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review 2020-01-21 01:31
Alice in the Country of Clover: Bloody Twins (manga) story by QuinRose, art by Mamenosuke Fujimaru, translated by Angela Liu
Alice in the Country of Clover: Bloody Twins - Mamenosuke Fujimaru,QuinRose

Wonderland is a strange place where nothing works the way it does in our world. People have clocks for hearts, day and night happen at random, only a select few people have faces, and nearly everyone is armed to the teeth. Alice has become accustomed to it, for the most part, but she's still surprised to wake up and discover that the Country of Hearts has somehow moved and become the Country of Clover. She's relieved that the twins, Dee and Dum, are still around and as happy to spend time with her as ever, but a new ability they've acquired since moving to Clover leaves her feeling disconcerted: they can now instantly transform their kid selves into adults and back again.

Alice felt comfortable around them when they were children. Being around them when they're adults feels weird. She finds herself feeling emotions she doesn't want to, which brings her face to face with her secret fear, that the twins will find someone else they like more and abandon her.

This was similar enough to what I remembered of Alice in the Country of Clover: Twin Lovers that I initially thought I'd read it before. This is part of the reason why I write reviews - I was able to confirm that what I was remembering was a completely different volume and that, yes, their overall storylines were incredibly similar. In both volumes, Alice was embarrassed by her attraction to the twins in their adult forms and worried that they'd ask her to choose between them. If I remember right, Twin Lovers was more focused on the twins vying for Alice's affections. In Bloody Twins, the primary focus was on Alice's internal conflict and the twins were more instantly willing to share Alice.

I'm just not that wild about Dee and Dum as romantic partners for Alice. Yes, they're hot, but they're very childish, and the whole "twins in love with the same person and willing to share" thing is a bit squicky for me. Also, they're not terribly interesting as characters, either on their own or in terms of what they bring out in Alice. I can't imagine Alice choosing between them because there's nothing that sets Dee apart from Dum, aside from their hairstyles when they're in adult form.

Still, there wasn't anything really bad about this, and Fujimaru's artwork was attractive. I love the slightly metallic cover art - the colors look fabulous. Story-wise, I particularly liked the scene where Alice tried to put a stop to the twins' teasing by turning the tables and becoming the more sexually aggressive one for once (as expected, this backfired on her, although the twins' briefly flustered reactions were great).

I was somewhat disappointed and confused when I reached the last third of this volume and the story switched from Alice, Dee, and Dum to four different very short stories featuring Alice and other Wonderland characters. They weren't even all in the Country of Clover.

The first, "I Love You," was set back in the Country of Hearts and featured Alice fretting over Gowland and whether he really saw her and loved her as she was. The second, "Where Are You Going?," was back in Clover and starred Boris and Alice. Boris wanted to live together with Alice, while Alice resisted out of worry that he'd leave her if he really got to know her for who she was (Alice's fear of abandonment and worry that others wouldn't love her if they really knew her crops up a lot in the series). Of all of these shorts, this one was probably my most favorite. Boris was a sweetheart. The third, "Twilight," starred Alice and Vivaldi and was as yuri as this series ever gets, with Alice worrying about Vivaldi and feeling jealous of her king. It's too bad that there are no longer storylines devoted to an Alice x Vivaldi pairing. The fourth, "Egoism," starred Alice and Blood. Blood was his usual heavily flirty self.

All in all, the explanations about how the Country of Hearts and the Country of Clover work would make this a decent starting point for anyone wanting to try a Country of Clover title (if you're entirely new to this franchise, I highly recommend reading Yen Press's Alice in the Country of Hearts omnibus volumes first), and Dee and Dum lovers should definitely check it out, but it's not the best Country of Clover title out there.

Extras:

Four full-color pages at the start of the volume, two one-page bonus comics, an Alice in the County of Clover "fun facts" page that includes some extra info about the characters in Clover, and an 11-page preview of Young Miss Holmes. Also, the back of the volume includes a 4-panel comic.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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text 2020-01-21 00:39
Reading progress update: I've read 82 out of 383 pages.
The Summer Tree - Guy Gavriel Kay

Full disclosure here, which may also be on the original 10-page update:

I purchased the Kindle edition of this book at full retail price.  I follow the author on Twitter, but he does not follow me. We have had a few brief exchanges, but not many. I was introduced to this writer via the now-defunct Rave Reviews magazine back in 1987 or so, when I was given the third volume of this trilogy, The Darkest Road, to review.  I fudged it, because I never did read the book.  I felt it was unfair to read the third and final volume without having read the first two.  And our schedule with Rave Reviews didn't provide enough time for me to find them.  So I fudged.  I have not revealed that information to the author on Twitter, nor do I have any intention of doing so.

 

And of course, I am an author of historical romances, contemporary gothic romances, and assorted non-fiction.

 

Now, to The Summer Tree.

 

I'm almost one quarter into it and I'm . . . disappointed.  I'm just not captivated the way I had hoped to be.  At least this time I know why.

 

The premise is familiar: Five young present day earth humans are transported to Another World for purposes as yet unknown.  No doubt they are about to face Challenges and Dangers and have Adventures.  So far nothing much has happened, but there's a lot of text remaining.

 

The problem is that there's no sense of wonder, no sense of magic and excitement and awe.  I mean, this guy comes up to them, proposes to transport them to his world and then bring them back, and they're all like, "Okay, fine, whatever."  One of them gets lost in the process of being transported and the other four are, like, "Okay, fine, whatever."  There's no concern expressed or anything, no wondering about what happened to that person or worry that they might be lost forever in some magical ether.  They don't even seem curious as to what process got them from the real world to the magic one.  Everything is "Okay, fine, whatever."

 

There are some weird creatures introduced, but not much reaction to them.  One of the four humans is so unconcerned about the whole business that on their first night in the magic world, he gets stinking drunk.  Hello?  No one is scared or curious or excited or . . . anything.

 

Another issue I have is that there are so many characters introduced at the beginning that none of them are sufficiently fleshed out enough to become real.  The easy thing to do is compare this to Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring, in which the reader is introduced to Frodo and Bilbo and the other Hobbits through not only a lengthy "historical" Prologue, but also through the device of Bilbo's birthday party in which the first few characters are introduced and developed.  More are then added as the tale moves along.

 

Kay brings in all kinds of characters within these first few pages, and none seem three dimensional . . . yet.

 

Oddly, looking back through those ancient Rave Reviews files, I gave myself a little unexpected spoiler from Book Three.  Maybe it will be enough to keep me reading.

 

 

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review 2020-01-20 23:19
Invader / C.J. Cherryh
Invader - C.J. Cherryh

Nearly two centuries after the starship Phoenix disappeared, leaving an isolated colony of humans on the world of the atevi, it unexpectedly returns, threatening the stability of both atevi and human governments. With the situation fast becoming critical, Bren Cameron, the brilliant, young paidhi to the court of the atevi is recalled from Mospheira where he has just undergone surgery. Upon his return to the mainland, he Cameron finds that his government has sent in his paidhi-successor, Deana Hanks—representative of a dangerous faction on Mospheira who hate the atevi.

Haunted by the threat of assassination, Bren realizes his only hope may be to communicate with the Phoenix as the spokesman of the atevi—an action which may cut him off for good from his own species. Yet if he doesn't take this desperate action, he may be forced to witness the destruction of the already precarious balance of world power.

 

I am well and truly hooked on this series! Bren Cameron is such an understandable main character. I’ve struggled with non-English languages--specifically several undergraduate courses in Ancient Greek--which almost broke my brain. The necessity of doing math in one’s head in order to know which word ending to use would reduce me to jelly in no time.

This book picks up quickly from where the first book left off. There is a great deal of tension provided by Bren wondering just how well he understands the atevi society around him. The atevi seem to thrive on intrigue and when that is combined with the cultural differences and a complex language, this is a fearsome barrier to understanding.

Despite this, Bren seems to have made a very favourable impression with the atevi around him. He is packed into a suite next door to the current ruler, complete with a large staff who all vie to provide the best service, be the most useful, and just generally receive his thanks. Technically they are Damiri’s staff, but she mock-accuses him of trying to sweet talk them away from her. Plus, she lets us know, all the female staff are longing to get their hands on him! Ah, the allure of novelty!

Cherryh leaves us at a critical juncture, making me wish I had book three in my hand right this minute! However, I’ll have to wait until the library produces it from one of the branch libraries. In the meanwhile, I’ll work on other books in my reading queue.

Book number 349 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.

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review 2020-01-20 22:43
Book Review of Ascension: A Darkest Nights Novel by Lee Ferrier
Ascension - Lee Ferrier

Lucy Beaumont is dead; but in a world of Gods and Monsters, death isn't the end. Passing over into the afterlife, Lucy soon finds out that she and her friends are part of something bigger than any of them could imagine. The legendary Crystal Wand can help Lucy in her mission to find a way back to the world of the living, but only if she can fix her incomplete soul and regain her missing memories...

 

Ascension -A Darkest Nights Novel- serves as an intermediary between "Darkest Nights -Awakening-" and its follow-up "Darkest Nights -Ashes to Ashes".

 

Review 4*

 

Ascension is a bridging novel between Darkest Nights - Awakening and the next book in the series. I guess you can call it Book 1.5 in the series.

 

Disclaimer: I had the great honour of being one of the first people to read this book in its raw form while editing it. This review is my own honest opinion, and I have not received remuneration for it. I pre-ordered a copy of this book as soon as I heard it was available with my own money and read it in my own time. The author did not influence me or my opinion.

 

Ascension follows Lucy Beaumont's journey into the afterlife. It is told through her point of view. I am glad the author decided to write this story as I was so upset with him for *spoiler alert for those who haven't read Darkest Nights - Awakening yet* killing her off. I felt Lucy was a fantastic character and her shocking death affected me badly. It felt like I had lost a friend, and my heart had shattered.

 

Ascension sees Lucy coming to grips with her altered reality. She discovers that she is crucial to the fight between good and evil, and is the Dark Totem in a triumvirate destined to defeat an incarnation of the devil. As she struggles with her new powers, her personal life also takes a surprising turn. The reader gets introduced to new and old characters. It was a pleasure to see how Lucy's and Peter's friendship developed, as well as her interaction with the angel, Gabriel, and her girlfriend, Jordana.

 

This story took me on a roller coaster ride of emotion from beginning to end, which does end in a small cliffhanger, but this just made me want to read the next book as soon as possible.
Please note: This book is written in British English, so some terms and spellings may confuse American readers.

 

Lee Ferrier has written a fantastic YA dark fantasy/horror story. I love his fast-paced writing style, and the flow was excellent. This is an author who is not afraid to tread into dark places and kill off characters. In this respect, he is similar to George R.R. Martin (so I have heard, as I haven't read his books yet). This is one British author whose career I will follow with interest and would read more books written by him in the future.

 

There are some scenes of violence (fighting and/or bloodshed) and, on occasion, gore that may upset sensitive readers. There is also mention of sex (F/F), implied in some scenes and explicitly shown in others. Therefore, I do not recommend this book to those who would be upset by this. However, I highly recommend this book to teens aged 15/16 upwards and those adults who love dark young adult supernatural/paranormal horror novels. - Lynn Worton

 
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review 2020-01-20 20:36
Review: "The Girl the Sea Gave Back" by Adrienne Young
The Girl the Sea Gave Back - Adrienne Young

Iniital reaction: I really enjoyed this story, namely for the stakes in the story, the action scenes, and the intrigue of the lore.

Full review:

My first full book finished for the start of 2020, and this ended up being a solid read for me. I'd probably rank it only slightly below the author's debut novel "Sky in the Deep" as far as how much it intrigued me and immersed me through the read. The story follows two protagonists, the first of which is Tova, a young woman who can see the future among the runes she carries. She's taken in by a group called the Svell after being found on a half burned boat and taken in for the value of her abilities. But she's been used by the Svell much of her life and as war clashes between the Svell and a sworn enemy, she finds herself in the middle of the crosshairs with a series of bitter losses. She tries to do the best she can with her abilities and willingness to do the right thing, but with what she feels is a cursed existence, Kova finds herself lost in the fray. Enter Halvard, a young warrior who's attempting to find his own way and gets caught thrown into the tides of battle. Both Tova and Halvard's fates are destined to meet and intertwine, but it's not without heavy losses along the way.

What I really enjoyed throughout this novel were the action sequences and really the dynamic of the relationships Tova and Halvard had among their respective groups. I felt the writing for the action scenes were well written and paced throughout the book, immersing me into the battle sequences as they unfolded. Tova's willingness to help those around her, yet feeling helpless with her role and overarching missing identity was palpable. Likewise, Halvard wanting to protect his family and loved ones alongside finding his own purpose was something I could see through the narrative. Where the narrative faltered fell more on developing the leads with a deeper connection to themselves as well as their overarching journeys. I could sense the book rushing towards its conclusion without necessarily tying those threads together and giving Tova and Halvard more character connectivity to make their chemistry and intertwined fates more realistic and immersive. The novel certainly circled back to the feeling of identity on Tova's end and related to the title towards the conclusion, but it still left me wanting more to see where the characters would go from here on out.

This book takes place many years before/is a prequel of sorts to "Sky in the Deep" and features the reappearance of characters from that novel, though they are only in minor roles in the book. I liked "The Girl the Sea Gave Back" for what it offered and found it a valuable read. Still, there were steps that could have been taken to deepen the experience and round out the story better than it was. I'm looking forward to seeing where Young takes this universe in the future and reading more from the author as well.

Overall score: 3.5/5 stars.

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