they handled the book’s events pretty well. Probably too well for a twelve and fourteen-year-old, respectively. I also liked how they didn’t do things on their own. Like how it wasn’t up to just them to get stuff done. They had a lot of help on the way to the end, including from the gods that possessed them, their cat-like helper god, other people, and so on. They didn’t solve problems in a vacuum. That’s probably why the story, to me, an adult, was more palatable and didn’t aggravate my suspension of disbelief much. Granted I’m not the target audience for these books, but whatever. I still read it so there’s that.

I’m looking forward to continuing the series and seeing where this all goes. I wish I had something like this when I was growing up because I would have loved the crap out of it. I liked it now, but, you know. I’m 34. Doesn’t hit quite the same way. Instead I get things like the trash pile that is Gods of Egypt with the whitest Egyptians ever in existence and it makes me sad. So I’ll live retroactively through these books. My eight-year-old self loves it. She who would go to the library and take out books on ancient Egypt on the regular.

4

Published: September 17, 2013
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation—or so she’s been told. The one prophesied for years to be the savior of The Realm. It is her duty and destiny to face and defeat the Bane, the most powerful tyrant and mage the world has ever known. This would be a suicide task for anyone, let alone a reluctant sixteen-year-old girl with no training.

Guided by his mother’s visions and committed to avenging his family, Prince Titus has sworn to protect Iolanthe even as he prepares her for their battle with the Bane. But he makes the terrifying mistake of falling in love with the girl who should have been only a means to an end. Now, with the servants of the tyrant closing in, Titus must choose between his mission—and her life. (goodreads.com)

The YAckers are back! After some breathing room hiatus time we’re back to our monthly reads. For January of this glorious new year of 2018 we read THE BURNING SKY by Sherry Thomas. This was a good book. A perfectly fine book. One of those books that I have no problem with, but it just didn’t leave a lasting impression on me.

It deals a lot with destiny and things are already written in the cards and you don’t have a whole lot of choice but to follow along with it because it’s foretold. And I’m also a big fan of self-fulfilling prophecies. I actually believe, to some extent, in psychics. I think there’s talent there. As the same time I also believe they give an option of the future that, if you were to continue on the current path, would potentially come true. Deviate and it’ll change. Here we have Titus who’s effectively making sure this whole destiny thing plays out to the letter because it’s what’s supposed to happen and by golly his mom predicted it and he doesn’t want her to be wrong.

THE BURNING SKY is very much a Chosen One story because, and if you don’t see this coming from the very beginning you’re not reading with your eyes open or you brain on, Iolanthe is set up to be the MOST POWERFUL MAGE EVAR. Or at least since the LAST POWERFUL MAGE up and died. One a generation or whatever. Kind of like Buffy. And since the next powerful mage can’t be born until the last one dies, it’s even more like Buffy. Holy shit. Just realizing that now. Fun. Are there vampires in this world?

I thought crossdressing Iolanthe was going to be more of a thing in the story, but it’s really not. She has the very convenient skill of being able to play the boy because, even more conveniently, she always played the boy in plays growing up. HOW CONVENIENT. And she’s on the thinner side so she doesn’t have big ol’ titties to have to bind down and I guess a rather androgynous face because all that has to be done is her hair gets cut short and BAM. Boy. But that whole aspect of it came with very little risk on her or Titus’s part, ultimately. There were some insinuated situations but they always squeaked out of them. I guess I’m okay with the reprieves since everything else that was going on.

The world was the best part of the story. Of course I couldn’t help but compare it to Harry Potter because wands and magic and spell-casting and all of that. It’s there. Sue me. But aside from those three things there’s really no other similarities. Thomas’s book stands on its own and I liked the sort of magical stranglehold that Atlantis has on the world and how the magic world exists alongside each other without necessarily touching. Like Harry Potter. Okay, four things.

What I didn’t like, though, was that the Bane was this ultimate Big Bad that they were on the road to fight and he was the true villain, however, he never actually made an appearance in the story until the very end. Like Voldemort. Goddammit. They were mostly trying to slap away the Death Eaters, I mean the Inquisitor and her lackeys (not named Dolores Umbridge, at least) because they’re wrangling for the Bane and the Big Bad needs to make a grand entrance and we can’t have it any other way.

Titus was Titus. I don’t really feel one way or another about him. He drove the story even though I think this was supposed to be more Iolanthe’s book, but whatever. He told her where to go, how to act, what to do, and she bucked against him a little bit, but ultimately fell in line. Until the very end where she developed a sense of agency and finally made a decision for herself.

So I totally didn’t go into this review with the intention of making it sounds as snarky as it’s coming off, but I didn’t realize how similar it was to things like Buffy and Harry Potter until I started writing this and now it’s just like, okay. Knockoff? I don’t want to call THE BURNING SKY a knockoff. It’s really not. At least I don’t think intentionally. It’s a perfectly fine story. But that’s pretty much all it is. It left more of an impression in how similar to other things it was than as a book in its own right, unfortunately. It seems, anyway. Because I did mention that it stands out in its own right just a couple paragraphs north. Shows how quickly I can talk my mind out of things.

3

January 27, 2018

Pub Date: February 6, 2018
Publisher: St Martin’s Press
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Six months after the end of Wintersong, Liesl is working toward furthering both her brother’s and her own musical careers. Although she is determined to look forward and not behind, life in the world above is not as easy as Liesl had hoped. Her younger brother Josef is cold, distant, and withdrawn, while Liesl can’t forget the austere young man she left beneath the earth, and the music he inspired in her.

When troubling signs arise that the barrier between worlds is crumbling, Liesl must return to the Underground to unravel the mystery of life, death, and the Goblin King—who he was, who he is, and who he will be. What will it take to break the old laws once and for all? What is the true meaning of sacrifice when the fate of the world—or the ones Liesl loves—is in her hands? (goodreads.com)

So without the ridiculous love of Labyrinth to ride me through WINTERSONG’s sequel, SHADOWSONG, I find I enjoyed this book a lot less than the last one. It just doesn’t really hold together all that much.

The pacing issues I had in WINTERSONG are still there in SHADOWSONG, but it’s a different kind of pacing problem. In the former the pacing was such that is felt like two books smashed into one, with two distinct beginnings, middles, and ends that created a rather disjointed story. In the latter there’s nothing. Very little actually happens for about 95% of the book. It’s a lot of Liesl pining over a Goblin King that’s next to non-existent in this story and lamenting about her lost relationship with her brother. It’s this flat line of nothing, no real movement, no agency, and then 96% of the way into the story Lisel finally makes a decision that ultimately makes for a great ending to the story, but there were 350 pages of not a whole lot in order to get there.

The repetition of descriptions was diminished, but still. The only way for Liesl to describe the Goblin King is as her austere young man. Literally the only description. And it’s repeated over and over and over again. It got old in the last book. It’s downright ancient here.

Jae-Jones did preface the book with information about how SHADOWSONG was about her dealing with her bipolar disorder and that’s why it’s so dark. I don’t have a problem with dark. And this book had peeks of it, especially as Liesl was trying to make her way through the hedge maze at the ball. It had excellent moments of dark whimsy that I really did love. But the otherworldliness of the last book is lost here. You get it in snips and fits and starts, but nothing like the beauty of the last book and that’s a shame.

Take this next opinion for what is it because I don’t have a mental illness. However, the illness that Liesl suffers, I’m assuming the same bipolar disorder as Jae-Jones although it’s not expressly named, felt very flat. She seemed to just alternate between using the words mania and sadness or depression, but I felt a detachment from Liesl that kept me from feeling much for her. She talked about her own illness in a way that felt like she was trying to gloss over it and at the same time hammer it home it using very basic language. Where the rest of the book had flourish that aspect of it, that was supposedly so personal to the author, felt flat and simply forced into the story.

Quite frankly I felt this story more belonged to Josef than anyone. He had far more compelling things to say, a better character arc, and a more tragic end. Not that the current ending was bad. I just didn’t feel all that much for Liesl here. I didn’t really care. She didn’t really change much from beginning to end, she had little to no agency throughout the entire story, and when she did try to get personal everything felt all the more distant. It just didn’t work for me.

SHADOWSONG had its moments. There are some truly beautiful descriptions littered throughout the book and I really did love the ending. But ultimately I think this series is hinging way too much on Labyrinth love to drive it forward. There are major pacing issues in both books, and in SHADOWSONG Liesl isn’t much of a character. Those around her are far more compelling as she simply spends most of her time lamenting her current condition as outside forces shove her along in life. It got old and it was a lot to read for so little return.

2.5

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

Published: January 9, 2018
Publisher: St Martin’s Press
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Annabelle and Bayard Van Duyvil live a charmed life: he’s the scion of an old Knickerbocker family, she grew up in a Tudor manor in England, they had a whirlwind romance in London, they have three year old twins on whom they dote, and he’s recreated her family home on the banks of the Hudson and renamed it Illyria. Yes, there are rumors that she’s having an affair with the architect, but rumors are rumors and people will gossip. But then Bayard is found dead with a knife in his chest on the night of their Twelfth Night Ball, Annabelle goes missing, presumed drowned, and the papers go mad. Bay’s sister, Janie, forms an unlikely alliance with a reporter to uncover the truth, convinced that Bay would never have killed his wife, that it must be a third party, but the more she learns about her brother and his wife, the more everything she thought she knew about them starts to unravel. Who were her brother and his wife, really? And why did her brother die with the name George on his lips? (goodreads.com)

It’s salacious yet tempered. Willig’s written the story in such a way that it’s compelling without being grossly overblown with drama. Two timelines play out over the course of the book: Janie’s present timeline at the time of Bay’s death and forward, and Annabelle’s timeline a handful of years prior when she first met Bay up to his death. Of course the two eventually converge and all is revealed, but like I’m going to tell you what all happened. Read the book! It’s good!

Janie is a rather stiff individual made so by her suffocating shrew of a mother who’s more concerned with propriety and what will the neighbors think than the wellbeing of her daughter. But, you know. Whatever. One must carry on a name appropriately and all that. Janie’s sheltered, but not unintelligent. She’s actually pretty fast on her feet and it’s nice seeing her break the chains her mother’s put on her as the story unfolds.

There’s a small tragedy in every character, even the harpy of a mother. Willig’s designed these characters to signify that we are the products of our decisions. That’s not saying certain characters got what they deserved or anything like that. But, for instance, Janie’s mother is the product of her decisions in the same way Janie’s a product of her decisions. Environment’s got something to do with it, but if it were everything Janie would be exactly like her mother, and she’s most decidedly not. Janie’s mother didn’t have to be that way. She chose to be that way. And that choice had consequences.

I really liked the developing relationship between Janie and Burke and even between Annabelle and Bay, for all the tragedy that was awaiting those two. Willig writes excellent characters that are captivating, repugnant, and yet wholly human. It’s hard to turn away from them. THE ENGLISH WIFE felt like nothing to read. Willig’s writing is effortless, simple yet compelling and able to portray rich characters without florid overwriting. It’s really just an all around good book with a thrilling mystery thrown into the mix.

4

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

Published: March 15, 2016
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Seventeen-year-old Anouk has finally caught the break she’s been looking for—she’s been selected out of hundreds of other candidates to fly to France and help with the excavation of a vast, underground palace buried a hundred feet below the suburbs of Paris. Built in the 1780’s to hide an aristocratic family and a mad duke during the French Revolution, the palace has lain hidden and forgotten ever since. Anouk, along with several other gifted teenagers, will be the first to set foot in it in over two centuries.

Or so she thought.

But nothing is as it seems, and the teens soon find themselves embroiled in a game far more sinister, and dangerous, than they could possibly have imagined. An evil spanning centuries is waiting for them in the depths. . . (goodreads.com)

This was a hell of an interesting and original book that I just could not put down. Bachmann gave enough details as the plot progressed to keep me intrigued but didn’t deny me too much that I became annoyed. He struck a good balance between intrigue and trickling information in enough to keep the reader turning the pages.

I wasn’t that big of a fan of Anouk as a character. She comes off brash and unlikeable with a really bad attitude. They all kind of do, actually, except Lilly. But she’s annoying due to her way too chipper of an attitude and her need to be overtly nice to absolutely everyone. As more poop hit the fan the sardonic attitude of them all leveled out, to be replaced by the pure need to survive. As that’s wont to happen.

The setting is really interesting and I liked how the storyline toggled between present day and the French Revolution when the underground palace was completed. It’s such a demented place, equal parts vivid in his descriptions and unknowable in its terror, it’s something that truly creeped me out. And that doesn’t happen very often. That overarching unknown of WHY all of this was happening was, I think, the creepiest part of all. And when everything was revealed I wasn’t disappointed! That’s actually a huge thing. I’m so used to horror building up and building up and building up only to be completely let down. So to not be let down at the end was pretty spectacular.

There were still some unanswered questions at the end, but I think that lends itself to being even more creepy, not knowing every single little detail of what was going on. And I liked the darkness of it all. When the kids were down there, running for their lives, there were shadows everywhere in my head. There was just enough description to get me through, but it was shrouded enough in darkness that I really felt like I was there with them as they worked their way through this underground maze. I kept finding myself referring back to The Catacombs movie and the minotaur of Crete, the latter of which was even mentioned as a reference for what they were all going through. It’s apt, that’s for sure.

A DROP OF NIGHT is creepy in its insanity, in its unknown, and in the bits and pieces you do know. Bachmann does have something unique here, even though it reminded me of other things. Mostly horror, part thriller, and just all around creepy, I couldn’t put the book down and I certainly didn’t want to read it when it was dark. Not too many books freak me out, but this one did. Bravo!

4.5

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