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Thursday, September 25, 2014


by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

     Vance is a quetzal shapeshifter who lives with the vampires of Midnight in the 19th century.  He has had everything he could want, but when a man visits the vampires and speaks with Vance, his dreamlike life starts to crack as Vance begins to question the actions of his beloved guardians and rulers of Midnight.
     Vance has good conflicts, and even when he starts doubting, the vampires don’t change their characters.  The consistency is nice because it makes it harder for Vance and easier for the reader to understand him.  I did not like Vance as a character, though, and I felt that a lot of his thoughts and doubts were forced.  He would arrive at a state of mind suddenly and then sit there for a while instead of gradually coming to realizations, and, given what happened to him throughout the book, I’m not sure Vance really would have gotten to where he ended up mentally at the end.
     The world it is set in is well developed with indications of other countries and the depth of an entire world, not just the city it takes place in.  The relations between the different types of shapeshifters are interesting, as are the different talents they all have.  The characters represented different types of thought to make Vance think about what was best and what needed to be fixed.
     This is a 4.2.  There was a good plot, solid writing, and I liked all the characters except for Vance.  It is a soft, dense cookie, with nothing in it to interrupt the texture.  Things happened as expected without much surprise.  It is not large, but it is filling and afterwards, you feel satisfied with what you’ve eaten.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Curses and Smoke

by Vicky Alvear Shecter

   Set in Pompeii just before the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, Lucia is about to be married off to a much older man so her father can get money for his gladiator school.  Just weeks before the impending marriage, however, Tag, one of her father’s slaves, returns from Rome where he had been studying medicine so he could heal hurt gladiators, and an old friendship rekindles between them.  The relationship blossoms into something more, but both Lucia and Tag know it wouldn’t be able to cross their class difference even if Lucia weren’t already engaged to someone else.
     I liked the story and found that I was engaged in the characters and the story and wanted to know what would happen even without the element of Mt. Vesuvius adding the sense of impending doom.  Although I’m not an expert in Ancient Rome, from what I’ve read of other reviews, the book is historically accurate and should appeal to those interested in historical fiction.
     Tag was a good counter viewpoint to Lucia.  Lucia was somewhat ignorant and probably would have come off as whiney if the reader were not also given the other side of the story to balance it out.  Tag could point out her mistaken assumptions and he broke many of her beliefs about her father that were fairly clear to the reader as wrong.
     This is a 3.8.  I liked the story right up until the end.  I won’t give details because it’s the end, but I felt cheated and it wasn’t what I wanted at all.  But the writing and story were good and the setting was made well.  It is whipped cream.  It’s tastes good as you’re eating it, but when you’re done, it has dissolved away without leaving much

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Twyning

by Terence Blacker

     Efren is a rat living in the rat kingdom in the sewers.  When the king dies and new leaders are selected, they decide that humans are a bigger threat than they had previously believed and they decide to wage war.  Meanwhile, a human doctor who has been studying the rats decides that they are one of the biggest threats to humans, and he rallies the people of the city to attack the rats.  Then Efren and some human children meet, and both types of animals have to decide which side deserves their victory.
     Efren was a likable character.  He noticed that he had differences, but he accepted them and still tried to serve his kingdom as best he could.  The children, Dogboy and Caz, both have interesting back stories and conflicts that they have to deal with.  Out of all the characters, only Efren, Dogboy, Caz, and two others really try to understand anything about the other species.  This helps flesh them out, but the whole war between rats and humans seemed blown a little out of proportion.  If you accepted it as it was though, it was a pretty good story.
     The pacing was often off for me.  There were a lot of parts that should have taken a while but passed by fairly quickly and parts that should have gone faster that took a long time.  The individual scenes were alright; it was the overall passage of time that wasn’t quite right.
     This is a 3.2.  I liked the rats and their kingdom and the two children.  I didn’t like most of the other characters and parts of it dragged, but I did like the story as a whole.  It is like store-bought chicken pot pie.  It’s not store-bought because it feels generic but because it didn’t have the warm, savory, homey feel about it.  There are some things in the pie that you like and some that you don’t, but mixed up all together, it’s still pretty good.

Thursday, September 4, 2014


by Chris Stuyk-Bonn

     Whisper has lived in the woods ever since she was abandoned as an infant because of a disfigured mouth.  In her society, disfigurations are frowned upon, so she instead lives with a few others who were also abandoned and taken in by a man named Nathaniel.  The beginning is very expository because Whisper doesn’t talk much, and when she does, she whispers - hence her name - and the book takes a while for the book to get going.

     After Whisper is taken away by the father who abandoned her then moved again to the city and forced to work to give her father money, the story picks up.  Whisper meets other characters who also have disfigurations and learns how to live with her own and use the talents she has to make a living.  I enjoyed the middle when Whisper was growing as a character and learning new things and the story was developing.  However, partway through, a doctor offered to fix Whisper’s disfiguration, and while this was probably supposed to make Whisper struggle with her identity and how much her disfiguration felt a part of her, I felt as though it undermined the premise.  Their society was advanced enough to be able to identify her disfiguration - a cleft palate - and the doctor has fixed many of them before, but they still treat those with any sort of disfiguration as evil and abandon their infants in the woods.  When the book started, I thought that there was almost no technology and they all believed in magic, but that’s not the case.  They call Whisper a devil, but that’s the only time anyone seems to believe that there’s anything supernatural in the world.
     This is a 2.7.  The writing sometimes got really wordy and I didn’t like the world it was set in.  The world could have been fleshed out some more, but I did like the middle and the development that happened there.  This is like a cream puff with really good cream inside but with the outer dough somewhat lacking.

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