I was drawn in by the title and I thought the cover was absolutely gorgeous, although I still do not understand why there is a crown of what appears to be barbed wire around her head. Even so, I definitely wanted to take a chance on Acne Asthma, and Other Signs You Might Be Half Dragon. It took me about two hours to read and to describe it in two words it was ‘mellow’ and ‘adventurous.’
Sometimes in fantasy (or anything with adventure in general) books, there’s a constant urgency feeling. At least, that’s how it is for me. Even though my heart-rate might be steady and normal, my mind is tense, as if I’m wading through an ocean of suspense. And you know? That can be stressful. So I liked the mellow feeling that I got from, Acne, Asthma, and Other Signs You Might Be Half Dragon (which is hereby shortened to AAOS).
Please welcome Allyson Takata to the stage. Allyson is in high-school and extremely insecure over the acne, later learned to be scales, on her face. She hasn’t had much adventure in her life farther than evading the bullies in her school and snatching hurtling objects out of the air before they can kiss her face.
I liked Allyson. She was intelligent, courageous, and tried her best to save people who she didn’t know. Many people are insecure about acne on their faces, so I found no fault in her applying makeup. The only fault I found in her was that she was disrespectful towards her mom. Rarely has my mom been wrong about things that matter and Allyson’s blatant lack of respect towards the only parent she’s ever known, the same parent who has no doubt been trying to protect her for years (which should have been obvious to Allyson after a while), was terrible. I won’t lie and say that Allyson not having many flaws bothered me since it didn’t. Because of the pace, there wasn’t time for meticulous character development, no matter how realistic it may be. There was still character development, but it wasn’t the kind that I’m usually writing about.
I loved the relationship between Allyson and Beth. Almost every YA novel has the main character only have one best friend, but Beth didn’t feel like one best friend. Rocford didn’t write her to be the only best friend Allyson has with the sole purpose of talking about boys or filling in silence. She was genuine, real, and an amazing supportive friend. She listens to Allyson, but has opinions of her own and voices them. Allyson and Beth were the team, working together to solve a problem inside the fantasy world that Allyson was just beginning to understand. For once, it wasn’t the usual hero and heroine combo, but two best friends working together. Loved it. And that also brings me to my next point.
The love interest wasn’t truly introduced until the very end. That’s worth repeating in bold and italics. The love interest wasn’t truly introduced until the very end. Rocford introduces him as a person first, cute guy second, and romantic interest third and that made me incredibly happy. In fact, the first love interest or romantic pairing that is in the story, isn’t even for.with Allyson. How cool is that? Bonus: It wasn’t insta-love/love at first sight, but rather attraction which is completely acceptable in my opinion. You can be attracted to someone physically by merely setting eyes on them and I think that that is what happened in AASO. Hopefully the relationships become more than that and are developed if a sequel is published. Regardless, I commend Rocford for using this technique because it is unfortunately rarely used but even more fascinating.
The plot was practically concrete, sort of. It was solid and had structure, but unlike concrete, the plot of AASO had focus. Although I wish that there had been a bit more information on the actual fantasy part, for example, how shifting works or more explanation on Beth’s situation with unicorns or even just basic, but informative information on each create that Allyson encounters. Nonetheless, I was pleased that I could easily see that Rocford had put sincere thought into her writing.
Would I Recommend Acne, Asthma, and Other Signs You Might Be a Half Dragon?
Quite frankly, I didn’t find anything wrong with AAOS that would ruin your experience. It’s two-hundred and thirty pages, but it felt like a short story and I liked that. The pace wasn’t rushed and I felt comfortable with how quickly I was given information and the characters that were included in this journey. However, you might not appreciate the length as much as I did if you pay five dollars for it.
This action filled conclusion to Amanda Hocking’s Frostfire trilogy opens with Bryn on the lam, falsely accused of treason and murder, and forced to partner with dangerous and puzzling Konstantin Black who she has good reason not to trust. I’m a big fan of Hocking’s richly imagined troll-verse, a world exactly like our own but with the addition of human-resembling trolls based on Scandinavian mythology who love nature, covet gemstones, prefer being barefoot, and live in elaborate out of the way communities, and I’ve enjoyed both earlier books in the series, but Crystal Kingdom is my favorite for several reasons.
First, while Bryn scrambles to stay one step ahead of the trackers sent to apprehend her, readers are taken on a road trip that stretches from the swamps of Louisiana to the snowy northern reaches of Canada as she visits the home settlements of all five of the troll tribes in her quest to save her own community. They’re all trolls, but each group has unique features, abilities, and customs. We’re even taken to an especially remote and icy dumping ground for outcast trolls, where we meet 14-year-old Ulla who has a mixed tribe background--she’s part Omte, the super strong tribe that sometimes includes ogres, and part Skojare, the semi-aquatic tribe. Ulla’s parents were unmarried royals who abandoned her as a baby so she’s working as a maid when Brynn finds her in Iskyla--I’m really hoping to meet Ulla again in a future troll series.
Another reason I loved this book is that several major characters from Hocking’s first troll books, the Trylle series, make major appearances in the story. We had already seen Finn, but now Wendy, plays an important role and it’s wonderful to catch up with her and see how she’s managed the transition from changeling to queen.
Crystal Kingdom is full of other delights, Bryn’s friend Tilda proving that being pregnant doesn’t mean she’s not a formidable fighter for instance, and Bryn’s own struggles to reconcile love and duty. Amanda Hocking doesn’t write lyrical prose, but I can’t resist her moving stories, her spirited but conflicted characters, and her inventive settings. There are plenty of books about vampires, fae, witches, and werewolves, but not many about trolls so I’m hoping that Hocking continues to write about this world.
I read a free ebook advanced review copy of Crystal Kingdom, supplied to me by the publisher through NetGalley. Review opinions are mine.
I bought this because I loved the idea of an urban fantasy starring a 60+ year old pacifist. At the start of this book, the eccentric and rich Marley Jacobs is holding a fundraiser at her house. Aloysius, her sleazy nephew, stops by and tries to convince her to give him a love potion so he can win back Jenny, his ex-girlfriend and Marley's current assistant. Marley has always found Aloysius to be tiresome, and now she's finally had enough. She forces him to see himself for who he really is. It seems like a change for the better, except she never sees him alive again.
Although she didn't particularly like Aloysius, Marley still wants to find out who killed him and why. For one thing, Jenny is being blamed for his murder, and Marley is convinced she didn't do it. For another, Marley is worried that her last words to Aloysius might have played a part in his death. With Albert, her nephew and Aloysius's half-brother, acting as her new assistant, she plans to figure out the truth and stop any more killings from happening in her city.
I'll start with the good. I'm really glad that a character like Marley exists. I can think of very few older female fantasy protagonists. Connolly only hinted at Marley's younger days, but I imagined her as being something like Buffy Summers, traditionally kick-butt and tough. Then things went really, really wrong, she was forced to rethink her entire way of life, and over the years she morphed into the Marley of this book. While her pacifism was sometimes frustrating, I admired her determination to never purposely hurt anyone. She didn't even bend this rule – there was no “by killing this one person, I can save thousands of lives” moment, even though there were certainly opportunities for it, and she wouldn't even let Albert kill or hurt anyone in her stead.
While Marley was nice, Marley and Albert together were even better. They had some fabulous dialogue. I loved watching Albert try to adjust to the idea that, even though he was an ex-soldier (his military career ended when his trigger finger was shot off), Marley honestly didn't want him to be her bodyguard or her muscle. She hired him primarily as her driver, her conversational companion, and her door opener, and that was it. The very first thing he had to learn, as Marley's assistant, was how to stand back, trust her, and let her do her thing. Although his fight-or-flight response was still in Afghanistan mode, he gradually got better at this.
Now for the bad. I hate to say this, but the story plodded a bit. The things that kept me reading were Marley and Albert's conversations and the occasional glimpses of how supernatural stuff worked in this world. I loved the part with the ghost, even though I wasn't fond of Marley's very broad definition of “ghost.” I also enjoyed the vampires, troll, and dragon (even though it was a little like something out of a Godzilla movie). The problem was that, after a while, I kept losing the thread of what Marley and Albert were trying to do. They'd visit one person, supernatural or otherwise, find out a little more about Aloysius's sleazy life, and then move on to the next person. There was no way to tell what was related to Aloysius's death and what wasn't, and Marley either played things close to her chest or didn't have much more of an idea about what she was doing than Albert did.
That leads me to Marley. I'm not sure what Connolly was trying to do with her. On the one hand, she clearly had tons of supernatural and magical knowledge, was acquainted with some amazing beings, and was so vastly wealthy that even her home burning down was more of an annoyance than anything. On the other hand, I was never sure whether her actions were prompted by her years of knowledge and experience, or whether she was just doing stuff because it felt right at the time. She'd do things like booby trap her own home or damage some random car, not because she had any evidence that her actions might be helpful, but because she just had a “feeling.” It got to the point where, in my mind, I read Marley's “feelings” as “authorial laziness,” and I hated them because I felt they robbed Marley of much of her potential awesomeness.
Then there were the other things that just didn't work. For example, there was the “moment” between Jenny and Albert that felt weirdly sudden (they'd literally just met, and Jenny was still twitchy over the possibility of accidentally running into Aloysius) and that never actually went anywhere. Then there was Scribe. Scribe was a terrible idea, and yet another pointless thing that could have been dropped from the story without hurting anything. I had the nagging suspicion that Scribe existed mostly to explain away any and all of the book's POV oddities.
The thing that really got me was the ending, in particular the last few sentences. It was like Connolly couldn't decide whether to end the book on a light note or a tragic one, so he decided to do both. I'm sure it was intended to be funny, but it just left me feeling angry. All I could think about was what would have to happen next. Either Marley would have to exist like that forever, or she'd have to wait for Albert to rescue her. Both options upset me, for different reasons.
I really, really liked certain aspects of this book, which was why it was so disappointing when others fell completely flat. I can still recommend this as being pleasantly outside the urban fantasy norm, but it could have been so much more amazing than it was. I'm still debating whether I want to try any of Connolly's other books.
I don't think there were more than a dozen typos, but they were all pretty distracting – usually missing words, or words that should have been taken out but weren't. In one instance, early on in the book, Marley was called “Marley Jacob” rather than “Marley Jacobs.” Also, I winced when Marley “plucked out a few locks” (200) of someone's hair. No. You can pluck a strand of hair, but you'll probably have to cut a lock of hair off, unless you plan on yanking out some of the person's scalp as well.
(Original review, with read-alikes and watch-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)
Ok, things have settled down and it's starting to get a little interesting now that the plot is finally kicking in.
Story so far: Morgan, a half-Faerie Knight in service to Queen Mab, has a death wish ever since her fiance got flambed by a female dragon named Avery they were hunting. With Avery dead, Morgan is literally rescued from a troll's cauldron by Vallen- another dragon- who'd come to rescue his brother, Young, from a similar fate. Morgan learns that Avery is still alive and up to no good, and meets up with Heather, a werewolf girl who's after Avery for killing her packmates.
Meanwhile, Vallen, a Knight apparently sworn to Arthur Pendragon, also learns of Avery's misdeeds and is bound by chivalry to hunt her down, as she used to be a knight herself.
Still some silliness, but it's moving along at a steady clip now.