Thursday, February 25, 2016

ARC Review: Marked in Flesh

Title: Marked in Flesh (Book 4 in The Others series)
Author: Anne Bishop
Publication Date: March 8, 2016
Publisher: Roc / Penguin
Format: eARC*

“For centuries, the Others and humans have lived side by side in uneasy peace. But when humankind oversteps its bounds, the Others will have to decide how much humanity they’re willing to tolerate—both within themselves and within their community...

Since the Others allied themselves with the cassandra sangue, the fragile yet powerful human blood prophets who were being exploited by their own kind, the delicate dynamic between humans and Others changed. Some, like Simon Wolfgard, wolf shifter and leader of the Lakeside Courtyard, and blood prophet Meg Corbyn, see the new, closer companionship as beneficial—both personally and practically.

But not everyone is convinced. A group of radical humans is seeking to usurp land through a series of violent attacks on the Others. What they don’t realize is that there are older and more dangerous forces than shifters and vampires protecting the land that belongs to the Others—and those forces are willing to do whatever is necessary to protect what is theirs...”

I read the first three books in Anne Bishop’s The Others series last year and absolutely adored them. Urban fantasy is far from my usual cup of tea, but something about these books drew me in. Needless to say, getting an ARC of the fourth book, Marked in Flesh, was beyond exciting. The fact that this is the fourth books means that there will be some spoilers if you haven’t started the series or are caught up yet, so read at your discretion!

In this fourth installment, we pick up immediately after the events of Vision in Silver. The members of the Humans First and Last movement are planning attacks against the Others and the Intuits in an effort to claim the land for humans. As these attacks increase in severity, something far more powerful than the Others – the Elders, who live deep in the wild country – have had enough of these human threats. Meanwhile, the Lakeside Courtyard finds itself trying to protect more Others and humans than ever before.

There is something that must be said about this series: these books grow on you, but they’re not action-packed thrillers. So much of the story is devoted to the daily goings-on of the characters, their relationships, and how they navigate their world. I admit there are times when this seems almost boring, and so much time is spent in the build-up to major events. Marked in Flesh definitely suffers from this, even more than its predecessors.

The first 40% of Marked in Flesh is spent alternating between many points of view (too many, to be honest), and it’s a bit difficult to keep everything straight. Our time as the reader is split between three different locations, and countless characters. Personally, I could have gone without a lot of these little subplot moments in favor of focusing on the actual, main plot or on character relationships (if you know my thoughts about this series, you know who I’m talking about). But around the 45% mark, things really pick up, and the events of Marked in Flesh will irrevocably change the dynamics of this world forever. I don’t even know what’s going to happen in book five, because the way things end in Marked in Flesh was just…a lot bigger than I was expecting. So now I’m very excited to see where Anne Bishop takes things in the next book.

On a side note, I will say that I was a bit disappointed in the lack of a certain development that I’ve been looking forward to for four books now. Yes, I’m talking about Simon and Meg’s relationship. I understand why this ship has progressed at a glacial pace, and all the reasons why it’s necessary. But while we finally get something like progress for these two, my shipper heart wanted a bit more (I’m greedy, what can I say). That being said, their dynamic is only getting better, and I still have a lot of love for these two.

Perhaps the best part of this book is that the reader finally becomes aware of just how epic the nature of this world is, and how Anne Bishop gets us to this point after three books of careful world building and creating an entire mythology. I found the Elders to be terrifying yet fascinating, and I think that Marked in Flesh has a lot to say about humanity within those 400 pages. The greed and prejudice of man make them capable of horrible things, and that idea is a central theme of this book.

I won’t get into specific events because I don’t want to completely spoil things, but suffice it to say that Marked in Flesh was a great fourth installment in what has become my favorite urban fantasy series. Despite a slow start, Marked in Flesh will definitely leave readers anxiously awaiting book five!

Rating: 3.5 stars

*I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

DNF Diaries: Into the Dim

It’s time for another installment of DNF Diaries, in which I share the books that I abandoned, and explain why I didn’t finish reading them. I know DNFing books is still a somewhat touchy subject in the book community, but one of my Bookish Resolutions for 2016 was to not be afraid to DNF books. Life’s too short to read bad books.

Today’s DNF Diaries post is about Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor. I received an eARC of this via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review, so…I’ll be honest here. Into the Dim is published on March 1, 2016, and it joins the ranks of the recent influx of time travel YA novels. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite stack up. I DNF’ed this book at 51% and haven’t regretted that life choice.

“When fragile, sixteen-year-old Hope Walton loses her mom to an earthquake overseas, her secluded world crumbles. Agreeing to spend the summer in Scotland, Hope discovers that her mother was more than a brilliant academic, but also a member of a secret society of time travelers. And she's alive, though currently trapped in the twelfth century, during the age of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Hope has seventy-two hours to rescue her mother and get back to their own time. Passing through the Dim, Hope enters a brutal medieval world of political intrigue, danger, and violence. A place where any serious interference could alter the very course of history. And when she meets a boy whose face is impossibly familiar, she must decide between her mission and her heart—both of which could leave Hope trapped in the past forever. Addictive, romantic, and rich with historical detail, Into the Dim is an Outlander for teens.”

The Good: Thanks to many years spent in the Doctor Who fandom, I am predisposed to want to like time travel stories. And Into the Dim has the most interesting time travel period of its contemporaries (no Antebellum period corsets and such here) because Hope and her fellow travelers go back in time to the court of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II of England. I was so excited to read a story set in this time, because Eleanor of Aquitaine was such an amazing figure in history. So really, the good parts of this book were how excited I was about Eleanor, and that time travel is inherently a cool concept.

The Bad: Into the Dim follows the same basic premise as every other time travel story that’s come out this year, or is slated to come out this year: young girl is separated from her mother, only to find out that – surprise! – time travel is real and she has to go on a quest to the past in order to save her mother. Paternity, if unknown, will be a latent plot point for twisty plot effect.  Rinse and repeat. Passenger did this, Into the Dim did this, and The Girl From Everywhere did this slightly differently. It’s a tired premise at this point, and I’m done with reading it over and over again.

Further, the actual apparatus behind time travel was like every possible time travel explanation rolled into one…ley lines! Tesla coils! Super computer tech things! Way too convoluted.

The Ugly: Hope Walton does not have a personality. If she does, it is so nondescript that the only word the publisher could come up with to describe her in the blurb above is fragile. I never felt connected to her, or cared about her, and her characterization felt inconsistent while still not managing to construct a personality for our dear protagonist. I don’t mind an unlikable main character, but I cannot stand an annoying or boring main character. Hope is both.

Many characters in this story are Scottish, and it’s clear from the blurb that this is Outlander for teens or something, but good lord. The way Taylor writes the Scottish characters was unbearable. If I had a dollar for every time she wrote “och,” I could cut my student loans in half. Every Scottish character felt beyond cliché, and the Outlander angle was pushed awkwardly and too hard. At the half way point, we’re very obviously being set up for a love triangle between Hope, a fellow traveler, and another guy who is even more obviously part of the rival/evil group of time travelers. I just can’t.

The worst part, and the most damning, is that I didn’t think about this book when I wasn’t reading it. In fact, I never thought about how much I want to continue reading, or see what happened next. I still don’t. And ultimately, I knew I had to DNF this book or I would end up with an underwhelming to the point of infuriating two star read.

Into the Dim doesn’t come out until March 1, but if you’re interested in reading this book, I’d recommend saving your money and checking it out from the library instead.

What’s the last book you DNF’ed?

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Hamilton Book Tag

Earlier this week, one of my favorite internet people Meg over at Cuddlebuggery posted The Hamilton Book Tag, originally created by Maureen Keavy. I'm very new to the Hamilton bandwagon, but these questions were just too good to pass up.

If you haven't listened to the Hamilton soundtrack yet, here's a link to the entire playlist on YouTube. Go on, I'll wait.


1. The Room Where it Happens | A book world you would put yourself in

I'm going to cheat a bit, and choose any of the countless Doctor Who novels, because I just want to travel with the Doctor. All of time and space, who could pass that up?


2. The Schuyler Sisters | An underrated female character

One day I'll write an essay about how under appreciated Fleur Delacour is, and how she's actually kick ass and constantly belittled by the other female characters for finding power in her traditional femininity and...yeah. I obviously have strong feelings about this. 


3. My Shot | A character that goes after what they want & doesn't let anything stop them

Puck Connolly from The Scorpio Races. I mean, come on. She's the first girl to ever participate in the race, and she's damn spunky. I adore her. “My mother always said that I was born out of a bottle of vinegar instead of born from a womb and that she and my father bathed me in sugar for three days to wash it off. I try to behave, but I always go back to the vinegar.”


4. Stay Alive | A character you wish was still alive

I had an entire list of really important, emotional character deaths and then I decided to throw it all out of the window and pick Hedwig, because that was so fucking unnecessary. HIS OWL, JKR?!


5. Burn | The most heartbreaking end to a relationship

Alina and The Darkling from the Grisha Trilogy...but my heart was the one broken. Also, honorable mention to Blue and Gansey because talk about a relationship destined for heartbreak (and death).


6. You'll Be Back | Sassiest Villain

Kidding, it's totally Victor Vale from Vicious. If you consider him to be the villain, so I suppose he could also be sassiest hero. 


7. The Reynolds Pamphlet | A book with a twist you didn't see coming

Every book in The Raven Cycle. "I took Chainsaw out of my dreams." WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK MAGGIE.


8. Non-stop | Series you marathoned

The Others series by Anne Bishop. I tore through the first three books in a week, and now I have an ARC of book four that I will be reading very soon. I don't even like urban fantasy, but I love this series.


9. Satisfied | A book with multiple POVs

Although my love for Six of Crows knows no bounds, recently I read Salt to the Sea and having four different POVs made for such an excellent reading experience. HIGHLY RECOMMEND.


10. Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story | A book or series you feel like will be remembered throughout history



11. Helpless | A relationship you were pulling from the start

Again, obviously. While I shipped Bellarke in the (honestly god awful) The 100 trilogy, the TV show has made this officially one of my all-time OTPs and I will literally go down with this ship.


12. 10 Duel Commandments | Favorite fight scene

I cannot remember a single fight scene as I'm writing this, so I'm just gonna pick the Throne of Glass series because I know Celeana/Aelin kicks some ass and I'm 100% here for lady assassins. 


13. Say No To This | A guilty pleasure read

Currently making my way through the Captive Prince trilogy, and part of why I love it so much is that it reads similarly to fic, which is absolutely intended to be a compliment.


14. What Comes Next | A series you wish had more books

Six of Crows. Two books is not enough Kaz Brekker, Leigh Bardugo!


15. Right Hand Man | Favorite BroTP


16. What I'd Miss | A book or series you were late to reading

I actually bought The Raven Boys AND RETURNED IT back in early 2014 because I thought "omg no this is going to be awful what was I thinking??" INDEED JANE WHAT WERE YOU THINKING. Fast forward to me finally reading the first book and then inhaling the next two in early 2015 and feeling like a fool.


17. Wait For It | A book worth waiting for

I'm not ready. Not even a little bit.

Alright, those are all of my answers to the Hamilton Book Tag! I'm going to tag Maggie over at A Memo to You on YouTube because I know she loves Hamilton and was excited that I finally got my shit together and listened to the soundtrack. If you're interested in doing this tag as well, I hereby tag you! 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

ARC Review: Red Ink

Title: Red Ink
Author: Julie Mayhew
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: February 9, 2016
Format: eARC*

“When her mother is knocked down and killed by a London bus, fifteen-year-old Melon Fouraki is left with no family worth mentioning. Her mother, Maria, never did introduce her to a living, breathing father. The indomitable Auntie Aphrodite, meanwhile, is hundreds of miles away on a farm in Crete, and she is not likely to jump on a plane to come to East Finchley anytime soon. But at least Melon has The Story. The Story is the Fouraki family fairy tale. A story is something. Balanced with tenderness and humor, this time-shifting novel offers a narrator by turns angry and vulnerable, hurt and defiant as she struggles with sudden grief—and the unfolding process of finding out who she really is.”

Last year, I read Julie Mayhew’s The Big Lie, an alternate-history story in which Germany won WWII and the UK became a Nazi state. I adored that book for all of its quiet YA power, and was expecting to love whatever else Julie Mayhew had to offer. So I had really high hopes for Red Ink, previously published in the UK but released on February 9 in the US. Red Ink follows Melon Fouraki in the immediate aftermath of her mother’s death and is truly a story about what truth means for a family.

Unfortunately, Red Ink was a messy read. There is so much going on in this book: the death of Melon’s mother, The Story of the Fouraki family, Melon being placed in the care of her mom’s boyfriend, being bullied at school…there is a way to portray how overwhelmingly it is to continue living while you’re grieving, but it isn’t accomplished in this novel. All of these different plot threads feel so disjointed while reading, and I found it difficult to keep up with the jumping timeline.

The real nail in the coffin was Melon. Yes, she’s only fifteen. Yes, her mother has just died and her whole world has changed. But my god Melon was insufferably annoying. I couldn’t sympathize with her the way I wanted to because I found her character so unlikable.

Ultimately, it felt as though Julie Mayhew was trying to do too much with Red Ink. While I enjoyed the ideas this story touched upon regarding family and the truths we create for ourselves and for others, it felt lost and underdeveloped in the larger story arc. Also. There is a scene towards the end of this book that occurs between Melon and another character (that literally! only exists! to do this thing! omg this character was entirely created to and only serves the purpose of this one scene) that really fucking bothered me. I get what Mayhew was probably trying to achieve with this, but it did not work for me. In fact, the last third or so of this book ended up souring my entire reading experience. Basically, I’m really disappointed in this and it was not at all as impressive as I’d hoped.

Rating: 2.5 stars

*I received a free eARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.