Category: Reviews

Cruel Beauty

Cruel Beauty

best book EVAH

Well, I didn’t end up reviewing Deathless, mainly because it was so beautifully flawed that it defied description (I feel like people wouldn’t have had much time for BDSM and two-timing during the Siege of St. Petersburg. Too cold. Too hungry. But I wasn’t there, so what do I know?). Also, college fried my brain, so yeah. There never was a promise I could keep.

However, post-finals, I was looking for subpar brain candy to destress, and I found it in Cruel Beauty, courtesy of Rosamund Hodge–except it wasn’t subpar! Who says brain candy can’t also be art?

Lots of kitties
WHAT THIS BOOK DID TO ME

First of all, the setting is gorgeous. I adore gorgeous settings, probably because I can’t write them at all. Nyx Triskelion (cool name) lives in Arcadia, which is…a dome? made of parchment? I was never really clear on how to picture it (notoriously bad at following descriptive details, sorry), but it sounded cool.

The wavy, golden rays of the sun looked like a gilt illumination in one of Father’s old manuscripts; they glinted, but their light was less painful than a candle. Once the main body of the sun was risen over the hillside, it would be uncomfortable to look upon, but no more so than the frosted glass of a Hermetic lamp. For most of the light came from the sky itself, a dome of cream veined with darker cream, like parchment, through which light shone as if from a distant fire. Dawn was no more than the brighter zone of the sky rising above the hills, the light colder than at noon but otherwise the same.

Arcadia (land Nyx lives in) has been closed off from the world, seemingly forever, with only a Gentle Lord in a ruined castle to rule it. Many have theories as to why. Unfortunately, the Gentle Lord is excellent at making bargains, but they don’t always work out so well for the bargainers. There’s always a misinterpreted clause, like the one Nyx’s father falls prey to. Wife will give birth to two healthy daughters? Excellent. Wife will die in the process? Oh.

So Arcadians hate the Gentle Lord because he’s a ruthless haggler who tells tons of lies by omission. Also Nyx’s dad promised him one of his daughters. OH. Instead of beating himself up over not totally owning his Dad of the Year award, like maybe he should, he spends Nyx’s entire childhood training her as a magical weapon so that she can take her future husband down. No, really. DAD OF THE YEEEEEAAARRR.

why junshan why
Me whenever Nyx’s daddy was remotely mentioned in any way.

To make matters worse, the Gentle Lord’s hotness is in dispute.

I knew that the Gentle Lord was different enough from other demons that people could look on him and not go mad. But some said he had the mouth of a snake, the eyes of a goat, and the tusks of a boar, so that even the bravest could not refuse his bargains. Others said he was inhumanly beautiful, so that even the wisest were beguiled by him. Either way, I couldn’t imagine letting him touch me.

*checks genre* Yeah, let’s go with inhumanly beautiful. I know that it can be hard to marry an evil demon Prince, but I think I’ve read so much of this genre that I’ve gotten a bit jaded. Honestly, I was just waiting for Nyx to fall in love with him so that we could all go home already. However. Elements kept surprising me.

For one thing, Ignifex, the demon prince in question, was more of an asshole than I expected. Also, almost zero angst over what a douchecanoe he was being, which I personally found refreshing. Maybe I’m tired of cheap angst, which is something I never thought I’d say. I don’t like cheap assholery either, but Ignifex’s reasons for acting out, if not exactly laudable, are at least understandable…ish? No spoilers, though. Also, he gets better. 🙂

Maybe what surprised me most, though, was Nyx herself. I’m sad to say that in YA, I sometimes end up reading for the hot dude of the week because heroines can be a little subpar, and I hate doing it. On the other hand, I also hate reading solely for the heroine because the hero’s terrible. Not the case here! I was able to read for both. Nyx is a QUEEN, and I cannot emphasize this enough. She doesn’t take the fate handed to her lying down, but she also doesn’t waste time on pointless rebellion or wilting sacrifice. Instead, she is quietly and murderously furious, clever enough to realize that something is horribly wrong with her family, but socially conditioned too well to reject the future planned for her. She is her people’s only hope of breaking the curse, so she meets her fate gracefully.

Fortunately, her new husband is way more interested in building card towers and eating bon-bons than being, you know, absolutely terrible. In fact, he offers something that no one else in Arcadia can give her: unconditional acceptance and love. Awww. See, not that much of an asshole. More and more, Nyx starts to doubt her mission and whether her father really knows what he’s doing (obviously not). Before this book, I never wondered what would happen if the protagonist got sick of the hero gig and kicked back with the villain for some nice bonding time and snacks, but now I guess I know.

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Actual footage of Nyx and Ignifex.

Actually, if I have one criticism of this book, it’s that it briefly flirted with the abandonment of the heroic role, only to veer back in a more traditional direction. Not that the ending I got wasn’t satisfying–honestly, I probably cried a little (POST FINALS-EMOTIONS, THAT’S ALL), but I would have loved to see a world where curses aren’t broken, villains aren’t defeated, and heroines aren’t sacrificed. Oh, well. Maybe I’ll have to write one.

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Reviews, now in vintage, or, a review of the Vampyre

Reviews, now in vintage, or, a review of the Vampyre

the vampyre

The place where vampires all began, and it’s even really short! Some people moan that Twilight ruined vampires, that vampires used to be scary and now they’re too sexy to be scary, that the vampire genre is dead (but why is dead a bad thing?), etc. I’m here to tell you that they are all WRONG. Nothing has changed in the last 200 years. Sociopathic undead hotties have always preyed on susceptible teenage girls with a bit more charm than is good for anyone. And, yes, they have always been sexy.

image
And diabolical.

It’s true that our Lord Ruthven isn’t quite so conflicted as today’s Stephan Salvatores and Edward Cullens, but then, you don’t have to go way past 1819 to get your antiheroic vampy fix–Varney the Vampire was published in 1847, and is, I am informed, full of enough bloodsucking angst to make Bella Swan swoon (reading it right now, actually!).

With that said, the vampires of yore do represent something that would have held a bit more gravity to audiences back then. I don’t mean to be elitist–I firmly believe that ANY piece of art can tell you a great deal about a current culture’s hopes and fears, and Twilight and Vampire Diaries are no different–but we simply don’t have the same understanding of society now that people in, say, Regency England would have had. Nowadays, a person can watch Twilight and maybe see a metaphor for a certain type of real life person (what kind of metaphor heavily hinges, I suspect, on how much that person likes Twilight), but Lord Ruthven pretty obviously symbolizes a society-wide problem of vice.

He consumes supple young maidens to stay alive, sure (the hero’s fair sister among them), but he also seems to ruin lives just for the hell of it, entices people in gambling, and only gives charity to the undeserving. And everyone who accepts his help seems to end up cursed in some way. In other words, he’s the sort of idle, rich parasite preachers would have warned against on the pulpit. So Lord Ruthven represents sex, yes (why else the addiction to teenage girls?), but only in part. Lord Ruthven is the personification of sin, and he collects victims in a never-ending cycle. Today, we would know someone like this as a sociopath, but back then audiences would have believed him to be simply Very Bad, in an almost unknowable way.

But I still think the hero’s sister faked her death and ran off with the vampire. It’s been known to happen, you know.

At last, a good Dystopia, or, a review of Perfect Ruin

perfect ruin

The mark of a perfect Dystopia is a world that the reader falls in love with despite its horror. Perfect Ruin is one of those rare, delightfully lovely books in which the setting is its own character–perhaps the main one. The darkness of Internment unfolds slowly, like an exquisite origami, but I never fell out of love with it. Maybe because there’s something wrong with me (but you already knew that, right?).

Ahem. Internment is a floating island in the sky. How it stays afloat, no one knows for sure, but most believe it’s due to the benevolence of the sky god. Although I’m notoriously bad at paying attention to things like location, chronology, and technology within story (preferring instead to focus on cuteness and fluff), I feel like I could describe Internment with some accuracy. Lauren DeStefano, I love you. For finally getting me to pay attention.glass cage of megamind So, I may get a few things wrong, but hopefully I’ll be mostly right. Internment is the perfect toy city surrounded by a railroad that hosts a forever punctual train. Just don’t cross the railroad and gaze into the edge, for that way lies madness and death…

Into this world is born Morgan Stockhour, a boring girl in love with Basil, her boring fiance selected by Internment’s government for her. At least, that’s what I thought the first three times I started this book. I mean, a girl in YA who’s actually in love with someone she starts out engaged to?

Me: “Is it, like, opposite day? What the hell is going on, I thought she was going to fall in love with the mysterious guy in the summary?” *skips ahead* “Seriously, she’s still in love with this dude? The guy the state chose for her? WHAT THE HEEEEEELLL.”

You know…as much as I love to make fun of love triangles, dark and mysterious love interests, etc, I-sort-of-maybe-love-them. I’m sorry. I’m a hypocrite.

But! Everyone on Goodreads said it was excellent, so I kept trying to get through it, and I did! And it was amazing. And there is way more to Basil and Morgan than I thought, and I learned to appreciate every single word Lauren wrote. Absolutely lovely.

Siamese Mayhem finally finishes a series, or, a review of the Chemical Garden Trilogy

Chemical Garden Trilogy

One of the great tragedies of reviewing is that bad books always give me more to say. When I have an actual good book, I just can’t find the snark. Hopefully, it is possible for me to be interesting without making fun of something. However, I promise nothing. The Chemical Garden Trilogy is one of these happy few; they are the sort of books I have only good things to say about. Continue reading “Siamese Mayhem finally finishes a series, or, a review of the Chemical Garden Trilogy”

How to dethaw an ice queen, or, a review of The Iron King

This book is about a girl and her boys. Meghan, our heroine, thinks she’s an ordinary high school student. Her friend, Robbie (also known as Puck), doesn’t quite agree. Their arch-nemesis, Ash, just wants to kill them both. Ordinarily, this is how I feel about love triangles:

Elsa makes her feelings clear

But this particular story worked for me, and I think it may be because the romance was fairly light, none of the parties spent a large time waffling, and–while I wouldn’t say they had camaraderie–they all developed mutual, grudging respect for each other by the end. I think. Love triangles in which all the principles are likable go a long way towards assuaging my wrath. Take notes, aspiring writers, because this is how you make love triangles non-fury inducing. Continue reading “How to dethaw an ice queen, or, a review of The Iron King”

“He only beats me because of his tragic past,” or, a review of Fifty Shades of Grey

You know, if I never hear the word Adonis again, it will be too soo–

Apart from the paintings, the rest of the office is cold, clean, and clinical.  I wonder if it reflects the personality of the Adonis who sinks gracefully into one of the white leather chairs opposite me.

Well. Here we go again.

Continue reading ““He only beats me because of his tragic past,” or, a review of Fifty Shades of Grey”

“My drug habit will save us all, I promise,” or, a review of Take Me Tomorrow

I love drugs. Wait, let me rephrase that. I love reading about the drug industry. The people who take them are moderately interesting, but it’s the drugs themselves and the people who sell them that really fascinate me.

Hence my excitement when I heard of Take Me Tomorrow, by Shannon A. Thompson. Drugs + dystopia? Count me in, please and thank you. While Take Me Tomorrow didn’t completely live up to my expectations, there were things I really appreciated, such as the thread of moral ambiguity running through the narrative.

But first, the plot. Like many YA dystopias, it takes place in an America different from the one we know now. Take Me Tomorrow sets itself apart, however, by centering the story around a drug, tomo. Tomo’s origins are mysterious, but its effects are not: users can see the future, which the current regime does not like at all. As a result, the authorities have declared war on tomo and its…ah, fans. Continue reading ““My drug habit will save us all, I promise,” or, a review of Take Me Tomorrow”

Kitty and Nom Noms: The Love Story, or, a review of Eclipse (MAJOR SPOILERS AND RAMBLING)

Oh, do we have a pickle. Wolfie, the dark horse of New Moon, wants to eat Kitty. Kitty wants to eat Nom Noms, but she’s too cute to eat. In other words, the drama continues.

The plot…the plot…Everyone knows the plot. Victoria assembles a newborn army, Edward tries the “buy the cow and get the milk” approach to get Bella to marry him, Jacob pouts a lot and becomes very creepy, Edward is also creepy, but in a less rapey way, and Bella puts up with way too much manipulation (courtesy of Edward) and douchiness (courtesy of Jacob). Continue reading “Kitty and Nom Noms: The Love Story, or, a review of Eclipse (MAJOR SPOILERS AND RAMBLING)”

The only thing hotter than an angel is a competent heroine, or, a review of Angelfall

It is a testament to this story that it features a badass, incredibly beautiful angel and yet someone else steals the show. And no, the person who steals the show is not the adorable, funny, hot demon love interest. (Yes, I read Fallen. Yes, I squeed over Cam. Those days are behind me. I think.) It was the heroine. Yes, that’s right. The ordinary, human heroine is the most compelling character.

anime Thor and Loki
This gif accurately captures my emotions.

Continue reading “The only thing hotter than an angel is a competent heroine, or, a review of Angelfall”

Surprisingly nice for a demon, or, a review of After Eden

After Eden has a special place in my heart. It was the first self-published book I ever bought (Actually, no, according to my Amazon order history, it was the second. Never mind). Since then, I’ve downloaded quite a few more reads (whether I will ever get around to reading them all is the question). But out of all them, I remember After Eden most fondly. On paper it sounds ridiculous: A high school girl without a spirit falls in love with a demon. I am here to report that it doesn’t get any less ridiculous once you read it, but perhaps that’s the story’s strength. It knows exactly what it is, and it is unashamed.

Let’s start with the story line. Devi, a girl who has endured debilitating pain ever since an angel took her brother, decides to stop by a bookstore. Just as she is about to put back a truly horrendous romance novel, a headache attacks, and she blacks out. She wakes up on an old couch in the back of the bookstore getting kneaded by temperamental cat named Princess, who belongs to a young man who goes by Oz, the one who brought her inside. To Devi’s utter shock, he can cure her pain with a touch, something not any amount of epilepsy medication has been able to accomplish. What follows is a visit to a 24 hour restaurant, where they discuss surrealist art, eat pancakes, and play the guess-which-supernatural-creature-I-am game. Oz insists on walking her home, which Devi accepts because, hey, he’s nice for a guy who thinks he’s not human. After Oz leaves, though, a creature named Forneus appears in her home with a deal to offer…

Still here? Good, because it’s only going to get whackier. Continue reading “Surprisingly nice for a demon, or, a review of After Eden”