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review 2019-03-09 09:07
DNF: A Blade So Black
A Blade So Black - L. L. McKinney

This was one of my most anticipated books of last year. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. After two months I’ve barely made it past a hundred pages and have gone to the conclusion that I just don’t like it. I kind the idea of the book but the plot isn’t grabbing my attention, the world building is all over the place and I don’t really care about any of the characters. Which sucks because I really wanted to love this book. But I just don’t. So unfortunately it’s one for the DNF pile.

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review 2019-03-01 15:39
Circe
Circe - Madeline Miller

I would give this more than 5 stars if I could! What if Circe wasn't the witch as Greek mythology recalls? Her story is expertly crafted by Miller, who could probably write an intriguing novel about watching grass grow. 

Read this for the story, love it for the writing. Bravo

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review 2019-02-15 22:42
See Into the Beast
The Beast's Heart - Leife Shallcross

Please note that I received this book via NetGalley. This did not affect my rating or review.

 

Well, this was okay. No big issues really, I just found myself bored reading it. We have how many retellings following Beauty from Beauty and the Beast? Well we get one told from the Beast's point of view. I compared this book a bit to "Beastly" since that's the only book I have read that told the story from the Beast's point of view. I have to say that this Beast doesn't seem to have been pretty pathetic. The author starts off with us following him after he's been turned. The flow though was off from beginning to end. Nothing picks up and I just didn't feel a sense of urgency about finishing (why it took me so long to complete).

 

"The Beast's Heart" has us following the Beast with Shallcross incorporating some Young Adult themes too. I for one would love it if we had a more adult Beauty and the Beast like with Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton. Man, I was in love with Vincent...

 

Image result for beauty and the beast 1987 gif

 

Okay, back to the book. We have the Beast going through his tale of woe and of course he eventually meets his Beauty (Isabeau). Shallcross doesn't really do anything new with this. I think telling the story in the Beast's POV should have made me more engaged with the story, however, it just didn't work. Another reviewer mentioned how old the Beast sounded, and I got that feeling too. At one point I wondered if he was 100 years old or what. Some readers noted how this book was very voyeuristic since you get to read about the Beast spying on Isabeau's family via his magic mirror. The magic mirror plot device was in the cartoon, musical, and the latest musical. I think it's bothersome in this one since he uses it throughout the book to watch/spy on Isabeau. 

 

Isabeau doesn't have much to do in this book. She just seemed kind of okay about the whole thing with the Beast. I needed to believe that she fell in love with him and needed him just as much as he needed her, and I never got that sense. Then again, she was a prisoner of his and was forced to keep him company. So you can see why as a reader she seemed to be kind of meh on things. I think "Beastly" was smart to move this into modern times and also include his "beauty's" consent to stay. 

 

The house is another character in this one. No you don't have things talking to you. But as the relationship between the two characters improve, so does the castle. 

 

Isabeau has sisters in this one unlike with the Disney version of Beauty. I have to say the main reason why I gave this 3 stars is that the sisters were a nice saving grace in this book. Shallcross has Marie and Claude as independent young women who struggle without their sister. Including them reminded me a bit of "Hunted" by Meagan Spooner who followed the sisters along with the main character of Yeva. Besides following Yeva, we followed her sisters who had to get along with her being there and had their own romances. 

 

I really thought the writing was okay, nothing that really grabbed me. It just read as being try hard at times with Shallcross trying to mimic older fairytales. I get it, the Beast isn't modern, but good grief, it needed to make me want to keep reading. I think honestly this book was too long. This was over 350 pages and the flow of the book was slow throughout. It's okay if an author does that because the book is building to something great that is going to blow your mind. I didn't get my mind blown here. I just started getting more and more bored and wondering when they were going to get together to break his curse.

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review 2019-02-13 14:55
Curiouser & Curiouser
A Blade So Black - L. L. McKinney

Well this was an interesting first book in a planned trilogy (I am guessing). There's enough there to maybe have me read book #2. The world building was interesting, but didn't delve enough in the end. The character development of everyone in this book was not great. I absolutely hard sighed at a love triangle showing up which I am sure is going to get more play in the next book. I also think that the time jumps didn't help matters and I think that there needed to be even more tie-ins to Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland." This is a retelling/reimagining of that book so you need to have some key characters showing up. The whole Nightmare monsters thing really didn't work for me at all and that's probably because McKinney didn't set it up very well.

 

"A Blade so Black" follows 17 year old Alice as she fights monsters known as Nightmares in a place called Wonderland.

 

The initial set up of how Alice finds out about Nightmares was interesting, but it ended up showing what I think are the largest issues I have with the book. Alice is told something random by a character (in this case Hatta) and then all of a sudden the book time jumps several months and then jumps to a year later. So going by the book math, Alice is told that she has to fight and possibly die to keep Wonderland safe when she is what, 15? The whole thing made my head hurt. Considering that Alice is dealing with a pretty significant life event when this all happens, I can see why many readers found this jarring. You don't get a chance to settle in with Alice before the book forces you into multiple action scenes. 

 

Focusing on Alice. I feel disappointed in how there doesn't seem to be much there, there. We know that she's a black girl living in Atlanta. She has two best friends, Court and Chess. She also is a great sewer, into cosplay, and apparently Sailor Moon. Oh and she can fight. I just needed more time with just her, by herself, not figuring out how to lie to her mother (badly) and how she can keep throwing herself into the deep end in Wonderland. The love triangle aspect didn't help matters either. I felt like she just liked the two objects of her affection because they were there. I also felt a bit....off about the fact that there seemed to be no black boys that she was interested in. And that's not saying that I am against bi-racial relationships. It just seemed weird to me that Alice's only friends is a light skinned bi-racial girl, and a white boy, while she lives in Atlanta which has a huge population of black people.

 

Speaking of Alice's friends, they are merely there to advance the plot and or to show Alice feeling torn. We only really see sparks in the character when she is around Hatta who is her mentor/teacher about how to fight Nightmares. We get some revelations around this character throughout the book, but nothing was a surprise with Hatta. Courtney annoyed the life out of me for acting like a spoiled brat in this book. Chess I didn't care for at all. I really wanted to know why Alice had zero other friends and apparently no cousins or anyone else that wouldn't be checking in on her or hanging out. I couldn't walk out the door of my house without a random cousin in my face. 

 

The writing was choppy I would say. McKinney relies too much on information dumps to impart information to Alice or others and we also don't allow Alice time to figure out things. I don't think the time jumps helped. It would have been a better idea for book one to just have our Alice explore Wonderland and be trained by Hatta. And that way readers could become more immersed in the world and have a better understanding of the kinds of things that Alice could do and why she was able to. Book two could have been the plot line that this book followed. 

 

The world building as I said was interesting. McKinney takes Wonderland and gives it what I would consider the Tim Burton treatment. However, there is a lot there that doesn't make sense and doesn't work. For example, why are zero adults able to fight Nightmares (I don't even recall if the book said why) and why there are not more people like Alice that can fight them? You would think that Hatta's main purpose would be to find others if Nightmares are such a scourge and all. I am also disappointed that we don't get more reimaginings for key characters like the White Rabbit, the Caterpillar, the March Hare, the Doormouse, etc. I think I only saw some of that with Hatta (the Mad Hatter), Chess (maybe the Cheshire Cat), and Dee and Dum. She tries to tie things into an original Alice who came to Wonderland which I assume pops back up in book 2, but that was left largely unexplored here. 

 

The ending didn't work at all. Having a book end on a cliffhanger drives me up the wall. You still have an ending for a particular book/saga/quest. I also didn't exactly understand what I was reading either, so that made it confusing. 

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text 2019-02-11 19:40
Reading progress update: I've read 100%.
A Blade So Black - L. L. McKinney

Sad to say that the book ended up falling apart for me around the 50 percent mark. Too much was thrown into book #1.  I appreciate the world building, but the character development was lacking and the information dumps started happening every five minutes it seemed. Towards the end I kept reading wondering when I would get to the end, and then there would just be more and more pages to get through. This is a solid 3 star. 

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