The Mime Order

By Samantha Shannon

2.5/5 stars

Hope is the lifeblood of revolution.

Thank you to NetGalley and Bloomsbury for an advanced reading copy in exchange for an honest review.

I am going to look at The Mime Order through the lens of my brief goodreads review of The Bone Season.

This is probably actually closer to a 2 1/2 for me, and I’ll probably check out the next installment.

Well here we are.

However, this one took me a while to get through despite how fast of a read it is when you get going. I never felt really immersed in the world, and didn’t really feel all the stakes.

The Mime Order felt like it took forever to get through despite the fact it’s a fairly standard length at 528 pages. Nothing crazy. However, the prose weighs these narratives down so much. It just feels heavy and plodding. It takes any urgency out of what is going on.

An example–Keep in mind this may change by publication, and this is the worst sentence I found. Most of the sentences are perfectly serviceable. But:

It was into one of these that I walked, heading for the single doss-house it housed.

The idea of who we’re fighting or why is not something I feel extremely invested in at this point.

I felt like Shannon did a much better job at establishing the world this go round even if some things still feel murky. Unfortunately, she didn’t necessarily make it exciting for me. I need to feel the vibrancy and the sinister nature of this world, and it’s just not happening. A lot of this can be blamed again on the heavy narrative. The why we’re fighting still really hasn’t been shown. Additionally, things that are supposed to be twists were not that surprising, when the world wasn’t still somewhat muddled that is. 

For the length of the book, I don’t really have an ending sensation of all that much happening.

There was more forward momentum in this installment, even if the amount of action could have been encapsulated in a just as, if not more, compelling way in a shorter page count.

Neither did I feel like I really had a handle on Paige before going on this adventure with her.

I know Paige better. I’m kind of “meh” about her most of the time, because she’s not really giving me anything interesting to work with. She has to save the world or whatever, but we don’t really see how bad it is right now for the average person. She’s kind of going through the motions of a protagonist somewhat. But she’s tough enough.

I lost all concept of passage of time within the novel; the end listed much longer than I thought the events had set up.

The passage of time was handled much smoother this go around. If I’m not sure how much calendar time has passed, there are concrete events referred to throughout that I can use as measuring tools.

Maybe the publisher’s hype played into what I was expecting from this novel, but for something that had so much promotion power behind it, I was expecting a very specific and clear world. The potential is there, and that potential will carry me over to the next book.

The hype for this installment has seemed less, although there is another month until publication. But I feel like I had the Bone Season on my radar for ever. The potential got me here. Last I heard this was a 7 book deal. If that is still the case, this narrative is being drug out unnecessarily and it is not doing the overall story any favors. I appreciate an attempt at a longer series, but would much rather read a more concentrated novel that moves well. I just want to feel some more forward motion in these books. Even with events progressing somewhat I feel stalled.

I wanted to see how this series would build on itself, and now I know. Again, I’m leaving a little disappointed. Although I do feel like this was better than the first.

If you’ve been looking forward to finding out what happens to Paige and the gang (And Warden. You know you wanna know about Warden, ’cause while the Stockholm Syndrome is legit and creepy, he might be the most intriguing character in the book.) next, pick up The Mime Order on Jan. 27th.

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by Ann Aguirre

3/5 stars

The final installment of Ann Aguirre’s 2B trilogy finds us with roommates Courtney, Angus, and Max. When Max asks Courtney to accompany him on his first trip back home since he was a teenager, things change. In a lot of ways, Courtney is still trying to get over her HS boyfriend and first love. Max is trying to get over a whole lot of other things, and keeps burying in the pain. But they learn to let each other in despite it all.

This book was far from perfect. There were plot lines that weren’t fully utilized. Overall, there felt like a lack of development in a lot of departments. Things stayed surface level. We didn’t dig much deeper. I did really enjoy Courtney as a character. I liked that she wasn’t perfect and that she had a wacky sense of humor. There was one bit about here that I’ll leave out for spoilers (it has to do with her biggest past relationship) that just seemed a little over the top, and wasn’t developed well enough to be justified. It could have worked, but was done in such  blunt way that it lost all nuance and felt weird. Max’s background felt a little typical, even though I was still all in. I would have liked to see even more about that though. It seems like we air the dirty laundry and then kind of get over it, but it’s nothing seems fully explored.

The prose could be rocky at times. A lot of things stayed on the surface because the prose never dug deeper. It was pretty simplistic. It could lend more to tell than show.

The pacing could feel kind of wonky. Chunks of time would pass with a reference. I liked that the events of the book took more time, and I surely don’t believe we need to read every minute of all the time covered over the course of the novel. However, the execution could feel a little jarring at times.

But you know what? I still enjoyed it. It was an easy read and kept me engaged for the most part. I won this title through a goodreads giveaway and I will definitely check out the rest of the trilogy.

Almost Famous Women

by Megan Mayhew Bergman

4/5 stars

Everyone is capable of radical change

Thanks to NetGalley for providing an ARC of this short story collection in exchange for an honest review.

I love historical fiction with a feminist twist, and here Bergman takes it a step farther. These are women who’s names we might know, especially in relation to others (primarily men) but who aren’t a part of the cultural consciousness in a major way. Their stories range from the 19th to the first half of the twentieth century. The title is plenty apt. These are women who deserve to have at least some part of their story told.

There are some stories, such as “Expression Theory” about Lucia Joyce where I feel I benefitted from having a bit of previous knowledge on our protagonist, and there’s others I know I didn’t appreciate nearly enough because I didn’t know anything about the subject. But my lack of knowledge never kept me from enjoyment, rather it added extra layers.

I like that we get a picture of the subject of the story, that these women are humanized and given their place in history in some way. The pictures come before the stories and at first I thought it might be better if they came after. This would give Bergman’s prose a chance to shine first. However, the more I thought about it, the more I liked that Bergman gave them their due before she put her spin on things. These pictures are historical artifacts without commentary, and then we get the angle.

These stories deal largely with disappointment, but not in a way that left me feeling depressed. Bergman’s prose goes down smoothly. There were times I wanted a little extra “oomph,” more of a point, more driving energy, but this wasn’t often. The stories get in and out of their business. They often leave me wanting more rather than trying to figure out when the next story begins. As with any collection, there were some I liked more than others. But this is of course a personal preference. I must say, the collection begins and ends on some great stories.

This is a quick collection that will provide a good afternoon of entertainment. Snuggle up with some hot chocolate and a blanket, and you’ve got a solid winter day in the making.

Mark your calendars for Jan. 6 to get your hands on this collection.

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Three Weeks with Lady X

by Eloisa James

3/5 stars

Informality is the vice of the masses.

Thorn has his eyes set on a bride, unfortunately his bastard status means he has to prove himself more than the average member of the ton. Enter Lady Xenobia India (if there was an explanation beyond her parents eccentrics for these names, I do not recall it. But that her parents were eccentric might be enough). Xenobia has been putting off finding a suitable peer husband by renovating rooms for ladies in her social circle, and beyond as word spreads. Soon she finds herself working on Thorn’s new country house on a tight schedule. She has three weeks to get it ready for a house party. Surely she doesn’t have time to fall in love too. Wrong.

There are some fun characters here. Thorn is an unapolgetic bastard, in that he is the bastard child of a Duke. But he also makes no apologies for his gruffness either. and yet he’s got a soft underbelly. And Lady Xeonbia is unapologetic about what she wants. She holds her own agains this gruff man. Also, Lala, the woman Thorn wants to court is not set up as the bad guy here. She’s not book smart, and while characters indicate this might mean she’s not compatible with Thorn, they never really talk down about her. And she is given the opportunity to find her place as well.

There’s plenty to like about this one: I am a sucker for a child in a romance novel it seems. Even precocious ones. Maybe because I love Jane Eyre so much? Does Rose really act like a six year old? No, especially for the station in life she supposedly came from, but she’s cute. Especially for a plot device. There was some fun banter back and forth via letter (the banter Fifty Shades of Grey wishes it had). There’s a house party. Thorn was willing to face both his own past and Xenobia’s to win the lady. There were great instances of male friendship. I am also a sucker for good friendship of any kind in my romance novels. I want to see them being good people.

Still, there were times the novel went a little overboard for me. For instance, Thorn seemed very aware of his own erections in the presence of Xenobia, but the wording was always slightly awkward. And, what exactly about her eyes was giving him an erection? Do I need to worry about Thorn’s development that he’s not out of the random erection stage? There were other points in the novel that the writing could come across clunky or redundant.

 

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Talon

by Julie Kagawa

2/5 stars

I picked this up because it’s been a while since I read Seraphina, and the sequel doesn’t come out for months still. I figured this would be my dragon fix. Really it made me appreciate Seraphina all the more. I have admittedly only read one Kagawa novel previously, the start of her Iron Fey series (for a lot of the same reasons I didn’t dig this one in terms of character and world building). I didn’t really dig it. And when I saw devout Kagawa fans on goodreads, fans of the same series I didn’t enjoy, disappointed with this novel, it maybe should have been a clue. But it also could have gone the other way that out tastes were just on different ends of the spectrum and I actually would love this novel.

Ember and Dante are twin dragons, and having a sibling as a dragon is a big deal, because it happens so rarely. They’re both still hatchlings by dragon standards, even if they match up perfectly with our teens. They are sent to a remote California town to train in blending in, and experience some form of freedom become they get their assignments for Talon, dragon society. Things are complicated when a rogue dragon starts lurking around, and there are rumors that the Order of Saint George, or the dragon hunters, are also skulking about.

Dragons have a secret society, because of course. I love secret societies. Secret societies are fun. Too bad we never get to see it. So all of Ember’s whining about “Talon” is a whole lotta hogwash to me because I don’t know what she’s talking about. Aren’t we just hanging out at the beach all day with some breaks for Ember to train with an evil teacher training lady? Gosh forbid we establish something so that the reader knows what we are breaking away from. Ember tries to tell the reader what she’s fed up with, but I want to see it. I’m tired of Ember telling me things. Let me experience some action please. I mean, come on, there are dragons, I thought that was a free admit one ticket to action.

The characters are like vague stereotypical sketches of people. I get no real sense of Ember at all, even as she seems to suffer from fascinating person syndrome for all the boys around her. For me she comes across like a spoiled, entitled girl with no conception of the world. Which is fine because growth and imperfect characters and compelling, but this doesn’t seem to be the point. Everyone around her loves her on sight, am I supposed to love her too? Because I don’t. I really don’t. Also they make a big deal out of her new beach friends that might as well be named Friend 1 and Friend 2, who I don’t even remember if there are more friends, for all that they really get to develop personalities. So much potential just sitting there in the form of Friend 1. Garret is this teenage perfect soldier boy with no real backstory to explain it. Ember’s brother Dante may be the most compelling character in the book for me, if only because he seems to have a lick of sense (after all, I have no reason to know why we’re “rebelling”). Also they spend all this time talking about how rare is is for dragons to have siblings. This is interesting. Give me more. I want more sibling stuff.

Oh, also, love triangle. The blurb got me because it seemed to indicate a Buffy/Angel dynamic with Ember and Garret. Dragon and dragon hunter. Still cliché, but if done right it can be awesome. Which can also be said of love triangles (hello Cassandra Clare Clockwork trilogy), but at this point the love triangle needs to be something really compelling to get me. Your characters and your story better earn that love triangle. Spoiler alert, they don’t, especially with these boring as all get out characters. Also her attraction to the other guy basically boils down to the fact they can fly together. It’s like, “oh look at that, we are the same species and you are not my brother. I like you.”

I am just frustrated because Kagawa comes up with these amazing ideas full of so much potential to be everything I want. I want to like her books so bad. But the development just hasn’t been there fore me. Maybe this just isn’t my cup of tea. I was going to try Kagawa’s Immortal Rules books, but now I just don’t know. If you had good luck with ‘em talk to me about them.

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Curtsies & Conspiracies

by Gail Carriger

3/5 stars

I’d rather be loyal than right.

Sophronia is back, and is about sixth months into her schooling. That means its time for exams. Even as her exam results throw a wrench in her life, she’s still trying to figure out the answers to the mystery of what that mechanical piece she saved at her sister’s coming out actually does.

While I am not usually one for book trailers (because usually they’re awful) this is delightful:

Carriger offered up a good lot of fun again. The tone remains light and fun while pushing forward the action at a clipping pace.

It was fun to see things progress this go-around. The plot built up from the first book nicely, with some of the world getting flushed out a little more in terms of the politics. I’m very intrigued to see where how the vampires continue to come into play, and if the next books will bring the werewolves into a more active role as well (the description for Waistcoats & Weaponry seems to hint yes to this).

The female relationships are still great here. When Sophronia found herself ostracized at the beginning of the book it felt like real girl dynamics, but the characters still behaved fairly well considering. It was nice to watch Sophronia recognize why her friends were acting the way they were, and wait for them to come around rather than to get petulant about it. In fact many of the ways Sophronia though about things throughout the book, much more pragmatic than we often see, was refreshing. And even if she sometimes did things she regretted, she forced herself to live out the choices.

I can’t wait to see what Waistcoats & Weaponry will bring.

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Made for You

by Melissa Marr

3/5 stars

Eva is one of the most popular girls in town. Although she’s not really concerned with popularity. She is concerned about her crush on her old friend Nate. Too bad Nate isn’t really talking to her anymore, though he never really told her why. Eva’s life is complicated when she is hit and run by a driver and wakes up being able to tell how people will die if they touch her. Soon she realizes her accident was purposeful, and she must try and stop the person responsible before more of her friends are hurt.

I was glad to see Marr back in YA. The tone of this book was much more on par with the Marr I came to love through the Wicked Lovely series. It’s somewhat dark and gritty, while still rooted in reality (although I did have trouble with parts of that reality here).

Much in the vein of Rebel Belle, I loved that there was a popular character here and she was not punished for it. She’s not perfect, and she knows it, but she’s not a “mean” girl. She isn’t reformed through a romance with Nate, who is more of a social outcast. And the romance aspect of this book a good build. I liked seeing teen characters being open about their feelings and communicating with each other in an honest way.

I loved the concept of seeing how someone will die. I wanted to play with that a little more. I’m glad we stayed tightly focused on the plot of the book, tit just never felt fully explored.

I was disappointed with the psychology behind our “villain.” It didn’t feel rooted in reality to me. It wasn’t explained or explored much, and felt over the top. There was a lot of potential there that I would have liked to see rooted in more reality. This would have made it even creepier. There’s an attempt to explain but it’s not fully flushed. There’s room to explore this more that is not utilized.

All in all, I enjoyed this go around much more than some of Marr’s more recent adult fiction offerings.

Hunting the Spy

by Tyler Flynn

2/5 stars

First off, to take a page from fanfiction: this is a review of M/M romance novel. Don’t like, don’t read.

Nathan Kennett’s attempts to stop spy plots involving the trade of British secrets to French agents has Kennett coming face-to-face with ex-lover Peter. Even with Kennett’s suspicions that Peter may be involved with anti-British spy activity, they are soon working together to deliver valuable information to London.

I wanted Flynn to set the scene more. This is Britain during the French Revolution. This is prime Scarlett Pimpernel-type territory. Only with less foppish hereos. Set the scene. Make me feel it. One of the reasons I picked up this book was because it was a male/male romance novel amidst French Revolution spies. How often does that come around? Own it! This is a romantic spy novel. This leaves tons of room for action all over the place. There were plenty of events at the top, but I wanted to be shown more than told. It’s not like Flynn is just plain telling, but there’s the opportunity to craft the action into scenes a more.

Kennett’s bitterness against the aristorcacy gets somewhat old rather quickly. Mostly because for a long time it only strikes one note. We get it. Kennett doesn’t have money/power/social standing. He thinks many of those that do abuse it. But for me to really care it needs some more depth. And by depth I do not mean a backstory in which when they had their original fling Kenneth got all up in arms because Peter offered to buy him a coat. Let go of your pride dude. Let the man buy you a coat. The instinct is great. It gives us some conflict between Peter and Kennett. Kennett has to get over what he thinks Peter represents and see the person beyond and whatnot. But it’s hard to have sympathy when he’s being a grumpy Gus throwing Peter’s social position back in his face every other minute.

For a romance, there didn’t feel like there was all that much development between Kennett and Peter’s relationship. The characters changes a bit. Good. They should be doing that. But they just didn’t spend that much time together talking about themselves as people. Mainly Kennett was accusing Peter of being a spy. Then they did some spy things that were somewhat haphazardly developed in terms of plot.

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Texts from Jane Eyre

and Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters 

by Mallory Ortberg

4/5 stars

What if your favorite literary characters had the ability to text? From Medea and the Odyssey to Sweet Valley High and Harry Potter, and most of the high points in-between, Ortberg explores just this.

I devoured this collection in one sitting. But it’s the kind of book that I want to revisit again and again. I’ll read my favorite bits if I have a moment. I wanted to organize a reading with friends because I think it would be hilarious to read/act out. It’s just fun. Because of the layout and the amount of just “flipping through” I knew I would do with this book I made sure to get it in print.

I’ve tried to pick out my favorite parody from the collection, and as of now I can’t. Too many are just gold. There are some that didn’t strike much of a chord with me, but I’m sure this largely comes down to personal preference. This isn’t high literary criticism. This is smart, quippy humor.

If you’re a fan of classical literature, or making fun of classical literature this is for you. If you follow Better Book Titles on tumblr, this is for you. If you think Heathcliff and Cathy are just a little bit insane, this is for you. If you think the transcendentilists kind of cheated, this is for you.

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Belzhar

by Meg Wolitzer

3/5 stars

“We’re talking about the novel, right? But maybe we’re not. We’re talking about ourselves. And I guess that’s what can start to happen when you talk about a book.”

Jam hasn’t recovered from the death of her boyfriend, and is sent to the Wooden Barn, a therapeutic school in rural Vermont. She finds herself placed in a special topics in English class with a small group of other students. This class focuses on one writer a semester, and this go around they’re reading Sylvia Plath. Soon the students discover there’s more to this class, and their assignments than may first meet the eye.

This was one of the books I was most excited for this fall pub season. Meg Wolitzer’s first foray into YA. Sylvia Plath and a special topics English class. That cover. I was expecting lots of deep emotional explorations. Some confessionals. Bonds created between members of a class, and their teacher.

I was slightly disappointed. I think most of this disappointment sprung from a lack of depth in a lot of places. While I appreciate Wolitzer allowed her narrative to breath, and she didn’t try to be prescriptive about anything, I wanted more in depth exploration of a lot of things: the characters, the Special Topics in English Class, Belzhar itself.

There was a great opportunity for parallels with Plath’s work here that never really established itself. If I was a teen reader who had never really encountered Plath I don’t know that I would have a better feel for her. I didn’t feel like a part of this class throughout the novel. I wanted them to discuss things more. I wanted to watch them argue, learn about who they were more from their point of view. I wanted them to grow together from these discussions.

I enjoyed that Jam’s secrecy made her an unreliable narrator, but it became tiresome because it never felt full. I was able to guess some major plot points before they happened. She was balancing somewhere between wanting to be an unreliable narrator and wanting to be the likable kind of character that everyone can relate to. She would have been more interesting, and relatable, if I’d seen her as an unreliable narrator throughout.

All of this could have been developed as the novel is incredibly short. The prose here is still great and the themes are lofty so Wolitzer doesn’t really suffer from the traditional pitfalls of adult authors writing for YA. Still, everything could have been developed more, without losing any nuance.

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