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Today’s Top Ten is over at the The Book Wars. Check it out!
Paperback, 597 pages
Published June 25th 2013 by Orbit
Trouble, treachery, and magic just won’t stop plaguing Cat Barahal. The Master of the Wild Hunt has stolen her husband Andevai. The ruler of the Taino kingdom blames her for his mother’s murder. The infamous General Camjiata insists she join his army to help defeat the cold mages who rule Europa. An enraged fire mage wants to kill her. And Cat, her cousin Bee, and her half-brother Rory, aren’t even back in Europa yet, where revolution is burning up the streets.
Revolutions to plot. Enemies to crush. Handsome men to rescue.
Cat and Bee have their work cut out for them.
Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I was so satisfied with a series. Most of them always leave something unsaid or ambiguous and these things niggle at me because imagination only takes me so far. You know? So settle in. I have a lot to say about the last installment in the Spiritwalker trilogy.
I recently reread the first one just to see if the magic of the book still affected me in the same way and I am happy to report that yes, it did. I appreciated the novel more on the second read because I could focus on the nuances rather than the primary narrative. I haven’t read any of Elliott’s other works yet but if they are anything like the Spiritwalker trilogy, I’ll be loving them. I read Cold Steel rather more slowly and at a far more relaxed pace than I am known to do so considering my desire to practically inhale the book. Because I am currently fasting, I find it difficult to focus for too long on one thing and this worked well with Cold Steel. Because the novel is immense and complicated, this meant that I read a chunk, digested it, thought about it and then continued the journey. I think this helped me not feel overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the things happening in the novel. This also made me appreciate the details and the nuanced relationships between the characters.
I have spoken out about this before but I will reiterate once again that I find YA to be miserably lacking where friendships between girls are concerned. The synthesis of a sisterhood, heck sisterhood itself seems like an alien (and improbable) concept where (most) YA fiction is concerned. That’s why it was so refreshing to read a novel in which there were strong female characters no matter their importance in the narrative itself. All females in this novel kicked ass in several different ways. They are not all physical fighters; Bee uses her skill with words and oratory to make a difference while Cat takes a much more physical approach. But more than that, it is the relationship between Cat and Bee that won me totally over. I have experienced it many times but when female friends find boyfriends they, intentionally or not, phase you out from their lives. They begin existing as an extension of that relationship and more as a couple than as an individual in a relationship. But that’s getting ahead of myself here. One of the most powerful moments in the novel is when Bee slaps Vai for speaking to Cat rudely and contemptuously. She stands up for her best friend and cousin and it’s sweeter because I have been there. I have been by friends who got treated badly by their partners. I empathized so hard at those moments, honestly. I wanted to cheer.
The other most awesome part about this novel was the romance. Yes, it wasn’t actually perfect and there were some boring moments but such is Elliott’s wordsmithery that even loving Cat and Vai together, I would have been happy if Cat had cut her strings, burned her bridges and moved on. Vai is just as flawed as Cat, perhaps more so and while he is wonderful in certain ways, he is extremely frustrating in others and that was expressed quite sharply. His vanity, his foibles, his personality and his insecurities all came together to create a credible conflict between Cat and him and that served to keep the tension (and readability) of the relationship alive. What I also loved is that Elliott offers us two types of romance: one is the true blue stars in your eyes romance, a la Cat and Vai, and the other is love as you can when you want how you want like Bee does. Neither way is scorned or judged and I loved the liberty offered by this.
The story itself is immense and readers are asked to take in quite a lot of things. However, things are not tied up neatly and smugly where the world is concerned and it makes sense because the revolution occurring cannot be contained within just one book. It’s breadth is far too wide to be encompassed in just one novel and that is not the primary motive of the narrative at all. At its heart, the novel is a bildungsroman of sorts – for Cat, Vai and Bee.
So yeah, I was supremely satisfied by this trilogy. I didn’t always love it but it always impressed me. The third novel is the strongest one and if you haven’t picked it up yet, what the heck are you waiting for?
So I got sick. Like, really really sick. Not death bed sick but close. Anyway. things should return to normal here, soonish. Say by Monday? Thanks for hanging on.
It’s that time of the year when I start thinking about reading challenges. I do not usually take part in any official challenges because I’m a very fickle reader. I like to read whatever I feel like without having to follow a particular list or schedule. This is why I’m so incompatible with book clubs. However, I like to challenge myself. So I designed some unofficial reading challenges to keep my reading interesting. You are welcome to join me in any of these challenges.
Literary Fiction Challenge
So admittedly, I don’t read too many lit fic. novels. However, since I read so many kid lit, I feel like I need to read some adult lit. to give my reading some variety and keep me exposed to different kinds of writing. The books I want to read this year (in no particular order) are:
- The Tiger’s Wife – Tea O’Breht
- Room – Emma Donoghue
- The Secrets of Jin Shei – Alma Alexander (Not sure how literary this is but whatever.)
- A Lion Among Men – Gregory Maguire
- Shantaram – Gregory David Roberts
- The Sweet Girl – Annabel Lyon
- Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
- Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
- Tell the Wolves I’m Home – Carol Rifka Brunt
- When We Were Executioners – J. M. McDermott
- The Man Who Rained – Ali Shaw
- Chocolat – Joanne Harris
Another genre I tend not to read too much of if I can help it. However, I’m going to try and challenge myself to read a modest number this coming year. The books are:
- The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
- Tom Jones – Henry Fielding
- Pinnochio – Carlo Colladi
- The Metamorphoses – Ovid
- Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
I’ll be reading a whole lot of critical work as I work on my thesis in the latter part of 2013. However, I think it would be majorly interesting to read a selection of non-fiction novels to spice up my reading. Not very many. The books I have chosen are:
- Mother Tongue – Bill Bryson
- The Butterfly Mosque – G. Willow Wilson
- A Literate Passion – Anais Nin
- The Horologican – Mark Forsyth
- Fantastic Metamorphoses, Other Worlds – Marina Warner
Literature from Around the World
I have a fondness for translated work, especially Asian lit. I’d like to get some diversity in my reading. My selections include:
- Please Look After Mom – Kyung-Sook Shin
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larrson
- My Name is Red – Orhan Pamuk
- Baba Yaga Laid an Egg – Dubravka Ugresic
- The Hurricane Party – Klas Ostegren
- The Goddess Chronicle – Natsuo Kirino
- Twinkle Twinkle – Kaori Ekuni
- The Bastard of Istanbul – Eli Shafak
- The Fox Window and Other Stories – Awa Naoko
- The Summer of Ubume – Natsuhiko Kyogoku
- The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle – Haruki Murakami
- School Girl – Osamu Dazai
Audrey Whitticomb has nothing to fear. Her mother is the superhero Morning Star, the most deadly crime-fighter in the Twin Cities, so it’s hard for Audrey not to feel safe. That is, until she’s lured into the sweet night air by something human and not human–something with talons and teeth, and a wide, scarlet smile.
Now Audrey knows the truth: her mom doesn’t fight crime at night. She fights Harrowers–livid, merciless beings who were trapped Beneath eons ago. Yet some have managed to escape. And they want Audrey dead, just because of who she is: one of the Kin.
To survive, Audrey will need to sharpen the powers she has always had. When she gets close to someone, dark corners of the person’s memories become her own, and she sometimes even glimpses the future. If Audrey could only get close to Patrick Tigue, a powerful Harrower masquerading as human, she could use her Knowing to discover the Harrowers’ next move. But Leon, her mother’s bossy, infuriatingly attractive sidekick, has other ideas. Lately, he won’t let Audrey out of his sight.
When an unthinkable betrayal puts Minneapolis in terrible danger, Audrey discovers a wild, untamed power within herself. It may be the key to saving her herself, her family, and her city. Or it may be the force that destroys everything–and everyone–she loves.
I hate questions that ask me what kind of superpower I would have like to have because I don’t see why I have to choose just one – since I am dreaming, why can I not dream about having them all? But that’s just me. I was never the type to read the Marvel comics – to be fair, we didn’t have them in Fiji. Or if we did, I didn’t see them. The closest thing I had to graphic novels about superheroes was Phantom, this dude who lives in a cave with his wife and kid, goes around in a bodysuit (tights) and has a ring with a skull on it. He solves crimes but I don’t know his motivation. Anyway, this little prologue is to prepare you for Dark Star, a rare young adult novel about superheroes. Well, one directed at girls. It was the first one I read anyway.
It is not without its flaws but I enjoyed it for a couple of reasons. Audrey is easy to like, snarky, feisty and everything I want in a protagonist. And she has a really cool Mom. No seriously, if there were awards for great mothers in young adult literature, she would win it. She has her own life, her own issues apart from Audrey; she is the Morning Star and that becomes more her identity than the persona she dons to save the world every night. It would have been easy for Audrey to be drowned by her mother’s loud and larger than life presence but to Frenette’s credit, she creates a careful balance between the two so that while the reader is a bit awed by Morning Star, it is still Audrey’s story that is most attractive. The pacing is quite brisk.
I was quite impressed by the plotting to be honest. Frenette took some twists and turns that I hadn’t expected and the complication I had expected didn’t come to pass. What I’m trying to say is that the book isn’t predictable and I like that. The romance is interesting though I’m not too pleased with the whole protector business. It makes sense that they do but well, I hope the romance is delved into a bit more in the next book. Also, Audrey’s rushing into situations while knowing the situations are dangerous and she is not equipped to handle them got a bit old. However, the whole superhero culture is fascinating, especially the bit about being “called” to be a Guardian and how that effects a person.
So do I recommend this to you? I do. I enjoyed it. it’s not perfect but it’s entertaining and I think it should tide you over as you wait for the next superhero movie.
Darcy Jones doesn’t remember anything before the day she was abandoned as a child outside a Chicago firehouse. She has never really belonged anywhere—but she couldn’t have guessed that she comes from an alternate world where the Great Chicago Fire didn’t happen and deadly creatures called Shades terrorize the human population.
Memories begin to haunt Darcy when a new boy arrives at her high school, and he makes her feel both desire and desired in a way she hadn’t thought possible. But Conn’s interest in her is confusing. It doesn’t line up with the way he first looked at her.
As if she were his enemy.
When Conn betrays Darcy, she realizes that she can’t rely on anything—not herself, not the laws of nature, and certainly not him. Darcy decides to infiltrate the Shadow Society and uncover the Shades’ latest terrorist plot. What she finds out will change her world forever . . .
In this smart, compulsively readable novel, master storyteller Marie Rutkoski has crafted an utterly original world, characters you won’t soon forget, and a tale full of intrigue and suspense.
First, let me talk about I liked. This is a fresh mythology, I don’t think we’ve been down this road before. At least, I haven’t. the pacing is good and things happen throughout the novel though there is a lot happening at the end. Anyway.
I was excited when I first found out that Rutkoski was writing a YA novel because her middle trilogy is a favourite of mine. I expected something along the same lines in The Shadow Society but unfortunately, I didn’t get it. I don’t want to say that everyone will have the same feeling or reaction as me because obviously, that is untrue. My feelings about this book may be because I am a very close reader and I tend to read a lot between the lines and am conscious of what is implicit in the narrative
What troubles me most about this novel is that it feels less organic and more staged. I am just speculating here, of course, but honestly, throughout the novel, I got the feeling that the author was following a guide on how to write the perfect YA novel. What elements to add, what not to add, what works and what doesn’t. It didn’t seem like the story came together as it was being told but rather as though these elements were pushed together in the hopes they would bond and form a cohesive narrative. My feelings, anyway.
For instance, the love interest. The main one. I hated him. I hated him quite a lot and I usually do not have the energy to hate fictional characters. He is violent towards the main character, he hurts, betrays her more than once and in spite of all that, in spite of her friends acting as though the guy is, I don’t know, a skunk in disguise, the main character still falls for him. And I do not see one single reason why. I mean, yeah he has a reason for hating the main character and you know, arresting her, throwing her into prison and taking away from everything she’s familiar with and everyone she loves, oh but he’s hurting and he’s misunderstood and she loves him. Give me a freaking break. Like seriously. Maybe I have left puberty far behind and that is why this guy rings all the wrong bells for me. And then there is the absolutely unnecessary love interest. I mean, really? He has no reason to be in love with her and I don’t see why he likes her especially since she’s such a troll to him – even when he helps her out. Then there is another guy, her best friend, who loves her and has loved her since eons ago but of course, his charisma fades in the face of the misunderstood only occasionally violent main character.
Well. The plot also is not very impressive. There are predictable twists and there’s this “eureka” moment which is not really one at all. And just…I did not like the book. The way the friends react when this brutish love interest makes an appearance is too melodramatic to be real (even though it turns out their misgivings were sound). I just was majorly disappointed in this novel. If you want something by Marie Rutkoski which gives you a more accurate look at her wordsmithery, I recommend her Kronos Chronicles. Vastly superior.
On My Radar is a meme inspired by The Book Smugglers.
Set on an isolated island off the Scottish coast, in a community run by women who are in awe of a mysterious structure called the Thrashing House, the novel is narrated by two teenage girls in very different circumstances. Mary is doing her best to protect her younger brother, Barney, as the island’s sons are mysteriously disappearing. Morgan is scheming to escape the prison her parents have made of their home. The two girls unite, each on a desperate mission in which secrets will be revealed and lives changed forever
Young Wataru Mitani’s life is a mess. His father has abandoned him and his mother has been hospitalized after a suicide attempt. Desperately he searches for some way to change his life; a way to alter his fate.
To achieve his goal, he must navigate the magical world of Vision, a land filled with creatures both fierce and friendly. And to complicate matters, he must outwit a merciless rival from the real world.
Wataru’s ultimate destination is the Tower of Destiny where a goddess of fate awaits. Only when he has finished his journey and collected five elusive gemstones will he possess the Demon’s Bane; the key that will unlock his future.
Charity, bravery, faith, grace and the power of darkness and light: these are the provinces of each gemstone. Brought together, they have the immeasurable power to bring Wataru’s family back together again.
Penelope Tredwell is the feisty thirteen-year-old orphan heiress of the bestselling magazine, The Penny Dreadful. Her masterly tales of the macabre are gripping Victorian Britain, even if no one knows she’s the real author. One day a letter she receives from the governor of the notorious Bedlam madhouse plunges her into an adventure more terrifying than anything she ever imagined…
THE GRAVEYARD BOOK meets JONATHAN STRANGE & MR. NORRELL in this gothic steampunk page-turner for readers of all ages.
Bartholomew Kettle won’t live long. Changelings never do. The child of a human mother and a faery father, Bartholomew is a secret, despised by both his races. If the English don’t hang him for witchcraft, the faerys will do something worse. So his mother keeps him locked away, hidden from the world in the faery slums of Bath.
But one day Bartholomew witnesses a mysterious lady kidnap another changeling through a shadowy portal, and he realizes the danger is closer than ever before. Changelings are surfacing in the rivers, their bodies empty of blood and bone and their skin covered in red markings. A powerful figure sits in the shadows, pushing the pieces in place for some terrible victory. When a sinister faery in a top-hat begins to stalk Bartholomew’s steps, he knows it’s his turn. Something is coming for him. Something needs him. But when you’re a changeling there’s no where to run…
A sweeping Gothic thriller based on the spine-chilling “Bluebeard” fairytale.
17-year-old Sophia Petheram has been sheltered by her doting family all her life, until the day her father dies. It’s 1855, and with no money and few options, she goes to live with her guardian, the mysterious Bernard de Cressac, at the astonishingly lavish Wyndriven Abbey in Mississippi.
Sophie has always longed for a comfortable life, and she finds herself both attracted to and shocked by the charm and easy manners of her overgenerous guardian. But as she begins to piece together the mystery of his past, it’s as if thread by thread, a silken net is woven around her. And when she begins glimpsing the ghosts of his former wives (all with hair as red as her own) in the forgotten corners and dark hallways of the Abbey, Sophie knows she’s in de Cressac’s trap.
From the winner of the 2004 Caldecott Medal comes a memorable new work, a novel of singular insight and imagination that transports readers to the Old Country, where “all the fairy tales come from, where there was magic — and there was war.” There, Gisella stares a moment too long into the eyes of a fox, and she and the fox exchange shapes. Gisella’s quest to get her girl-body back takes her on a journey across a war-ravaged country that has lost its shape. She encounters magic, bloodshed, and questions of power and justice — until finally, looking into the eyes of the fox once more, she faces a strange and startling choice about her own nature. Part adventure story and part fable; exciting, beautifully told, rich in humor and wisdom, The Old Country is the work of an artist and storyteller at the height of his powers.
So recently I read TheStorySiren’s post on the ways authors can get her to read their books and this is sort of similar except I am not, at all, talking about review copies since I’m not that prominent of a book blogger (yet, hey, who knows? My eminence is just undiscovered, not nonexistent, hur).
Till recently, I, and my to read list, were easy where book choices are concerned. If it was YA, paranormal, well then, off it would go into my to read list. But – you knew there was a but coming, come on now – times are changing, my lovelies. As the market continues to get saturated by YA novels (everyone wants to get in on the action, or in this case, the profit), the Reader (it’s a noun because it is referring to me or did I mean it is capitalized, yeah whatever, you get the idea) needs to be more discerning. She, because of the limits on her free time, has no choice but to become more careful of the choices she makes with regards to the books she chooses to read in the future. (See how many times I used choice/choose in that sentence? I am boss.)
For one thing, I use the library a lot but I buy books too and I loathe buying books I end up hating. Money is money, kay? And I don’t have much of it so…
For another, my time is precious.
And these two criteria are shared by many other (if not all) readers. Now, following is a list that is personalized to me but my hangups and nitpicking might be shared by other people so if you are an author/bookseller who might have stumbled onto my blog by whatever fate, please do me a favor and read it.
In my opinion, this is one of the most important aspects of the book. I hate it when there is no synopsis available (and yes, there are books who have no synopsis, as weird as that may sound). How am I supposed to know whether I am interested in the story the book is telling if there’s no synopsis?
Or, if there is a synopsis, it is not reflective of anything new or innovative the book may be contributing to the genre. I am not lying, there are books out there whose synopses can be exchanged for another without any significant difference to the plot. Maybe it is because a lot of the books coming out nowadays are copies of each other – vampires/wolves/whatever, love triangle, teen girl, insta-love etc – but dude, you want me to read your book right? Make it sound like something new!
This is not the 17th century where “new and original” were dirty words (in literature, in Britain – context). We are modern people running after the newest “original” thrill. If I’m going to read your book, the synopsis has to be appealing.
And well written. For God’s sakes, check your spelling, your grammar, your sentence structure. No matter how pretty the cover is, I am not going to buy a book whose synopsis sounds like the story is the latest reincarnation of Twilight. No.
Blurbs and Comparisons
You know how in books there are little tags that say “the latest Hunger Games” or “Twilight for new readers*” – every time I see one of those, I roll my eyes. Comparisons do nothing but harm. At least to me. For one thing, there is already The Hunger Games (of which I am an avid fan) and proclamations about there being a “new” Hunger Games does nothing but make me scoff. We don’t need a new Hunger Games, we need something new. And, God forbid, the book doesn’t live up to the hype (of being like The Hunger Games because those are pretty big boots to fill) then there’s mockery involved.
The best bet? Leave it be.
I don’t know about you guys, but blurbs pay no role when I am making a decision about whether to read a book or not. Just because I like the book the author doing the blurb has written doesn’t mean our reading tastes are similar. So. Yeah. On the flip side, if I like author who has blurbed the book and I hate the novel, it’s going to make me wary of reading blurbing author’s books because now I’m all suspicious about what her new book is like, I will wonder how much she was influenced by the book I hate and if her works reflects the thoughts/tropes…you get the idea.
I’m not asking for much, am I? But really, the only important thing out of the three is the synopsis. One example of a good book with a terrible synopsis is The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman.
It’s finals time so I shall be battling papers and stress and my posts will be extremely infrequent. Please bear with me.