Genre: Adult Fantasy

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Review: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

June 8, 2017 Diversity 4, Reviews 2 ★★★★½

Review: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuireEvery Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
Series: Wayward Children #1
Published by Tor.com on April 5, 2016
Genres: Adult, Adult Fantasy
Pages: 176
Format: eBook
Source: Gifted
Goodreads
four-half-stars
Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests


Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere... else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced... they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost.

Trigger warning for eating disorders.

Diversity Rating: 4 – This Is Our World

Racial-Ethnic: 4 (good mix of identities among the kids, though the core group of characters is mostly white)
QUILTBAG: 5 (Nancy is asexual (possibly heteroromantic) and Kade is a trans boy)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 5 (basically delivers the message that any kids can have a whimsical adventure)

Portal fantasy books aren’t something I think much about. I didn’t read the Chronicles of Narnia as a kid; though I’ve seen the animated and live action adaptations of Alice in Wonderland, I greatly dislike them both. Even looking at my stuffed-full bookshelf of favorites, I see maybe two books that would fit the definition. But Every Heart a Doorway has an asexual main character and I therefore had to read it. Now I’m mad I didn’t read it sooner. Read more »

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Review: Love is Red by Sophie Jaff

June 5, 2015 Diversity 0, Reviews 0

Review: Love is Red by Sophie JaffLove is Red by Sophie Jaff
Series: Nightsong Trilogy #1
Published by Harper on May 12, 2015
Genres: Adult, Adult Fantasy
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from Amazon Vine
Goodreads
one-star
This electrifying, addictive, and hypnotically beautiful debut spins suspense and literary fantasy into a stunning epic—the first volume in the Night Song Trilogy—ablaze with fear, mystery, and possibility.

Katherine Emerson was born to fulfill a dark prophecy centuries in the making, but she isn’t aware that this future awaits. However, there is one man who knows the truth: A killer stalking the women of New York, a monster the media dubs the “Sickle Man” because of the way he turns his victims into canvasses for his mesmerizing, twisted art.

Unleashed upon Manhattan after lying dormant for centuries, the Sickle Man kills to harvest the precious hues of his victims. As his palette grows, so too does his power. Every death brings him closer to the one color, and the one woman, he must possess at any cost.

While the city hunts the Sickle Man, Katherine must decide what to do about two men who have unexpectedly entered her life: handsome and personable David, and alluring yet aloof Sael. Though she’s becoming increasingly torn between them, how well does she really know them? And why is she suddenly plagued by disturbing visions?

Told from the alternating viewpoints of Katherine and the Sickle Man, Love Is Red is a riveting thriller that unfolds into an intense story of obsession and control, desire and fate. Katherine may not realize it yet, but with this haunting novel—as arrestingly original as Marisha Pessl’s Night Film, Patrick Süskind’s Perfume, and Lauren Beukes’s The Shining Girls—her moment of awakening is here. And soon she will find herself fighting a battle at the edges of our world, among forces more dangerous than we can possibly imagine.

Diversity Rating: 0 – What Diversity?

Racial-Ethnic: 1 (black single mother and son; mom ends up dead, son is practically incidental, and all of this happens in New York)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

Ugh ugh ugh. Sometimes, my buzzwords “obsession” and “stalker” are able to lead me to chilling, well-thought-out books. Other times, they lead me astray and have me mourning the lost hours of my life. If you can guess which one Love is Red is based the star rating you’ve probably looked at before you’ve read a word of this, you get a lollipop. Not everything about this novel is horrible, but wow, it left me feeling angry at how half-baked it is in almost every respect. The characters are shallow, the romance is laughably bad, figuring out the identity of the killer took little effort, and the magical realism elements of it get no explanation beyond a few Capitalized Words being used. Read more »

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Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

September 12, 2012 Reviews 0 ★★★½

Stormdancer by Jay KristoffStormdancer by Jay Kristoff Published by Thomas Dunne Books on September 18, 2012
Genres: Adult Fantasy
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from Amazon Vine
three-half-stars
A DYING LAND

 
The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; an island nation once rich in tradition and myth, now decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, the land is choked with toxic pollution, and the great spirit animals that once roamed its wilds have departed forever.

AN IMPOSSIBLE QUEST
 
The hunters of Shima's imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger – a legendary creature, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows the beasts have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shōgun is death.

A HIDDEN GIFT
 
Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessed of a talent that if discovered, would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. Accompanying her father on the Shōgun’s hunt, she finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her.

But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire.

Japanese steampunk? Yes please. Steampunk is a genre I have a few hits but mostly misses in, but anything with Asian influences and/or subject matter interests me. This and how cool the author is (how an author behaves toward reviewers and other people really makes a difference to me) made me want to read this book so badly that when I saw I was getting a copy, I started jumping up and down and screaming. No joke, I really did. It was a little more excitement than it ultimately deserved, but it did deserve most of it.

Most of the cast is well-characterized, especially main character Yukiko and her father, who is the only family she has left after her twin brother died and her mother left them. There are a few things I still wanted from Yukiko’s characterization, like more insight into where her life was going before the fateful voyage to capture an arashitora/thunder tiger for the Shogun, but her evolution over the novel is both sad because of what she has to go through in order for it to happen and fantastic. Multiple characters are much more than they first appear to be and I loved the surprise of seeing who they really are.

Kristoff’s novel is well-plotted and carries a lot of strong themes, the price of change (as Buruu the thunder tiger puts it, it all boils down to how much you’re willing to give up to get what you want) and the need to protect the environment just two of them. The first half was rough due to some issues with the writing that I’ll detail in a minute, but once I got into the novel, I really enjoyed myself. An event at the end packs some good emotional punch, but considering the themes and how things were already going, I saw it coming and that robbed it of some power.

Why aren’t there more novels like this one? Seriously, this is a much-needed shot of originality into YA (though it’s more of a YA-adult crossover novel than anything else).

Most of my issues with Stormdancer lie with the writing. I have a very short attention span and though I’ve tried to correct it, it’s not something I can easily get around and it troubles me in daily life. In its first half, Stormdancer is heavy on detailing the world, getting down to the most minute pieces, and this clashes badly with my attention span. There are many people who love for their novels to be detailed down to the piece of lint on the back of someone’s pants, but I am not that kind of person. Minute detailing makes me skim and lose interest. The first hundred pages of the novel were a slog for me to read because of that.

Third-person narration is great. The way it opens up the world for greater exploration beyond one person’s mind makes me love it, but even that can have its downfalls. Stormdancer‘s third-person narration bounces in and out of several characters’ heads (I can count at least six off the top of my head, though Yukiko remains prime narrator) and third-party narrator has a distinct voice of their own. What troubles me about novels with this sort of narration is that when a line comes along that leaves a bad impression on me, I can’t be sure whether it’s the character’s thought or the narrator’s, and Stormdancer and I had that issue a few times.

You’re probably tired of hearing me harp on about the writing, but I’ve got just one more grievance to air out: guiding statements. They’re sneaky little things. They don’t seem like they’re telling at first, but they are. They’re also guiding you to feel a certain way rather than showing you the same thing and letting you come to feel a certain way about it yourself.  These happen mainly in the first hundred pages or so of the novel and serve the purpose of setting up the world, but guiding statements really get my goat. I really don’t need to be tricked into feeling a certain way about something. If it is written right, I’ll feel that emotion anyway.

In the second half of the novel, there is marked improvement in every respect–even in areas where you thought it couldn’t get any better! Despite all my issues with the writing, the novel itself was great and I am hooked for the sequel. Bring on book two!

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