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review 2019-10-25 04:36
Brief Thoughts: The Visitor
The Visitor (Graveyard Queen) - Amanda Stevens

The Visitor

by Amanda Stevens
Book 4 of Graveyard Queen

 

 

My name is Amelia Gray.  I'm the Graveyard Queen.

Restoring lost and abandoned cemeteries is my profession, but I'm starting to believe that my true calling is deciphering the riddles of the dead.  Legend has it that Kroll Cemetery is a puzzle no one has ever been able to solve.  For over half a century, the answer has remained hidden within the strange headstone inscriptions and intricate engravings.  Because uncovering the mystery of that tiny, remote graveyard may come at a terrible price.

Years after their mass death, Ezra Kroll's disciples lie unquiet, their tormented souls trapped within the walls of Kroll Cemetery, waiting to be released by someone strong and clever enough to solve the puzzle.  For whatever reason, I'm being summoned to that graveyard by both the living and the dead.  Every lead I follow, every clue I unravel brings me closer to an unlikely killer and to a destiny that will threaten my sanity, and a future with my love, John Devlin.



If I wanted to be honest, it was truly the writing and the mystery of Kroll Cemetary that drew me into this book.  Amelia's destiny and her hauntings as well as Devlin's mysterious secrets were really second string.

While I've liked Amelia in the past, I'm not entirely sure that I'm feeling a whole lot of character development in her, despite the new twists that her character is taking on in this book.  At the same time, I'm still not really all that enamored of John Devlin either.

The romance between them is even harder for me to relate with, if only because Amelia's obsession with Devlin, as well as their mutual attraction to each other seems to be the only thing linking them together.  They don't talk to each other, they keep secrets, they don't even trust each other.  Their relationship has always felt one-sided.

I enjoyed the moments that Amelia spent at Kroll cemetary with Dr. Shaw, or even discovering little clues left her by the blind ghost who looks like her.  In contrast, I didn't care much for the scenes whenever Devlin was around with her, save for a few moments when they seemed to be able to talk freely with each other.  I feel like the two of them could make a great team if they would just stop keeping secrets or learn to listen to each other.

But the writing is beautiful as usual, and the series' overall conflict continues to be intriguing, and you get drawn into Amelia's world readily.  Just for the writing style and the atmosphere of the book alone, I gave a higher rating.


 

 

 

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review 2019-10-18 20:09
Quick Thoughts: Dreamer's Pool
Dreamer's Pool - Juliet Marillier

Dreamer's Pool

by Juliet Marillier
Book 1 of Blackthorn & Grim

 

 

In exchange for help escaping her long and wrongful imprisonment, embittered magical healer Blackthorn has vowed to set aside her bid for vengeance against the man who destroyed all that she once held dear.  Followed by a former prison mate, a silent hulk of a man named Grim, she travels north to Dalriada.  There she’ll live on the fringe of a mysterious forest, duty bound for seven years to assist anyone who asks for her help.

Oran, crown prince of Dalriada, has waited anxiously for the arrival of his future bride, Lady Flidais.  He knows her only from a portrait and sweetly poetic correspondence that have convinced him Flidais is his destined true love.  But Oran discovers letters can lie.  For although his intended exactly resembles her portrait, her brutality upon arrival proves she is nothing like the sensitive woman of the letters.

With the strategic marriage imminent, Oran sees no way out of his dilemma.  Word has spread that Blackthorn possesses a remarkable gift for solving knotty problems, so the prince asks her for help.  To save Oran from his treacherous nuptials, Blackthorn and Grim will need all their resources: courage, ingenuity, leaps of deduction, and more than a little magic.



Dreamer's Pool, to be honest, while written well with Juliet Marillier's style of magic and lore, also sort of tended towards the predictable.  It's a usual plot device of Marillier's to give away the plot twist from one of the tales or stories told throughout the book.  And so it wasn't hard to figure out how everything would turn out in the end.

As has been quite typical of Marillier as well, this first book in the Blackthorn & Grim trilogy involved a lot of world building and set-up.  A lot of traveling happened, and I'm not entirely sure that things started picking up until about halfway through the book.  At least, for me, I didn't start getting really interested until halfway through the book.

So while I enjoyed the book, I still had a hard time with it, not only because of the slowness of the plotting, but also because of how hard it was to really relate with any of the characters.  Blackthorn tended towards more bitter than I felt like she needed to be, and I found I liked her more when she wasn't constantly thinking about how she could betray the new chance at life that Conmael gave her by going back to her need for revenge.  I didn't mind her being a cranky old wise woman (who was hardly old by biological age standards), and I liked her role as the local wise woman.

I'm much like Blackthorn in that I hate being crowded and I like my privacy.  But I think that, as much as Blackthorn and Grim seem to understand the way that the fey work their magic, they don't seem to understand that there might be a reason for the seven year restriction that Conmael has given her.  If Blackthorn went back for her revenge at this stage in her new chance at life, she'd probably just end up back in prison again.

Anyway, the only reason I even gave this book a higher rating anyway was because of the last half of the book.  It certainly did end up drawing me in all the way, and if only we could have stuck with Blackthorn's and Grim's POVs, I think I would have enjoyed the book in it's entirety a lot more.  I sincerely was more interested in their journey, and instead found Prince Oran kind of frustrating to follow.

I also found our "villian" more overpowered than was believable.  Lady Flidais's behavior was never acceptable nor was it normal, so I'm surprised that no one ever called her out on it, save for Oran in private.

Of course, without Oran's POV, there probably wouldn't be a whole lot of story.  Maybe if this book were written in third person, things might have been a bit different?

Nonetheless, the end of the book left me wanting more, and so I will definitely be jumping into the next book when I get the chance.

 

 

Halloween Bingo 2019

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2019/10/quick-thoughts-dreamers-pool.html
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review 2019-10-18 20:00
Quick Thoughts: Pocket Apocalypse
Pocket Apocalypse - Seanan McGuire

Pocket Apocalypse

by Seanan McGuire
Book 4 of InCryptid

 

 

Endangered, adjective:  Threatened with extinction or immediate harm.

Australia, noun: A good place to become endangered.

Alexander Price has survived gorgons, basilisks, and his own family—no small feat, considering that his family includes two telepaths, a reanimated corpse, and a colony of talking, pantheistic mice.  Still, he’s starting to feel like he’s got the hang of things…at least until his girlfriend, Shelby Tanner, shows up asking pointed questions about werewolves and the state of his passport.  From there, it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump to Australia, a continent filled with new challenges, new dangers, and yes, rival cryptozoologists who don’t like their “visiting expert” very much.

Australia is a cryptozoologist’s dream, filled with unique species and unique challenges.  Unfortunately, it’s also filled with Shelby’s family, who aren’t delighted by the length of her stay in America. And then there are the werewolves to consider: infected killing machines who would like nothing more than to claim the continent as their own.  The continent which currently includes Alex.

Survival is hard enough when you’re on familiar ground.  Alex Price is very far from home, but there’s one thing he knows for sure: he’s not going down without a fight.



Ah...

I surprisingly found this book more enjoyable than the previous one, and I'm not sure if it's just because I've warmed to Alex and Shelby.  For certain, it had nothing to do with the Australian cryptozoologists, the Thirty-Six Society--I didn't like them at all and felt like they all either needed a reality check or a good whack in their heads as a collective.

Neither Alex's nor Shelby's characters are any more fleshed out than they were in the previous book, but I think what really did it for me was all the lore about lycanthropy in the InCryptid world.  I liked learning about how the lyncanthropy-w virus worked, all the new twists to werewolf transformation that Alex talked about, as well as learned about as new surprises were revealed throughout the book.  What I DIDN'T like was how the Thirty-Sixers had a problem and refused to take the expert advice of someone who knew how to handle werewolves.

And even as Alex proved again and again that he was right about what he was telling them, they still continued to treat him like he was some sort of delusional crazy, disbelieving him and even being overly suspicious despite the fact that his own life had been in danger so many times, trying to save others.  I'm in agreement with Shelby--if I'd have come to Australia with an intent to help and ended up being treated like some sort of crazed criminal, unwelcome and unwanted, I would have gotten on the first plane back out of Australia, and screw the survival of a bunch of jackasses who think they know better.

Outside of all of the above, I DO wish that we could have seen more of the cryptids in Australia.  As the series suggests, Australia is an isolated ecological cesspit for all sorts of fun and new types of living creatures, both cryptid and non-cryptid.  I loved meeting the yowie, and I loved watching the Tanner girls get schooled about how they treat their local sapient cryptids.

Now if only Alex could help school the rest of the Thirty-Sixers about how to cooperate with the rest of the sapient cryptids, maybe life on Australia for the cryptozoologists will be easier.  Of course, on the other hand, I have my misgivings about the fact that an outsider had to teach the Thirty-Sixers this lesson, especially since, by all rights, I'd assumed that at least one person or another would have figured out how NOT to treat the sapient cryptids as monsters.

If a huge organization like the Covenant of St. George was able to produce a few dissenters, I'm surprised that a less restrictive organization such as the Thirty-Six Society hasn't yet.

Anyway, I know the next book goes back to following Verity, but further along the line, I wouldn't mind returning to Australia and visiting with one or another of the Tanner sisters, especially Raina, whom, while I did have issues with at first, ended up warming up to her.

 

 

Halloween Bingo 2019

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2019/10/quick-thoughts-pocket-apocalypse.html
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review 2019-10-13 23:18
Some Thoughts: Firelight
Firelight - Kristen Callihan

Firelight

by Kristen Callihan
Book 1 of Darkest London

 

 

Once the flames are ignited . . .

Miranda Ellis is a woman tormented.  Plagued since birth by a strange and powerful gift, she has spent her entire life struggling to control her exceptional abilities.  Yet one innocent but irreversible mistake has left her family's fortune decimated and forced her to wed London's most nefarious nobleman.

They will burn for eternity . . .

Lord Benjamin Archer is no ordinary man.  Doomed to hide his disfigured face behind masks, Archer knows it's selfish to take Miranda as his bride.  Yet he can't help being drawn to the flame-haired beauty whose touch sparks a passion he hasn't felt in a lifetime.  When Archer is accused of a series of gruesome murders, he gives in to the beastly nature he has fought so hard to hide from the world. But the curse that haunts him cannot be denied.  Now, to save his soul, Miranda will enter a world of dark magic and darker intrigue.  For only she can see the man hiding behind the mask.



Hmm... so going by what I recall of the prologue novella of this series, detailing some of the scattered tangents between Miranda and Archer before Firelight's story line...  I'm not certain this book really came off the way I'd been expecting it to.  I guess I'd been expecting something maybe a bit darker, maybe a bit more paranormal... maybe some more explosive fiery goodness...

Firelight is most definitely more romance than it is anything else.  There was an appropriate look into Archer's dark thoughts and Miranda's own misgivings.  There was a murder mystery.  There was even the typical society happenings.

I guess what I'd hoped to see was more of Miranda exploring her dark secret--her ability to summon and control fire.  And maybe I would have liked for Archer's dark secret to not have been dragged out for quite so long, only to be stuffed with a lot of sweet nothings spoken between Miranda and Archer about how much they love each other despite their secrets... BEFORE they even knew each other's secrets.

So yes, as a romance, this wasn't a terrible one if you can overlook some of the insta-lust, the insta-love, the over-intense possessiveness between our main characters, as well as their inability to think past their libidos for a good percentage of the book.  Also, even for the fact that, having read Ember, you KNOW that Miranda is not a young virgin, she certainly does act like one and I found myself wondering if the story was being rewritten or something.

Meanwhile, for that entire first half of the book, I'm not entirely sure I really understood what was actually going on in the romance between Miranda and Archer.  Their relationship came off kind of standard and boring, to be honest.  And it isn't until halfway into the book, when Miranda stops being meek, that their relationship starts feeling more sure-footed.

On that note, the excitement DOES start about halfway into the book at that same time that Miranda stops being meek, with more exploration of the murder mystery, the secrets pertaining to the West Moon Club and Archer's past, and then Miranda even starts taking charge of herself by hopping into the investigation.  This then eventually leads to Miranda's powers of fire manipulation making more of a show.  Because for the first half of the book, I'd wondered if we were going to capitalize on one of the biggest plot devices of this book at all when Miranda's powers are only ever mentioned in passing by her and her sisters.

But at that point in the story line, I think everything starts getting interesting.

There's a great premise in this book, as well as in this series, and by the end of the book, we've been introduced to the next book's main hero, who is obviously a werewolf, what with his references to the moon, and emphasis on his super strength and fast healing abilities.  I'm not entirely sure that our author was all that subtle about that, and I sort of wished she had been, because those mentions all seemed kind of forced.

Anyway, despite the slowness of the book's beginning, I rather enjoyed the book.  Save a fix for the pacing of the conflict, I think this could have been a great book, and I'm curious enough about the rest of the Darkest London world to continue on.

 

 

Halloween Bingo 2019

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2019/10/some-thoughts-firelight.html
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review 2019-10-02 05:51
Thoughts: Truly Devious
Truly Devious - Maureen Johnson

Truly Devious

by Maureen Johnson
Book 1 of Truly Devious

 

 

Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists.  It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens.  "A place" he said, "where learning is a game."

Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped.  The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym, Truly Devious.  It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.

True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case.  That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester.  But something strange is happening.  Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy.  The past has crawled out of its grave.  Someone has gotten away with murder.



If I wanted to be honest, it was hard not to compare stories and characters between Truly Devious and The Name of the Star.  Both books involve a young girl starting at a new boarding school.  And both books involve each respective girl's acclimation to this new school, making new friends, learning the culture of the new school, going through classes, and so on.  And of course, both books involve a murder mystery... both of which take a long time to build up to.

And if I really wanted to be honest, I think I found The Name of the Star a bit more enjoyable than Truly Devious.  Don't get me wrong, I liked Stevie enough, but there were times I had a hard time keeping up with her train of thought, as well as understanding her actions.  I took Stevie to be a rather intelligent kid, even if a little unique and different.  So the fact that she keeps getting taken in by Hayes seemed a bit out of character.  The fact that she makes a few questionable decisions during her time at Ellingham Academy seemed forced.

I DID like seeing that Stevie was a rather socially awkward type of person though.  It was a nice touch to her unique personality--her enjoyment of spending time studying crimes instead of going out and being the traditionally stereotyped teenage girl her parents want so badly for her to be.  The conflict between Stevie and her parents brought a rather enlightening addition to Stevie's depth as a character, even if it was also a bit difficult to follow for the purposes of this story.

I want to say that Truly Devious spends a lot of time setting up the world and the series and the story, and while it was also punctuated by tidbits of the Ellingham cold case mystery, it still felt like a whole lot of nothing but mundane happenings took place for the first half of the book.  This was rather a similar set up to The Name of the Star as the excitement didn't truly start until a good percentage into the book.

The difference was that I absolutely loved Rory's voice in The Name of the Star, where she was quirky, fun, and my kind of dry sarcasm, with a hint of normal, everyday girl.  In contrast, Stevie's character seemed to be trying too hard to stand out, and her quirkiness, while cute at times, seemed less endearing and more... well, boring, to say the least.  I didn't have as much fun following Stevie's POV, and I also wished there'd been more fun character interactions.

The only other character I actually liked in this book was Nate, if only because even though he was sullen for most of the book, it came off in a strangely endearing kind of sullen.  Which is strange, because there were moments where I wanted him to just get over himself and participate in life with everyone else.  And then when he DID have brief moments of interactions with Stevie, it was extremely enjoyable.  Too bad it seems like Stevie's love interest is someone else...

As far as mysteries go, the Ellingham cold case is an interesting premise to study, although little hints here and there are leading me to wonder just how many underlying secrets are involved in the entire affair.

As far as the present-day murder mystery, while I didn't really know who the culprit was, I also wasn't surprised at the end about the reveal.  Unfortunately, I also had a hard time following Stevie's logic or deductions, so it took me a while to figure out where she was going with all of her questions and her discoveries.

Finally, the book leaves a lot of loose tangents unresolved, and even the main conflicts remain somewhat open-ended.  But with the ongoing Ellingham mystery still unsolved, I'm absolutely going to continue reading the rest of the series.  I'm just also hoping for some more excitement, or maybe some more character interactions that don't seem steeped in tension, secrets, or evasions.

Otherwise, this book was entertaining enough.

 

 

Halloween Bingo 2019

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2019/10/thoughts-truly-devious.html
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