Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls

by Patrick Ness

At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting — he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments.

The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth.

From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd — whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself — Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.

This was a beautiful story!  I'm coming to realize that any book I pick up by Patrick Ness is going to be rated highly.  The man is a genius with words.  After reading The Knife Of Never Letting Go I knew that anything written by him was going to make me a gooey mess.  Anything written by him in honor of a friend who died of cancer?  Priceless.
This is me:

This is me on Patrick Ness:

Conor is coping the best he can while his mother undergoes treatment for cancer. 
Sometimes his best just isn't good enough. 
At school, people are starting to pretend he's invisible just so they don't have to think about him or his mom.  Everyone except the bullies, that is. 
His grandma's house is like a museum, and how is he supposed to live there when it seems cleaner than his mom's hospital room?
His dad is a jerk.  Seriously. 
And his mom is dying.
The monster helps him learn to cope in the way only a giant tree monster can: by destroying.
The writing was beautiful and the imagery and feeling behind the words really pulled me into the story. I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Mistress Of The Solstice by Anna Kashina

Mistress Of The Solstice

by Anna Kashina

As the head priestess of the ancient Solstice cult, Marya must sacrifice a virgin every year. She copes with this gruesome duty by assuming a mask of cold detachment, as her father—the evil tzar Kashchey—devours the maidens' souls to maintain his youth and power. It is his power alone that keeps Marya’s kingdom safe from all enemies—or so she was raised to believe.

When Ivan arrives on a quest to stop the virgin sacrifices, Marya throws all her magic against him. To maintain her life—and that of her father—she must destroy Ivan before he completes his quest. But can she find it in her heart to do so?

Baba Yaga, Leshy, Vodyanoi, and the ancient animal deities come alive in this beautifully crafted romantic story that will take you into the authentic world of Russian fairy tales—with a dark, sensual twist.

This was a very interesting twist on several Russian folktales.  It wasn't a straight retelling but a story with fairy tales woven into it.  There were characters that are well known, such as Baba Yaga, and the lesser known Primal Spirits.  It was very much like reading Grimm's Fairy Tales, only with some naughty bits worked in.  Because I'm sure I would have remembered if Grimm's had that much sex in it.
The writing style was rich and brought life to the story, especially the parts with Baba Yaga.  I love anything about the old crone.
There were some odd grammatical mistakes, though that could be because of kindle formatting errors in the copy I was sent. 
I have one complaint which kept me from rating this book four stars.  The two main characters weren't people I really cared enough about.  I knew from reading the synopsis that Marya was going to be difficult to like but I had hoped that eventually I would grow fond of her.  I didn't like her at all, even at the end of the story.  She was willfully blind to the fact that her father was evil and her sacrificing girls was nothing short of murder.  Several times she felt anxious and troubled, but she pushed the thoughts away and kept on with it.  She ignored everyone who had tried to tell her the truth.  There were very few parts in the story where I could feel like I could empathize with her and it left me feeling like she didn't deserve Ivan's kindness.  Anyone who knows they are doing wrong but ignore their intuition so they don't have to feel guilty isn't going to make my list of people I want to know.  Even in the end I didn't feel as though she had really changed.
Ivan was more interesting, but we didn't get to know him very well.  I was constantly trying to figure him out but there was no actual insight into his personality.  He was a two-dimensional hero thrown into a quest by the other characters.     
Even with the problems I had with the main characters, I was interested enough to keep reading.  The world-building was unique and the addition of characters from Russian folklore made it fun to read.  

Monday, October 28, 2013

Feed By Mira Grant


by Mira Grant

The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beaten the common cold. But in doing so we created something new, something terrible that no one could stop. The infection spread, virus blocks taking over bodies and minds with one, unstoppable command: FEED. Now, twenty years after the Rising, bloggers Georgia and Shaun Mason are on the trail of the biggest story of their lives - the dark conspiracy behind the infected. The truth will get out, even if it kills them.

I am not a person who likes politics.  I hate to hear political discussions and I run at the slightest hint of a debate.  I don't like the way politics can make some reasonably sane people turn to hatred and bashing to get their point across.  I have never seen a calm and rational political discussion.  

If a book has any hint of politics, I may read it but without much hope of actually liking it.  Who knew that all I needed was the addition of some flesh-crazed zombies to secure my interest?

Politics = Meh. 
Politics + Zombies = Awesome.

This story follows two sibling bloggers who are reporting from the campaign trail of a presidential-hopeful.  After regular media let the world down by not reporting the first initial zombie outbreaks, bloggers are the most trusted source for news and views.  Shaun and Georgia are two such bloggers.  She is a "Newsie" who reports strict facts with as little opinion as possible and he is an "Irwin", the type of blogger most known for their daring acts of 'watch me poke this zombie with a stick'.  Together they make a remarkable team.

Told in first person POV, the story is a brilliant mix of suspenseful fight scenes and tense political discussion.  The politics are far enough removed from our own issues to keep it from becoming irritating. 

I really liked the overall feeling to the story.  It was tense and had the feeling of being balanced precariously on the edge of something horrible.  The world has managed to (somewhat) come back from the near-annihilation of civilization, and there are cities full of terrified people living behind walls and under constant monitoring with blood tests and virus screening. 

Shaun and Georgia are very well thought-out characters.  They are extremely co-dependent, but who can blame them in this situation? 
They have each other's backs through everything that happens.  In a world when zombies aren't the only monsters out there, it's a very good thing they can rely on each other so much. 

The characters drew me in immediately and I cared more about them than I did anything else that happened in the book.  The plot was great but the characters were what brought me back to the book hour after hour.   

The writing style is straightforward and not prone to flowery description and it fits the story expertly.  Much like Georgia's own writing, it is the simple facts of events and emotions caused by them.  All told with Georgia's dry humor.   

4 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Cold Commands by Richard K. Morgan

The Cold Commands by Richard K. Morgan

(A Land Fit For Heroes #2)

Ringil Eskiath, scarred wielder of the kiriath-forged broadsword Ravensfriend, is a man on the run from his past and the family who have disowned him, from the slave trade magnates of Trelayne who want him dead, and apparently from the dark gods themselves, who are taking an interest but making no more sense than they ever have. Outlawed and exiled from his ancestral home in the north, Ringil has only one place left to turn Yhelteth, city heart of the southern Empire, where perhaps he can seek asylum with the kiriath half-breed Archeth Indamaninarmal, former war comrade and now high-up advisor to the Emperor Jhiral Khimran II. But Archeth Indamaninarmal has problems of her own to contend with, as does her house guest, bodyguard and one time steppe nomad Egar the Dragonbane. And far from gaining the respite he is seeks, Ringil will instead find himself implicated in fresh schemes and doubtful allegiances no safer than those he has left behind. Old enemies are stirring, the old order is rotted through and crumbling, and though no-one yet knows it, the city of Yhelteth is about to explode.

This was a wonderfully written book, as I expected it would be from my experience reading The Steel Remains. The world building is lush yet realistic, full of pain and filth nothing even close to rainbows and butterflies. I love it even more for that.

It starts off slow, a lot slower than The Steel Remains. For a while I was wondering where it was all heading until I decided to just go with it. I do prefer the faster pace of the first book, but the pacing in The Cold Commands allowed for more character introspection and development.

Ringil is broken and cares for very little in the world except his two friends...and maybe his sword. He'll do anything and use anyone in order to get what he wants. Sometimes he walks a very thin line between honor and cruelty.
Egar is sick of living a soft life, he wants a good fight and a good death. He wants a woman he can't have and to feel like he used to when he was younger.
I don't think Archeth knows what she wants, except answers to where her people went and why she was left behind.
It's not a pretty story, though the prose is beautifully written. The overall feeling of the book is hopeless and dark, with maybe a glimmer of light here and there.
I love the characters Mr. Morgan has given us. They are world-weary and sick of everything and everyone. And bored. It's a bad idea for somewhat-heroic warriors to get bored. The result is a lot of bloodshed and some pissed-off officials. And lots of swearing.
They have seen and done terrible things that would give weaker men (and women) nightmares, but they just shrug it off. Their age is fast catching up with them. Ringil and Egar both realize that their bodies can't put up with the abuse like they used to be able to, but they barrel through with grim determination.
Both men are the very definition of anti-heroes. Archeth isn't much better, though her personality is usually held in check with an iron will.

I had a lot of fun reading this. I'd recommend the series to anyone who loves an anti-hero and some great fight scenes and gore. And very inventive swearing.

4 out of 5 stars