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review 2020-05-19 20:49
Ninth House
Ninth House - Leigh Bardugo

Sorry, not sorry, DNFed this thing at 12 percent. I cannot with this book right now. I felt like my brain was trying to slide away. The author dumps us in the book as if we should know things that she just blithely gets into. I don't know if she world-builds later or what, but I can't keep reading this book as if I know who everyone is and what they are doing. 


"Ninth House" is the first book in the Alex Stern series. Yeah, I say first book though the author makes it seems like this is just a continuation of another book. Alex through machinations (that I managed to gather) is a student at Yale. She is there because she can see ghosts (called Grays) in this book and seems to be some record keeper of a secret society at Yale. I can't say much more than that cause this book is all over the place.


My problems are the following:


Alex Stern. Can't really say much about her besides there is not much there to keep me reading about her. We start at the end of something big happening to her and then jump back to her observing some messed up ritual. I don't even know anything besides she eats a lot of ginger candy which I do not enjoy. Also I think she has another name? I don't know. I think between that and her having a secret society name I was just done. 

Yale. I got nothing here folks. Bardugo acts like everyone who reads this book knows exactly how Yale is set up. Bardugo go into the architecture and the meaning behind said architecture a couple of places and I wondered if she has a background in history cause that's the kind of meaningless stuff historians like to just randomly tell you when you ask them a question about anything. 


World-building. It's often hard to thread the needle with world-building in the first book in a series. This is a fantasy series and they are often harder in my opinion cause readers will be the first ones to bring up how the rules the author set up in book #1, and #2 are incorrect due to whatever happens in book #3. I say readers like I don't do this too.


Bardugo went a different direction and just threw us into this world and acted like it's no big deal. I still don't get what is happening. Secret rituals to keep people rich? Alex sees Grays? Alex is called upon when a dead body shows? Sorry, this made zero sense and I just did not want to continue. The whole mystery surrounding Lethe House could have potential, I just don't want to waste my time pushing myself to the finish on this one. Too many books out there. 

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text 2020-05-19 19:54
Reading progress update: I've read 10%.
Ninth House - Leigh Bardugo

Does this get better? Is there a prequel I am missing or something? There is way too much being thrown at me with no set-up. So weird.

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text 2020-05-19 19:52
Reading progress update: I've read 6%.
Ninth House - Leigh Bardugo

Just a bit confusing so far for me.

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review 2020-05-14 03:55
This Hard-Boiled Fantasy Mixes the Best of Both Genres
The Sword-Edged Blonde - Alex Bledsoe

I've read this novel at least twice (13 and 11 years ago), and apparently have forgotten almost all of it. In fact, what I did remember as the climactic scene must belong to the second novel in the series, Burn Me Deadly. I can do better with the rest of the series (and not just because I actually wrote something about them—but I'm looking forward to taking another look at them in the coming months.


But I'm getting ahead of myself, I should introduce you to Eddie LaCrosse and his world. It's your basic Fantasy world—swords, rumors of sorcery, small kingdoms, and so on. Eddie's an ex-soldier, ex-mercenary, now "sword jockey" (basically a private cop). He's got a little more on his résumé, but you'll learn more about that as you dive in yourself. He's been hired by an old friend, the King of a neighboring country to clear his wife of the horrific murder of her son. She doesn't remember him, but when he meets her, Eddie realizes that he knew the Queen long before the King did.


Eddie's investigation takes him through multiple kingdoms, into the remains of a cult, and into a criminal network that rivals anything that Varys put together for efficacy or ruthlessness. At the same time he does this, Eddie takes a trip through his personal history, reliving the time he knew the Queen (and events leading up to that). The two storylines are interwoven to help Eddie solve what seems like a perfect crime.


Both in the narration, LaCrosse's character and the kinds of people we meet along the way, Bledsoe channels Chandler. LaCrosse is casually violent in a way that Marlowe indulged in a bit too often for me, and the (for lack of a better word) grotesque (in physical appearance and morality) criminals Eddie deals with in the latter parts of the book felt particularly Chandler-esque to me.


There's some things that happen at the end that point to Eddie coming to terms with parts of his past that he's been unable/unwilling to acknowledge existed. The character won't change as a result of this (at least not much), but I think it opens the door for some of his rougher edges to be rounded out. How well that actually happens, I'll have to see (I don't trust my memory enough right now)—but at the very least, Bledsoe made it possible for the character to grow and evolve here.


Rudnicki's narration didn't really work for me initially—there was a quality to his voice that just didn't click with me. But, I kept going because I liked the novel. Before the halfway mark, however, he'd won me over. I can't put my finger on it (either good or bad), but he sold the emotional moments, the humor, and Eddie's general attitude. Which is good enough for me.


It's hard for me to rate this one on its own terms—I remember liking it. I remember what Bledsoe does with the characters. And those things color my rating, leading me to probably giving this another half-to-whole star more than I would otherwise. But also, for the world. The merging of Fantasy and Hard-boiled genres in a way that's seamless and well-executed. I recommend this one and will be back for more soon.


Bookstooge posted about this book yesterday. It's probably worth a read (I'll read it later today, I didn't want his voice in my head as I wrote this).

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2020/05/12/the-sword-edged-blonde-audiobook-by-alex-bledsoe-stefan-rudnicki-this-hard-boiled-fantasy-mixes-the-best-of-both-genres
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review 2020-04-17 04:08
A Contemporary Hunt for Centuries-Old Power
The Identity Thief - Alex Bryant

Bryant has given us a YA/MG Urban Fantasy Adventure with so many layers that it's hard to summarize or talk about with any degree of detail.


Essentially the book is about a villain with the unlikely name of the Cuttlefish who is trying to steal as many of a set of books that he can. On the face of it, that doesn't seem to be much of a premise, even when you throw magic into the equation. Cuttlefish doesn't really strike fear into your heart at first glance, and stealing books? Really? But the lengths he goes to in order to get these books—fatal lengths—gets the reader invested far before the motive behind wanting all the books is revealed.


While the Cuttlefish is running around England, using his very interesting brand of magic, we generally focus on a twelve-year-old girl, Cass, her friends, her mother, a boy she's totally not interested in (and he's not interested in her, just ask them), and a new family in their neighborhood.


Cass seems like a fairly typical pre-teen. Her peers' approval of her is more important than it should be and overrides her reflexes to be polite/friendly when it comes to Hector (the new boy). In a nice bit of realism (even if it's frustrating to read) that when her friends show themselves to be unworthy of her loyalty/concern, she's still unwilling to break free from them.


Hector is an unattractive, socially awkward (for good reasons, it turns out) boy of Greek descent (in this world magic is tied to ancient Greek culture, so he's a little bit of an outsider already). He desperately wants to be Cass's friend but has no idea how to do that—especially not in a way that she won't find mortifying. Not only is he strange, but he is also prone to seizures—there's just no way for him to gain any kind of social acceptance.


Cass's mother is with the police, a branch dedicated to policing magic users—and she's very involved in the Cuttlefish hunt. She's also decided that Hector and his mother are going to be her project—they're new to the area and not that welcomed by the populace. So, she's going to do her part to make up for everyone else. As is Cass, whether she wants to or not. Hector's mom is strange, but incredibly friendly—which really doesn't help Cass. And when the two mothers get uncomfortably close, Cass just can't handle it.


Cass is part of a clique of four at her school, and she's definitely not the Alpha. One of her friends is nice, supportive and not really as fixated on the typical popularity/social goals. The other two are probably not the kind of girls you want your daughter to be friends with. In pack-mode, however, the don't make life easy for Hector. Although there's a group of boys who make these girls look like saints—although one of them (the one Cass is absolutely only a friend with) does try to get everyone to treat Hector like a human being. You may find yourself tempted occasionally to wonder why we're dealing with all the twelve-year-old drama, but have patience, it'll pay off—also, Bryant makes it all entertaining enough that you rarely wonder what it has to do with the Cuttlefish story.


Cuttlefish is sort of a Voldemort figure. He's a notorious thief who disappeared (and was assumed dead) for years, only to re-appear with more outlandish crimes than before. The thing about him is that no one knows what he looks like. He is an Identity Thief—he can perfectly mimic anyone—voice, appearance—the whole thing. Typically, he takes on the likeness of his most recent victim and uses that identity to gain access to his next.


The magic system is pretty intricate, but there's a lot yet to learn. It does, again, have its roots in Ancient Greece, and the alphabet and language of the Greeks are vital to its use. As magic users are ostracized in British (and presumably, Western) culture, Greeks are seen as likely magic users and are treated suspiciously. It's a strange quirk that most authors wouldn't have added to this, but says a lot about this world.


The Identity Thief joins a large number of books I've read in the last 6 months or so that scatters a lot of supplemental material throughout the book—newspaper articles, school flyers, website comment forums, and the like—these add a lot of flavor to the book, as well as ways for Bryant to dump a lot of information about the world without detracting from the narrative. Oh, also, most of them are just a lot of fun.


There is a darkness to this book that's uncommon for YA/MG fiction. But there's a playfulness to all of it, too—particularly the Cuttlefish portions. He enjoys what he's up to. The feel of the work reminds me of Derek Landy's Skulduggery Pleasant. And like Landy's books, this is the kind of YA/MG (MG-leaning) book that can appeal to readers of all ages.


I had a blast reading this—Bryant's creativity with the magic involved is only topped by the creativity he displays with the plot. Every time I thought I knew what he was going, he'd pull something off that I couldn't have expected. Those times where I did know what to expect (there were a couple of them), his execution was still skillful enough that it felt like I didn't know what was coming. Which is a pretty neat trick, you have to admit.

This was simply fun to read and I'm a more than a little curious about what's in store for these characters. Inventive, stylish, unpredictable—The Identity Thief should steal a place on your TBR right away.



My thanks to Love Books Group for the invitation to participate in this reveal and the materials (including a copy of the novel) they provided.

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2020/04/16/the-identity-thief-by-alex-bryant-a-contemporary-hunt-for-centuries-old-power
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