The Scar (New Crobuzon #2)
Author: China Miéville Publication Date: 1/1/02
Publisher: Del Rey
Blurb(GR): Aboard a vast seafaring vessel, a band of prisoners and slaves, their bodies remade into grotesque biological oddities, is being transported to the fledgling colony of New Crobuzon. But the journey is not theirs alone. They are joined by a handful of travelers, each with a reason for fleeing the city. Among them is Bellis Coldwine, a renowned linguist whose services as an interpreter grant her passage—and escape from horrific punishment. For she is linked to Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin, the brilliant renegade scientist who has unwittingly unleashed a nightmare upon New Crobuzon.For Bellis, the plan is clear: live among the new frontiersmen of the colony until it is safe to return home. But when the ship is besieged by pirates on the Swollen Ocean, the senior officers are summarily executed. The surviving passengers are brought to Armada, a city constructed from the hulls of pirated ships, a floating, landless mass ruled by the bizarre duality called the Lovers. On Armada, everyone is given work, and even Remades live as equals to humans, Cactae, and Cray. Yet no one may ever leave.
Lonely and embittered in her captivity, Bellis knows that to show dissent is a death sentence. Instead, she must furtively seek information about Armada’s agenda. The answer lies in the dark, amorphous shapes that float undetected miles below the waters—terrifying entities with a singular, chilling mission. . . .Review:
Scars are funny things. They are traumas long past. They are reminders of people we’ve known and places we’ve been. They are healing; they are memory; they are history. Scars can change us into something brand new; scars can show the world that we’ve been irreparably broken. Scars are full of Possibility.
And so, The Armada: a place where new scars are made and old ones fall away. A massive floating city, cobbled together with stolen and salvaged boats, stolen and salvaged people. Slaves, servants, the remade, the ab-dead, all the oppressed lower castes of Bas-Lag: in The Armada they are reborn as citizens or even leaders. The Armada is a blurred place, a place of change. It’s a place where a man like Tanner Sack, medically altered into something inhuman and imprisoned aboard a slave ship bound for a new world, can breathe free. It’s a place where a young sailor with too much experience and too many prejudices can let them all go and find love. It’s a place where a young maid and a boy from a misogynistic village can join and become the most charismatic leader The Armada has ever known.
And then there’s Bellis Coldwine, standing out in sharp definition against all the blur. She’s a woman who decided long ago who she was going to be and she doesn’t want to change. She’s tightly contained within her fully-realized self. Reluctantly fleeing from the scrutiny of the ruthless New Crobuzon authorities, she wants nothing more than to return home someday – a goal which becomes impossible when she’s captured and claimed by The Armada. Bellis can see the opportunities that some of her less fortunate shipmates have been given, but still she is stubborn. She holds onto her need to return home like it’s armor.
“No, she thought fiercely, uncompromisingly.
Whatever the truth, whatever the case, however hopeless the cause – I do not give up on escape. It had taken her quite some effort to reach this coldly burning pitch of anger, of desire for escape, and to relinquish it now would be unbearable.
What happens next is a thrilling, mind-blowingly imaginative high seas journey through nightmares and mysteries – each more jaw-dropping and unique than the last. This author just knocks my socks off with the sheer power of his imagination. There are enough ideas, worlds, and species in this book alone to kindle a hundred others. And yet, he just tosses them out there like peanuts.
This story could have so easily become garish b-movie material, with its panoply of grotesqueries: flesh-melting neon green spit, anus-mouths, insectoid people, cactus
people (seriously), and giant underwater behemoths. But it NEVER does! Everything he writes is so…emotional and profound; it never feels cheap. How he managed to break my heart with slavering, murderous mosquito women I’ll never know!
The writing here really shouldn’t work and yet somehow it feels absolutely right and perfect
. The story shifts from past to present tense, from first person to third person, from one narrator to another. It seems almost cobbled together. And yet it never feels stilted or odd. It flows. Like The Armada itself, this motley assortment of prose somehow bridges together and reforms into a sweeping, effortless picture.
And here’s the thing I love the most about this book: that picture, that story, with all of its suspense and catharsis and death, was just a beginning.
“And I feel, for all that has happened, as if it is
now, only now in
these days, that
my journey is beginning. I feel as if this – even all this – has been a prologue.”
I have been a fan of China Mieville for a while, but this book is by far my favorite.
Perfect Musical Pairing
Bon Iver - Perth
I originally picked a song from this album for Perdido Street Station because I’d been listening to it non-stop for weeks and I was physically incapable of choosing anything else. But now I’m happy I did. This artist, with his weird falsetto voice and combination of 80’s-style synthesizers and brass instruments, really does sound different and sometimes odd. But his music is also undeniably beautiful and affecting. He wrote this song for a friend who had recently lost someone (Heath Ledger), and I think it’s about the marks that people leave on us: “I’m tearing up, across your face.”
A Discovery of Witches
Author: Deborah Harkness
Publication Date: 2/8/11
Publisher: Viking Adult
Blurb(GR): A richly inventive novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together. Deep in the stacks of Oxford's Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break
Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos. This smart, sophisticated story harks back to the novels of Anne Rice, but it is as contemporary and sensual as the Twilight series-with an extra serving of historical realism.
Review: This book kept me hanging on just enough to stop me from abandoning it. I’m not really sure who this book is aimed at; it’s a very pedestrian, traditional romance wrapped up in a nearly 600 page, painfully slow tale filled with history and science. It’s a bit like a Hallmark card wrapped up in an encyclopedia. The history and science buffs will be turned off by the cheesy center, and the romance lovers will resent having to wade through pages of endless description and detail just to get to the good stuff. And speaking of “the good stuff” – there isn’t any. If I am going to struggle my way through a sappy romance, the least I would expect is a good sex scene!
The female lead is Diana, who is a highly intelligent woman and well respected in her field. She’s also the daughter of two powerful witches who were murdered when she was seven years old. Traumatized by their deaths, she turns her back on magic and devotes her life to study. When she accidentally pulls a heavily enchanted manuscript from the Bodleian library and is somehow able to open it, she draws the attention of the supernatural communities. Matthew, a biochemist vampire with many secrets and motivations of his own, seeks out Diana to investigate.
The main thing that turns me off about this book is the cast of characters. Matthew will be startlingly familiar to any reader of paranormal romance. He’s a perfect physical specimen, with vast wealth (including several ancient homes which he built himself), a guilt-inducing past, and a tendency to be an overly protective, patronizing control freak. He also likes to name drop famous historical figures that he’s known, drone on and on about wine and spout obnoxious lines like, “Will you never wait until I help you?” And, despite being alive for 1,500 years, he apparently still thinks that women are incapable of feeding and clothing themselves or knowing when they’re tired (Don’t worry, he’ll give you sedatives without your knowledge if you try to disagree). He’s the kind of guy who says, “I might not be able to control myself if you step away” after a first kiss, then spends the rest of the book avoiding consummating the relationship, because “there’s plenty of time” even though at this point the characters have become very committed. Diana is the otherwise intelligent woman who acts like a child whenever she’s in his presence. She has to be bullied and bated into using her powers, and saved time and time again by Matthew. Despite Matthew’s continual marveling about how powerful and strong she is, her strength is barely in evidence.
This book needs some serious trimming. This author is clearly a very bright, intellectual woman and she has a ton of ideas. I just wish she hadn’t put all of them in this one book. She manages to cram in alchemy, paranormal groups, magic, evolution, mythology, medieval knights, politics, DNA testing, yoga, and wine tasting, not to mention time travel before this book is done. There are also four chapters (out of about forty) that are written in third person following Matthew, instead of the first person (Diana) perspective that’s used for the rest of the book. It’s as if she feels the need to show the reader absolutely everything that’s going on, everywhere. This book would have been so much better if she had kept a few ideas in reserve. Some of the topics, like the wine tasting and the yoga,
serve no purpose to the story, except perhaps to make Matthew seem even more pretentious.
I did enjoy much of the science and history, but there were too many niggling little scientific inaccuracies to keep me spellbound. For instance, Matthew has apparently mapped the DNA of enough witches and other supernatural beings to be able to locate and identify markers of different magical powers, not to mention create a map of the different lineages of witch families. However, he is somehow unable to use the same information to determine whether the different supernatural groups (witches, vampires, and daemons) are genetically related. For all of the author’s vast intelligence, I’m not sure that she really understands evolution either. I’m not one who typically nit-picks stories on the technical details, but this book is so agonizingly slow and the sappy romance is such a turn off for me – I found myself focusing on the little details more and more.
This book is absolutely not for me. However, if you are an intellectual person with a love of sweet, "courtly love" type romances, and macho-man heroes, then I think you might like this one.
Let the Right One In
Author: John Ajvide Lindqvist
Publication Date: 10/28/08
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Blurb (GR): It is autumn 1981 when the inconceivable comes to Blackeberg, a suburb in Sweden. The body of a teenage boy is found, emptied of blood, the murder rumored to be part of a ritual killing. Twelve-year-old Oskar is personally hoping that revenge has come at long last---revenge for the bullying he endures at school, day after day.
But the murder is not the most important thing on his mind. A new girl has moved in next door---a girl who has never seen a Rubik’s Cube before, but who can solve it at once. There is something wrong with her, though, something odd. And she only comes out at night. . . .
I can't even find the words to describe how much I LOVED this novel. But let me start by warning Twilight lovers that this book is not about sexy sparkly vampires and teenage love. If you are not ready to read about ugly realities of human life, do not open this book.
It is not an easy book to read. The story is complex and involves many characters, whose presence sometimes is just momentary. The action moves from one character to another very quickly. But once you understand the pace and get used to foreign names, the story consumes you.
I will not relay the plot here, if you want to know what exactly the book is about, there are many reviews here that describe the story well. What I am going to say is that this is simply the best vampire novel I've ever read. Yes, I am putting it higher even than legendary Bram Stoker's "Dracula." This story is so much more complex and interesting in a way that not only does it show vampires from the point of view of their victims, but it also shows the world through the eyes of the vampires. We find out how very often innocent people become those feared monsters, we go through the transformation with them, we feel their guilt and shame, we learn about their relationships with their "Guardians" (who sometimes are worse monsters than vampires themselves).
But this book is not only about vampires, it explores the world of adolescent boys (the world I know nothing about). Surprisingly, I found out how important presence of a father in a boy's life. Without the guidance a love of a father, boys are lost to violence and abuse.
With all the horridness described in this book, it is strangely full of love and tenderness, understanding and forgiveness.
I highly recommend this book. You simply will not be able to walk away untouched by it.
Hard Bitten (Chicagoland Vampires, #4)
Author: Chloe Neill
Publisher: NAL Trade
Times are hard for newly minted vampire Merit. Ever since shapeshifters announced their presence to the world, humans have been rallying against supernaturals--and they're camping outside of Cadogan House with protest signs that could turn to pitchforks at any moment. Inside its doors, things between Merit and her Master, green-eyed heartbreaker Ethan Sullivan are ... tense. But then the mayor of Chicago calls Merit and Ethan to a clandestine meeting and tells them about a violent vamp attack that has left three women missing. His message is simple: get your House in order. Or else.
Merit needs to get to the bottom of this crime, but it doesn't help that she can't tell who's on her side. So she secretly calls in a favor from someone who's tall, dark, and part of underground vamp group that may have some deep intel on the attack. Merit soon finds herself in the heady, dark heart of Chicago's supernatural society--a world full of vampires who seem too ready to fulfill the protesting human's worst fears, and a place where she'll learn that you can't be a vampire without getting a little blood on your hands...Review:
Holy curveball, Batman! As I was nearing the end of this book, I kept thinking, “Oh, I totally know what the crazy jawdropper at the end of this book is going to be. Come on people, duhhh” as I paged through the windup. NOPE, it turns out this book just wiped that smug look off my face. I will put spoilers in this review where spoilers are due but LISTEN UP, COMPULSIVE SPOILER CLICKERS/READERS!! If you click on the spoilers and intend to read this book, you might as well get a Flannery-shaped voodoo doll so you can stick it with pins because I will have totally ruined your reading experience. You heard it here first.
So anyway, if you have been following this series, you might want to reread Twice Bitten
before reading this one. There is a rather large cast of characters in this series and while I remembered the names for the most part, I couldn’t completely remember everyone’s history and their personalities…of course, that could have something to do with me frantically reading all three published books in two days around Christmastime. Either way, I bet your enjoyment would be greatly increased if you didn’t have the memory jogging to do. As it is, this book picks up almost directly after the ending of its predecessor. (obviously I can’t recount that ending as it is a huge spoiler)
The writing is consistent with other installments of the series, which is pretty refreshing considering how other series I read have been increasingly disappointing or just feel like filler. While they all have airs of political feuds in them, the theme is much more present in this one and I wasn’t the hugest fan. I mean, let’s be honest here. Are we in the cone of silence? Okay, we all know one of the biggest, if not THE biggest reason we read series like this is for all the hot guys and *fingers crossed* sexy times. I’ll read about power struggles or solving mysteries but for a series like this one, I’m always hoping for some hotness. Aaaaand , this one is sadly light on it. As it is on Mallory and Catcher, whom I’ve come to really enjoy. I felt like their storyline was rather unnecessary to the overall book and it felt like they were there only to provide readers the reminder that they are, in fact, huge characters in the series. Did anyone else feel this way? Maybe it was just me. It was just too much power struggle and not enough fun, friendships, romance, etc. There was ass-kicking, though, which is always great.
I am rather embarrassingly in love with the idea of vampire Houses and the whole fraternity/sorority feel of all the different Chicagoland (and otherwise) groups of vampires. While reading, I daydream about what kind of house would be the coolest to be a part of—then I push up my metaphorical nerd glasses and wonder how it is I even have any friends:) Anyway, other books in the series gave us an understanding of the Cadogan (obviously) and Navarre houses, but this one lets us in on Grey House and I have to say, it sounds pretty choice. I’d definitely want to be hanging out with them in their sweet pad.
And then come my annoyances: ***SPOILER ALERT***
You know that love interest? That guy you’ve been rooting for for several books? The one who has super sexy awesomeness with Merit in the last book? Well, Chloe Neill brings him out of nowhere into a fight in the last 10 pages and then stakes him a few sentences later. WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT? I’m not going to say I’m annoyed that he was killed—it’s okay with me. I’m excited to see where the series will go from here--I’m just a bit disappointed at the execution and how much was done in the last 15 or so pages. And speaking of that, her dad is such an asshole! As is Darius. I wish characters had less of that stuff, what do you call them? Oh, morals. I wish someone would’ve just staked that bastard and Celina from the get-go. Jeez, where are the vigilantes when you need them? ;-) Also, Morgan is hot but a douche, and Jonah’s room sounds awesome. I’d hit that.***END SPOILERS***
All in all, I still really enjoyed this one. Fun times in Chicagoland!