Book Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle, #1)The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Simply excellent

I’d not previously read any of Maggie Stiefvater’s books, but I’d heard good things about her work, and I’d seen that she’d also worked some with Tessa Gratton, who’s books “The Lost Sun” and “The Strange Maid” I’d gladly devoured a couple months ago, so I thought it might be worth a shot to check her work out. I am quite glad I did!

The story is solid paranormal/urban fantasy, even though it doesn’t have any of the standard hallmarks like vampires, werewolves, witches, angels or demons, nor does it have any grand romance at the center to fuel the plot. instead, it offers psychics, ley lines and a long dead Welsh king, along with four very different prep-school boys, several psychics and a psychic’s daughter who amplifies spiritual energy around her and has been told that when she kisses her true love, he will die.

it all adds up to a dark and suspenseful tale of the boys’ obsession with finding the burial place of the king which is rumoured to be somewhere along a local ley line, and what that obsession does to them and those around them.

On the surface, the boys seem like they’d be easy to reduce to a stereotypes: The rich guy, the slacker, the kid from the wrong side of the tracks and the quiet one, but as written by Stiefvater they become so much more, each having multiple layers and surprising depths.

I would recommend this to anyone looking for a change of pace or something a bit darker than much of what I’ve read so far. And now I’m going to dive into the next part in the series!

READER CAUTION: The story deals in places with child abuse and there are a couple of scenes where abuse takes place.

Other books mentioned in review:

The Lost Sun (The United States of Asgard, #1) by Tessa Gratton
The Lost Sun

The Strange Maid (The United States of Asgard, #2) by Tessa Gratton
The Strange Maid

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Book Review: Wiccan Shadows by Lori J. Shiele

Wiccan ShadowsWiccan Shadows by Lori J. Schiele

I did not give this book is star rating as I was unable to finish it.

I didn’t get very far into the book before giving up. I know there are many flavors of Wicca, but there were some touches to the way the author was presenting it in this world that just hit me as a bit cliched and – for lack of a better term – gawkier that I prefer. Unfortunately, this lead to some giggles where you really don’t want any, like in the middle of an otherwise nice and tense “impending death” scene. This is much more a matter of personal preference than any real flaw in the writing, and had I read further, I may have found it to be less annoying as the story went on, but I didn’t really find anything else that gave me a strong enough desire to continue. YMMV.

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Book Review: Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger

Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School, #1)Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m fairly new to the steampunk genre, and “Etiquette and Espionage” is providing me a warm welcome. The clash between manners and spycraft provides copious opportunities for good-natured humour, and the steampunk elements support the characters and the story without dominating them as I’d found happening in a couple other steampunk books I tried.

There is a “Harry Potter-ish” feel to the story, being as it is about young people in a highly specialized school running into adventures they try to resolve without the staff catching on, but the characters themselves are fresh and engaging, and the villains are written with enough dastardliness to make you want to see them get their comeuppance, without being so over the top you want to roll your eyes every time they open their mouths.

I’m definitely signing up for the next term at *this* finishing school!

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Book Review: “Storm” by Danielle Ellison

Storm (Salt #2)Storm by Danielle Ellison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While reading “Storm” I found myself on few occasions thinking that it might be nice if the author had provided a bit more of the backstory for certain events or references made in the book. Not that the story was significantly lacking in any way, but just that it might enhance the story a bit further. But the references to these events and people were sufficient enough that I had no problem following what was happening and enjoyed the book nonetheless.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered that “Storm” is actually the second of a two-part series written by Danielle Ellison. I consider it a testimony to her skill that at no point did I suspect that I was reading a sequel. The story stands up that well on its own, and I had no trouble quickly getting oriented in the world that she presents, knowing (and liking) the characters that she has created and becoming invested enough in what was happening thatI found the book hard to put down.

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Book Review: “Imitation” by Heather Hildenbrand

ImitationImitation by Heather Hildenbrand

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Imitation” was a very fast-reading book for me – I finished it in under 24-hours, so, obviously, the book is.enjoyable and held my attention. That doesn’t mean it’s not without its flaws, however. The basic premise is that wealthy clients can have a clone made of themselves, which is known as an Imitation. The original person is called the Authentic. An Authentic can use their Imitation for virtually any purpose they have in mind – from having them step in and attend an event the Authentic doesn’t want or is unable to attend, to using them as a source for harvesting organs should the Authentic need a transplant, or – as in this case – to step into the Authentic’s life and serve as a decoy when threats are made to the Authentic’s health and safety.

As the story opens, we meet Ven – the Imitation of Raven Rogan, the daughter of one of the world wealthiest man – who also just happens to be the man who created the Imitations. Attempts have been made to attack Raven, so her father sends her into hiding – though it’s never really explained exactly where she is – and Ven has been sent in to take her place. This is one place in which the story sort of falls down.

Ven has been specifically created to be able to stand in for Raven on a moment’s notice. She goes to extensive training, watching videos of Raven interacting with her friends, going shopping, and other such mundane activities. Ven is expected to have watched countless hours of these videos and be able to perfectly imitate Raven. At no point, though, is then given any real training in how Raven thinks, what her general beliefs are, her morals or ethics, or even if she has a boyfriend – much less what level of intimacy they might share. It’s one thing for Ven to know how Raven might say something – her vocal tone, the kind of attitudes she projects, etc., but it’s problematic if she doesn’t know *what* Raven would actually say in that situation. Meanwhile, Ravens father constantly chides Ven for not being enough like Raven, but seems unwilling to offer any insight or practical advice as to how she could do that better.

The romance at the center of the book is sweet, and to a great extent feels believable – except that when they meet, the man has been working as one of Raven’s bodyguards for some time, but he doesn’t seem particularly concerned about the fact that she’s not acting like her normal self – someone he obviously has very little respect for.

What really saves the book, is Ven, herself. She is an interesting, well developed character and feels like someone you might want to have as a friend. The story maintains a nice dramatic pace – there’s enough action to keep things interesting, while still allowing our characters room to breathe. Foreshadowing is nicely done, without beating us over the head with a too-obvious clues, and the dialogue doesn’t come across as stilted or overblown. It also touches on some of the ethical issues related to cloning, what rights – if any – clones have, and if there is any degree to which they are actually human, and not just a man-made creation.

While I can’t say that “Imitation” is one of my favorite books, it’s enjoyable enough that I’m looking forward to being able to check out part two.

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Book Review: “Liesmith” by Alis Franklin

Liesmith: Book 1 of The WyrdLiesmith: Book 1 of The Wyrd by Alis Franklin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received this as an Advanced Review Copy.

This is one of the more unique books I’ve read in quite some time. The narration combines first-person and 3rd person omniscient viewpoints, as well as a kind of stream-of-conscienceness that, in a way, lays over the whole thing. And even though that sounds confusing, it really isn’t.

The characters are well written and thankfully don’t spend too much time freaking out when they find themselves in odd situations. While it may sometimes feel like they’re a bit TOO accepting of the strange going-ons, once their ability to readily adapt to new experiences is established it’s welcomingly refreshing to just have the story move forward without all the usual folderol.

One other nice thing – even though this is listed as the first book in a series, the story ends with things open enough for more stories to be told in this universe, but solidly enough to make it a complete story with a satisfying conclusion.

The main weakness I found with the book is that it might be a bit hard for someone who isn’t at least modestly familiar with Norse Lore and Gamer culture to keep up, as there are a number of side references that might not be readily understood otherwise.

Overall, though, I thoroughly enjoyed “Liesmith,” and am hoping it won’t be too long for the next book In the series to arrive.

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