The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter is such a fun take on the "classic horror" genre! I enjoyed this so much more than I thought I would. Theodora Goss does a great job hearkening back to the classics while still creating a fresh and fun new story. I was worried that I would be unhappy with how the classics were treated...I mean, there's a reason why they are classic stories, you know? I worried for nothing, though, because Goss did well. There were all the elements from the classic horror stories while learning about the new characters -- the daughters of these famous "monsters".
If I had one complaint with the story, it was the character asides sprinkled liberally throughout the book. I listened to the audio version of this story and was not initially aware that Goss was utilizing this tool to help build her characters. Mixed in with the story are snippets of dialogue from the characters after all the drama went down...their voices as they "proof" the written text of the story. It was a strange literary device and, to be honest, it threw me for a bit of a loop. I wonder if the written text has some visual way of noting that these were asides and not part of the immediate plot? In the audiobook version there is no warning or break...the narrator veers off into these out-of-story character asides with no differentiating between them and the main story. It was confusing at first and took a while to get used to. I eventually did get used to this device...but it took some time and I was not a huge fan of it for about the first fifty percent of the book.
That minor irritant aside, I do appreciate the risk that Goss took in writing her story this way. I think it ultimately paid off to help create more vivid characters. We didn't have to spend as much time in the story itself creating these characters...the off-shoot narratives helped do that.
The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daugher is such a fun read and I would easily recommend it to anyone who enjoys the classic monster-horror genre.
Silver borne by patricia briggs
Unwept by Tracy & Laura hickman
If i could sum up Unwept in two words, it would have to be:
I've read plenty of books where the author(s) do not do an adequate job with character development/world building/magic system/etc and I am left with an overall question mark about what the book was even about.
I'll be honest - when I started Unwept I was worried that scenario was going to happen again. I hated that...I have fond, fond memories of Tracy Hickman's participation in the Dragonlance series and I have read and enjoyed a few of the books he has written in concert with his wife, Laura. So, when I started Unwept with absolutely no clue what was happening...well, it was worrisome.
But I kept reading.
And I am glad that I did! Unwept turned out to be a fun, surreal ride. In this novel we meet Ellis who has no recollection of her past. She comes to consciousness, waking from a horrific nightmare, finding herself on a train bound for a small, seaside town in Maine. Everybody she meets seems to have knowledge of her and her past...but the can't (or won't?) give her the answers she is desperately seeking. To make matters even more disorienting, Ellis is visited in the dark of night by a mysterious suitor who keeps trying to take her away from the small Maine town. Unsure of what is going on, Ellis embarks on a journey to discover her past...but is she ready for the answers she may find?
The reader is definitely in the same boat as Ellis. You discover Ellis' backstory along with Ellis. At times this can be frustrating...I would have enjoyed a little bit of insider knowledge at the start of the story. I think it would have made the book more enjoyable? But, really...I don't know. Maybe it really is best to be on the same page as Ellis. *shrug*
I think this book requires a little bit of patience to wait and discover the story along with Ellis. And the fact that Unwept starts a series should tell you that you're in for the long haul on this one. I devoured this story and am looking forward to seeing how the next chapter unfolds.
inquisitor by R.J. Blain
Ok, maybe my title is misleading...obviously I am not talking about the Spanish Inquisition. In R.J. Blain's new urban fantasy, Inquisitor, we are looking at a completely different brand of inquisition....one that's coming after the supernatural creatures living among us.
If you missed this feature on The Weekly Newbie post a while back, here's the back cover blurb:
When Allison is asked to play Cinderella-turned-Fiancée at a Halloween ball, the last thing she expected was to be accused of murder on the same night. She has to find the killer or she'll be put to death for the crimes she didn't commit. To make matters worse, the victims are all werewolves.
On the short list of potential victims, Allison has to act fast, or the killer will have one more body to add to his little black book of corpses.
There's only one problem: One of the deaths has struck too close to home, and Allison's desire for self-preservation may transform into a quest for vengeance...
Ok, so I liked this book! While I always enjoy a good werewolf book, it's definitely a sub-genre that's been tackled a lot and it's hard to avoid covering territory that's already been done. I think Blain does a great job of setting up a story/world that's a little different than some of the other werewolf novels out there. While there are some similarities, there is enough to make itself stand out in the genre. While the existence of fae beings are hinted at, Inquisitor, focuses on witches and werewolves (hence the series title....) which is a combination I haven't read before.
The main character, Allison, was an interesting one as well. I found myself intrigued by her. I wanted to know more about her backstory and her plight. Allison definitely carries this novel...and she does so pretty well. You are introduced to several side characters (I hesitate to call them "background characters" because some of them play pretty big roles) throughout the story and I do wish that we had learned more about them. Now, I believe this is book number one in a series (at least, with that ending it had, it had better be part of a series!) and it could be that we learn more about the side characters in later installments. Even with that possibility, I do wish we had learned a bit more about them in this go-around.
To go hand-in-hand with the side-character development, I did find myself wanting a little more worldbuilding. Worldbuilding can make-it or break-it for me and I think setting up a supernatural side-world in the midst of reality can be challenging. You don't want to have too much worldbuilding because you want to read an urban fantasy. Too much focus on the fae/supernatural side can sometimes turn the story into pure fantasy. Plus, in an attempt to worldbuild, some authors tend to info dump rather than gradually set up their world. Blain doesn't info dump (no worries) and I definitely could see the structure of an interesting world (what with the Inquisition itself, werewolf pack structure, the interesting relationship between witch and wolf, etc...) forming throughout the story. I found myself, however, wanting more established world building toward the beginning of the story so it could then, in turn, frame the rest of the plot.
As far as the story itself...holy plot twists, Batman! I thought I had the book figured out about a quarter of the way through...then Blain threw the first curveball at me. Then the twists and turns kept coming and I didn't know what to expect anymore. Which is good. I hate being able to telegraph the plot of a book. The story is quite interesting and there are some plot elements that are very intriguing (yes, I'm being vague so as to avoid spoilerage). Inquisitor held my attention to the very last page.
All in all - Inquisitor is a fun, four-star read! Definitely a fun read for fans of urban fantasy featuring strong, female leads!
autumn bones by Jacqueline Carey
Ok, so I won't lie...I'm sick and tired of hearing about Daisy's creepy tail. Oh and in this book, we get a description of it! It's several inches long with blond hair that stands on end much like the hair on the back of your neck when you're alarmed.
All I can think about is a rat tail with some hair on it. Seriously...go Google a picture of a hairy rat tail. Actually, don't...who knows what you might end up seeing.
Other than the tail ...*shudder*... this was an OK book. I didn't love it...but I didn't hate it either. In Autumn Bones we delve a little deeper into Daisy's forays as Hel's liaison and her attempts to keep the eldritch under control in her little town. It doesn't help that her boyfriend Sinclair turns out to be descended from a line of obeah men/women (ie. a family of strong Caribbean withes)....a family that wants Sinclair out of the States and back on the Islands with them where they think he belongs. Soon Daisy is on a deadline to save her town from an evil duppy (ie. the ghost/spirit of Sinclair's dead obeah-man grandfather) before the veil between the living and the dead is torn down forever.
I remember really enjoying the first one (Dark Currents) and I definitely think a knowledge of the first installment is almost a must to really enjoy Autumn Bones. My biggest issue with the story was that it slowed w-a-y down right at the climax of the plot. I mean, why would it do that? The set-up chapters were really easily to read and moved fast...but when the plot really started to pick up, it just got tedious.
So tedious that I was ready for it to just be done.
Oh and there's a tail-waggin' love triangle as well. Not really original, but...whatevs.
That said...will I read the next one when it comes out? Yeah, I will. I don't know if I will it will be as "on top" of my reading list like this one was...and I still waited several months to read this one.
Lover Unbound by J.R. Ward
I think I've realized that the back cover blurb (BCB) on the back of the Black Dagger Brotherhood (BDB)books are only nominally descriptive. See, if we were to go by the BCB of this BDB book, we would expect a book dedicated to Vishous. And when a huge revelation about Vishous is discovered within the first fifty pages or so...you realize that yes Vishous needs an entire book to explore his background and progression within the main story arc.
As you read further, however, you realize that the BCB wasn't helpful at all. Yes, you do learn some more about Vishous. But an equal (if not more?) amount of time is spent on Phury and John. While I am looking forward to both of their books...this was a book about Vishous and I wanted to read about him. Instead, it seemed as though Vishous was relegated to the background for a lot of the book.
Because V seemed to be a "background character" at some points, his romance with Jane seemed about as deep as a parking lot puddle. And because the romance seemed contrived and based solely on lust (and, despite Jane's opinion otherwise, there may have been some Stockholm Syndrome at play here...), the big twist in their relationship at the end was kind of weird.
I don't mind that Ward tells a huge story in each of her books. And I understand that the books are going to feature all of the Brothers to some extent. I just wish that more time had been spent on V. Even compared to the earlier books...this installment seemed less focused and more of a filler novel.
And while I am looking forward to the next book which features Phury...I feel as though most of his story has already been told in Lover Unbound which makes me wonder if Phury's book will do the same as this one - focus on everyone but him.
The King by J.r. Ward
Available for purchase NOW.
Ok, so this one eeked through into the Weekly Newbie column. Just coming out this week, The King is J.R. Ward's latest installment in the extremely popular Black Dagger Brotherhood series.
Here's the Back Cover Blurb on this one (not really spoilery unless you haven't ready any of the BDB books...):
J.R. Ward's # 1 New York Times bestselling Black Dagger Brotherhood continues as a royal bloodline is compromised by a grave threat to the throne.
Long live the King…
After turning his back on the throne for centuries, Wrath, son of Wrath, finally assumed his father’s mantle--with the help of his beloved mate. But the crown sets heavily on his head. As the war with the Lessening Society rages on, and the threat from the Band of Bastards truly hits home, he is forced to make choices that put everything--and everyone--at risk.
Beth Randall thought she knew what she was getting into when she mated the last pure blooded vampire on the planet: An easy ride was not it. But when she decides she wants a child, she’s unprepared for Wrath’s response--or the distance it creates between them.
The question is, will true love win out... or tortured legacy take over?
I picked this as the Weekly Newbie since I am currently immersed in Lover Unbound (the tale of Vishous - son of the Bloodletter) and am trying to catch up in this series. Obviously I have quite a long way to go as I am on book 5 and book 12 just came out...but I'm giving it a shot. It seems the general consensus is that readers are glad Ward is returning to the original BDB members. I'm not sure how it will be returning back to Wrath...are we coming completely back around now? Time to tackle generation number two? Not sure where Ward is taking this...but then again I am only on book five. Can't wait to...at some point...get to this one!
alpha and omega by Patricia Briggs
Note --> I only read the short story Alpha and Omega out of this collection.
I guess now's as good of a time as any to confess -- I don't like short stories or novellas. I never really have. I enjoy fully developed characters and a complex/in depth plotline and that can be hard to do well in a short story (not impossible...just difficult).
Briggs does a pretty good job in Alpha and Omega. The main reason I picked this anthology up was to read her novella before I started the full "Alpha and Omega" series (as has been recommended to me to do by several people). The big complaint that I saw in regards to the full series is that Briggs really begins the plot with this novella -- and I think they are correct in that determination.
Briggs really jumps into the action with this novella. The whole of the plot takes place within 24 hours or so...and a LOT happens. The world is the same world as the Mercy Thompson series which I really enjoy. One of the main characters is Bran's (the Marrok..ie. leader..of the werewolves) son Charles who we meet briefly in the Mercy Thompson series (at least it's a brief meeting where I am at in the series at the moment...I don't know if he comes into the stories in later MT books). Charles is known as the Executioner and he is sent to Chicago to settle a matter amongst the local werewolves. While in Chicago he meets an intriguing young female werewolf and he discovers, unbeknownst to her, that she is a rare gem among the werewolf hierarchy - she's an Omega.
It held my interest fairly well, but I don't know if I would have chosen to read it had it been a standalone novella. One thing that I enjoyed about it was that it didn't read like pure set-up for the full-length series. Briggs may have written it for that express purpose, however, you could read this novella...put it down...and be satisfied with the story without going on to read the accompanying series.
So...four stars for a decent novella (despite my personal bias against them). If you are a fan of the Mercy Thompson world definitely check this one out.
Blood rights by Kristen Painter
Living her whole life in this form of slavery, Chrysabelle is ready to flee her master and escape her gilded cage...only to find, on the eve of her escape, her master murdered in their home. On the run and suspected of murder, Chrysabelle teams up with a rogue vampire named Malkom as they uncover a political web of lies that aim to tear down the veil that has been hiding the existence of supernaturals from ordinary people.
I apologize for that run on sentence.
Anyway, like I said, this book started out really strong. It has a beautiful cover and stays away from the recycled vampire plot and world. Painter's idea of the comarré is an interesting one and the twist she throws in about their world was quite good (let's just say they don't just feed vampires their blood).
But about a third of the way through things started to change. Oh, the world was still fun and the revelations were interesting...but Chrysabelle started to turn into a bit of a Mary Sue...she's the best comarré, she's the best fighter, she's the best blah blah blah. It got old. She's the best. At everything. Got it.
And the plot, which had been moving along quite nicely, devolved into political mush. Oh, there are other things happening in the story other than politics...but it seemed politics were the main focus with some fighting in between scenes.
Then it happened...Malkolm started his monologue about his past (which happens just under halfway through the book or so?) and I knew how the book would end. I hate that. I think if I had stayed immersed in the plot, the big plot twist at the plot climax would have been really great...instead, I felt disconnected from the story and had a general feeling of "yep...saw that coming".
I think this read is three stars because of the world building and it really did start out as an interesting read. Maybe I just read the book at the wrong time or something. As it stands at the moment, however...I don't plan on continuing the series.
The Hunger by L.J. Smith
This book celebrates its 20th birthday this year. First published in 1994, The Forbidden Game starts my favorite series from L.J. Smith. In fact, this book has a treasured spot on my "all-time favorites" shelf.
In this first installment of the trilogy, we meet Jenny Thornton who is searching for a fun gift to bring to her boyfriend's party. She stumbles upon a store she never knew existed and meets the store's only employee, the oh-so-gorgeous Julian, who sells her a game in a plain, white box. Once she makes it to the party, however, Jenny thinks she may have made a mistake. Her friends decide to give the game a try, however, and in doing so they begin the fight for their lives.
This book is part Labyrinth and part Jumanji. A young David Bowie can easily be imagined as Julian. And a game coming to life and forcing its players to fight for their lives within the constraint of The Game? Well...that's obviously Jumanji (although I think Jumanji came a short while later?)
If you've enjoyed The Vampire Diaries or The Secret Circle, be sure to check out this other gem from L.J. Smith. This is easily my favorite Smith book/series.