Tag: 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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Long no time no see, or, excuses for not blogging

So, um, this is awkward. My last post was on July 31st? Like six months ago? Not sure who’s still around, but I figure I might as well take up bashing and crying over books again. The problem was that I started college and got really emo and lonely and had no time to read. Note to self–always read books to stave away the emo.

You’d think I’d have time to read during Christmas break, but I had to sleep, fangirl over Star Wars, and brush up on my lightsaber dueling skills. (It’s bad. My little sister keeps bashing my knuckles in.)

ditto
It’s not a bad way to spend a vacation, minus the constant quarreling over who’s the REAL Kylo in the family. No one wants to be Kylo. His mask is cool, though.

Currently, I’m supposed to be indexing a book, so of course I started reading some random book on Kindle. But hey, I’m back in the game! It’s a beautiful, lyrical cluster of WTF, so that should be fun to review. Also, expect lots of Star Wars gifs from now on.

Honestly, I’ve sort of lost touch with YA. I have no idea what’s big, what’s annoying, what new outrage is around the corner, etc. I hope to remedy that this year. I’m probably the only person who’s making a new year’s resolution to read more bad YA novels, but I feel like that’s a resolution I can actually keep. So I am filled with hope.

An apology (that no one asked for)

An apology (that no one asked for)

I can’t do it. I have the book sitting there under the what’s next box, but I just can’t do…it.

I am of course, talking about Dust Girl. It was a wonderful book. I read it in two days. But I can’t write more than two paragraphs about it, and incomplete ones at that. Some books are meant to be savored and kept to oneself, I suppose.

It doesn’t matter anyway, seeing that the people looking forward to the review were all of zero, but I’m irrationally annoyed that I put a book under the what’s next box AND NOW HAVE TO TAKE IT OFF IN THE WORST WAY POSSIBLE. I FEEL INCOMPLETE.

This is not helping my stress levels.

all villains need is eyeliner

And don’t call me a drama queen.

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.

I wanted to like it, but I COULDN’T, or, a review of A Great and Terrible Beauty

a great and terrible beauty

It’s not that I object to reading about schoolgirl bitchery, though it’s not exactly my preferred genre. Dumb schoolgirl bitchery, on the other hand…

I wanted to like this book. And, when I started, it had every promise of being likable. The setting of India was interesting, and the author took a risk in making her character a bit more historically accurate than most (at first). You see, Gemma Doyle is a bratty sixteen-year-old who hates living in India and makes no bones about it. I actually liked that detail because in historical fiction about Britain, India is usually presented as this far off exotic land tasting of spice and freedom–not an ordinary place with ordinary people. A sixteen-year-old British girl wanting to party in London seems pretty natural to me, regardless of how low she descends in reaching her objective. Continue reading “I wanted to like it, but I COULDN’T, or, a review of A Great and Terrible Beauty”

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.

Making power imbalances uncreepy, or, how authors can stop annoying me

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This is depressing, so have some kitty. With bonus bat collar!

Power imbalances are everywhere in romance. Although they’re ubiquitous in YA, they’re even more common in the adult romance industry. If you’re at all familiar with the romance genre, chances are you’ve read a story that features one. Maybe it was about a pirate captain who captures some British noblewoman. Or another billionaire and a random girl (God forbid!). Usually, the imbalance is skewed in the male character’s favor, for reasons that would take a whole post to get into. These types of stories often turn me off, but not because the premise is inherently bad. It’s just, well, authors screw up. A lot, in various cringe-worthy ways. Luckily, I’m here to show how to make skeevy gender dynamics more palatable! Continue reading “Making power imbalances uncreepy, or, how authors can stop annoying me”

Somedaaaaay, my alpha will cooooome, or, a review of The Sheik

The Shiek

This is it, you guys. I’ve found the One True Alpha. All the rest of you posers can go home. Nothing like vintage alpha for a bit of nostalgia, and at 1919, The Sheik is considered by some the first romance novel ever. Sometimes, the original actually is the best  worst. NOTHING will ever be as terrible or as hilarious as this book. Hence the reason I read the entire thing with a gigantic smile on my face. IT WAS SO AWESOME. Except for…well, we’ll get to that. Continue reading “Somedaaaaay, my alpha will cooooome, or, a review of The Sheik”

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”