Holiday Season Book Binge

I do not expect anyone to read all of these reviews because there are like a million (or six).  So feel free to judge a book by its cover and only read whatever interests you. 

Here’s my one little caveat:  I only post reviews when I can say mostly positive things about the book.  So in my mind, every book I’ve listed today would receive at least 3.5 out of 5 stars…not that I give stars, or purses, or stilettos, or any of those cutesy things real book reviewers give. 

Oh!  I didn’t include a synopsis with every cover because that is such a space hog.  But I’ve linked all the TITLES to their Goodreads descriptions for your ease and convenience (see how I love you?)

Review No. 1

Think Robert Downey Jr.’s version of Sherlock Holmes, but make him a seventeen-year-old girl.  Y.S. Lee’s THE AGENCY: THE TRAITOR AND THE TUNNEL was so good that I purchased the two previous novels in the series.                           

Criminal-turned-spy, Mary Quinn, poses as a maid in Buckingham Palace to catch a petty thief, but stumbles across a more sinister issue in Queen Victoria’s castle.  The third (and hopefully not final installment) reunites Mary with a well-developed cast of characters, including rival/potential love interest James Easton. 

There are three things that make this novel so freaking fantastic:  1) The dialogue:  I love, love, love the witty, humorous jabs Mary and James toss at each other throughout the entire series.  2) The setting:  The author brings 1850s London to life with all the bustle, haze, and stench you could imagine would afflict industrial-era England.  It’s incredibly well-researched and the details are fascinating without being overwhelming.  3)  The stakes: Just when you think things can’t get any more difficult for Mary, Lee twists the plot another notch.  There is so much internal conflict, external conflict, and tension among the characters that you breeze through the story and are sad to find it finished.

I loved this series and hope to see more of Y.S. Lee’s work in the future both as additional novels to THE AGENCY  trilogy and other stories. 

 Review No. 2

Anyone out there a fan of X-Men?  If so, then you will either totally love or totally hate Tahereh Mafi’s SHATTER ME

Remember Rogue?  The girl who couldn’t touch anyone without harming/killing them?  This is basically her story set in a post-apocalyptic world (I can’t say dystopian because the government is too broken to be falsely utopian). 

So if you can get over the similar characters, you will probably love the writing.  I did.  In fact, at one point I said out loud, “Oh my gosh.  She is so freaking good.”  Tahereh Mafi and I could never be friends (not like that would happen any way) because I worship her style.  For instance:

“I spent my life folded between the pages of books.
In the absence of human relationships I formed bonds with paper characters. I lived love and loss through stories threaded in history; I experienced adolescence by association. My world is one interwoven web of words, stringing limb to limb, bone to sinew, thoughts and images all together. I am a being comprised of letters, a character created by sentences, a figment of imagination formed through fiction.”    

Honestly.  Who writes like that?  Besides Laini Taylor and you know…like Shakespeare.  Just re-reading that paragraph makes me want to delete every word document I ever created. 

 Review No. 3

Here’s the thing about WITHER:  I really didn’t love it.  The problem wasn’t anything in the novel, the problem was me.  The story just made me so…sad. And I’m pretty sure that was the author, Lauren DeStefano’s, goal.
The setting is interesting–genetic mutations resulting in the death of females at age 20 and males at age 25–but certainly bleak.  The characters are forced into a sort of polygamist breeding program which is both awful and gross.  Pregnant fourteen-year-olds is always depressing.

So with that said, you can see what I had a problem with. But the writing was hauntingly beautiful and the characters and their relationships were so vivid. 

If you don’t mind leaving a story feeling like you may need a zanax, then WITHER will probably be a good book for you.  If you want to read to escape, then I’d pick something else. 

 Review No. 4

I’m a sucker for Civil War-era historical fiction.  And I would have loved ALIAS DRAGONFLY if I wasn’t familiar with THE AGENCY.

ALIAS DRAGONFLY is well-researched and engaging (who doesn’t love the idea of a teenage spy working to protect her country?).  The plot moves nicely; there was never a point where I wanted to skim or just read the dialogue. 

Maddie is an interesting main character, but I didn’t understand her.  She reminds me of a teenager with Asperger’s Syndrome—highly-intelligent but unable to assimilate in social situations.  I’m not sure whether or not that was intentional, but it made it difficult to believe her budding relationship with the young reporter, Jake Whitestone.  I could see all the reasons she would like him, but besides her bravery, I’m not sure why he would be interested in her.  Especially since the author made it clear that the rest of Maddie’s community thought she was odd. 

The rest of the characters are well-written and convincing, but my lack of attachment to Maddie made the story merely good instead of stellar. 

Review No. 5
A TOUCH OF POWER was a pleasant surprise. 

I quit reading fantasy for a while because I felt like all the worlds, characters, powers were blending together in unidentifiable lump.  And while the constructs of this world (fifteen realms, eleven kinds of magic, power struggles for the thrones and domination of peoples) are typical, there are some interesting elements. Like giant flowers that eat people. 

The main character Avry, is an empathic Healer, and the last of her kind.  The Healers were hunted and killed for creating and spreading a plague that decimated the population.  She’s exposed after healing a dying child, and eventually rescued from prison by a band of men who appreciate her power and want to use it to heal one of their friends. 

The plot is interesting and has a few good twists, but the characters carry the story.  While I didn’t adore Avry, I liked her and appreciated the elasticity of her relationship with the leader of the band, Kerrick.  Maria V. Snyder does a nice job building tension between them as the story develops and the stakes increase.  My favorite character by a long mile was the teddy bear-like Belen.  He rounds out the cast of characters and provides some light moments. 

The end of the story is satisfying and I look forward to reading the next installment of the series. 

 Review No. 6
THE WARRIOR HEIR originated my love for all things Cinda Williams Chima.  Since reading the novel when it released in 2006, I have purchased every one of Chima’s novel and am anxiously awaiting the final installment of The Seven Realms Series.
As in her other novels, Chima creates characters in THE WARRIOR HEIR that are vibrant, real and believable.  Her settings are lovely without bogging down the plot with description.  And her storylines are fast-paced and action-packed. 
I will BUY every book with her name on the cover. 

Okay folks.  Tune in Wednesday for my review of Jordan Dane’s ON A DARK WING and info about a contest.  On Friday, we’ll dissect everything I learned in this reading binge and hopefully identify some trends, themes, and lessons. 

Happy Holidays!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *