Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Shadows

Grace Knox's life has been turned upside down. Her father recently died, leaving their family with a failed business, lots of debt, lawsuits against them, and struggling to survive. Her family's only hope is for her to marry a rich man. Fortunately, Patrick Devlin, a wealthy childhood friend, expresses interest in her. He's nice, age appropriate, and seems to truly care for her. Enter Derry, or Diarmid of Irish legend. He and the Fianna, ancient Irish warriors, were called by Patrick in order to overthrow the English rule of Ireland. Derry infiltrates the Devlin house to see if Patrick is the one who called them and what his intentions are. Unfortunately, Patrick thought the spell didn't work and also calls up the Fomori, a rival band of ancient warriors known to be harbingers of chaos and enslavement. Will they put aside their difference to work to free Ireland or willy they destroy each other in an epic battle?

The Shadows immediately interested me because of the focus on Irish mythology and Victorian society. The book does explore Irish mythology that I wasn't famliar with before. The Fianna and the stories involving them were the most interesting part of the story for me. They were dead for thousands of years because their hubris turned them into selfish tyrants A spell was bestowed upon them to either find a cause worthy enough for a priestess to agree with them and sacrifice herself for it or they would simply fail and die. Their internal stories before this were also drama filled, with stolen loves, killer boars, jealous exes, and tragic deaths. The Fianna in the present posed as a street gang in order to blend in while they figure out their situation. Overall, I liked them, but I would have liked to get a better picture of all of them, instead of just the leader Finn and Derry. The Victorian society aspects were inconsistent and lacking. Sometimes Grace would freak out at impropriety and other times, she would embrace it. There were no concrete consequences for not following the expectations of her station and it made that part of the book fall flat.

Grace is honestly kind of boring. I feel for her and her situation, but her constant oscillating between Patrick and Derry is annoying. Plus her decision for this book will most certainly be changed at least once before the series is over. Her logic and thought process was odd and unnatural at times and I felt more annoyed by her than anything. It feels like nothing truly happens throughout the book. It takes a long time to even move forward with the characters finally becoming aware of each other. Nothing is resolved and nothing very exciting happens. It feels like a second book in a trilogy, which is typically all set up and no payoff which is saved for the last book.

The Shadows delivered on Irish mythology, but not much else. I felt as if nothing really happened except a lot of set up through the entire novel. I grew bored with the story as a result and I'm not sure I would even read the next book in the series.

My rating: 2.5/5 fishmuffins

Monday, July 28, 2014

(Don't You) Forget About Me

Gardnerville is a miraculous town. No one dies of disease and only the extremely old finally succumb after over a hundred years. People come there as a last resort when all treatment has failed. But the town isn't perfect; it's also magical. You might think this would be amazing and wonderful to live in, but the reality has hormone filled and emotional teenagers murdering their peers with magic powers. The effects are the most devastating during fourth years. Sisters Piper and Skyler were always inseparable until Piper committed a horrific crime during a fourth year and was then imprisoned in the reformatory. Skyler has been taking forget-me-not pills to live in a constant state of oblivion. She gets the pills in exchange for pointing out people who are on the verge of emotional instability that would give rise to another disaster. If she wants to save her sister, she has to kick the pills and figure out a way to stop the murderous cycle in Gardernville.

(Don't You) Forget About Me was a surprising read. I had an idea going into it how the plot would go and I couldn't have been more wrong. Plus the concept of a magical town with a dark side is one reason why I couldn't put the book down. Gardnerville is a magical place filled with health and people who live abnormally long. The price for that longevity isn't small: every year strange and dangerous occurrences happen with the teens there, triggered by hormones and heightened emotion. Anything can happen from heating the weather to unbearable temperatures to electric orbs that lure people into touching them to compelling people to jump off a cliff. Is it really worth it? People with inoperable tumors or incurable diseases will live healthily for a very long time, but risk dying in a bizarre and unforeseeable way. The ways the extreme fourth years can manifest were varied and unique. These scenes provided a level surrealism and dark whimsy that I haven't read in a while.

The characters were odd in their own ways and the town gave most of them some sort of supernatural power. Skyler is the most unreliable narrator I've ever read because she doesn't even know what's true or false. She constantly takes these forget-me-not pills that send her into comfortable oblivion with no idea how much of the past or present she has forgotten. The reader stumbles around with and her tries to make sense of the glimpses of the present and the past and it all comes together in an unexpected way in the end. Skyler's sister Piper is hard to deal with. She's strong, take charge, and bossy, but she doesn't seem to always think things through or consider how her actions will affect other people. I liked her in general, but she could be annoying. The romance with Foote was sweet, but not really needed in the story. I liked his character all right, but the story wouldn't have changed much without him,

(Don'tYou) Forget About Me is a surreal and mindbending adventure. I love Gardnerville and I enjoyed trying to solve the mystery before the end, which I failed at. The characters are memorable and fully realized. I would definitely read other books by Kate Karyus Quinn. Highly recommended.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Darcy Patel spent a month during her senior year furiously writing a complete YA novel. It's been picked up by a large book publisher and Darcy puts off college to edit the book as well as write and edit a sequel. She moves to New York City for a change of scenery, encountering other authors (both debut and seasoned) to help her survive in the city and the publishing industry. The first book she's writing is called Afterworlds and features Lizzie, a girl who can travel to the space between living and dead after being the sole survivor in a terrorist attack. Both girls fall in love, experience heartbreak. and have adventures they never expected to have.

Afterworlds is two novels in one. One is in our world with Darcy Patel, debut young adult author struggling to finish her first book, and the other is in a fictional world with Lizzie, survivor and psychopomp (one who escorts the dead to the afterlife and yes it sounds weird). They are told in alternating chapters with no indication when it switches save for change of point of view. Each story is distinct and I never had a problem guessing which one I was in at any given point. Although the book is lengthy at over 600 pages, both stories kept momentum and my interest.

I honestly expected Darcy's story to be insanely boring and hard to get through compared to the much more exciting other story that has ghosts, another world, and a cute and mysterious death god. Contemporary fiction isn't my favorite genre either. I was pleasantly surprised when her story was equally thrilling and entertaining to read. Her story has more things every day people can relate to: the detachment from her familial culture, the discovery of her sexuality, her first relationship, and the trials and tribulations of creating a book. I liked Darcy because of her journey. She started out as extremely naive and unsure of just about everything, but eager to embark on this new adventure. Along the way, she matured and learned to trust in those she loves and how to make more informed, responsible desicions. I loved her relationship with Imogen Gray. Westerfeld captures the feeling of first love well, the magic and also the insecurity. It's also nice to see an LGBT romance when so many teen books act like they don't exist at all.

The story within a story was awesome and I couldn't get enough of it. The first chapter just hit me like a freight train and I couldn't put it down after that. Lizzie experienced a very traumatic event and on top of processing that, she has to figure out her new powers as a psychopomp. The character are less interesting than Darcy's story, but the concepts and themes are more complex. Ghosts survive on people's memories of them and they disappear when those people are gone. Their personalities and memories are also affected when someone dies who remembers a part of them that no one else remembers. It calls into question if ghosts are really people and never really resolves it. Lizzie has a whole slew of abilities including traveling on a river made of shreds of ghosts/memories, visiting buildings that are long gone, travelling through walls, and of course, talking to ghosts. The story had some seriously creeptastic moments, which I loved! This story also had the most problems. The death cult that orchestrated the terrorist attack is a big blank and isn't explored at all. The characters are less detailed. My biggest problem was when Lizzie commits a horrific crime and only feels remotely bad because her death god boyfriend doesn't want to spend time with her anymore. Darcy's narrative informs this book as the characters in that story discuss edits and decisions made about the plot, characters, etc, which is a cool added level.

Both stories are compelling in their own way, but Darcy's story feels more complete and well written. I think everyone could find something they like whether it's paranormal romance, contemporary fiction, cool mythologies, insight into the publishing industry, dark angsty stories, or more realistic stories. Scott Westerfeld is one of my favorite authors and Afterworlds doesn't disappoint. I'm not sure if there will be a sequel, but I will be all over it if there is.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins