mildmaythecat: (rook)
(Two years later...)


Let me talk to you about one of my favorite books: Havemercy by Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett.

First thing's first: Steampunk dragons. I's right there on the cover. Steampunk dragons. If that's not enough to entice you, how about magicians? How about a massive range of fascinating characters? How about canon same-sex relationships between characters whose sexuality is just one of a long list of their traits? Is this starting to sound like fun yet?

Havemercy takes place in the country of Volstov, which has been at war with the neighboring Ke-Han nation for a century. Volstov's ace in the hole is their elite Dragon Corps, who ride sentient mechanical/magical dragons into battle. Ringleader of the corps is Rook who, while undeniably good at his job, is incredibly insensitive, foul-mouthed, and offensive to just about everyone. His behavior gets the entire corps wrangled into "sensitivity training" run by Thom, a stubborn and intelligent 'Versity student who is terrified of the task but determined to hide it.

On the other side of the country, skilled magician Royston has been exiled for causing an international incident. While staying with his estranged family he becomes enamored of Hal, bookish tutor to his nieces and nephews, but being thrown under the bus by his last lover means romance is the last thing on his mind. Hal subsequently struggles to drag Royston out of his shell while trying to sort out his own feelings for him. The two story threads collide when those in the city begin to suspect that something is going wrong with their magic--and the dragons.

The worldbuilding in this book is fantastic, thorough and believable, and the plot is a lot of fun, but Havemercy's real strength is in its characters. The narration switches POV's between Royston, Hal, Thom and Rook, and each of them has a distinct voice and personality. For example, Royston's brand of intellectually phrased snark is very different from Rook's crude, expletive-filled one (and Thom's blend of the two--this book has a lot of sass in it, can you tell?). The relationships between them are equally fun to watch. Royston and Hal complement each other well but their age difference--and Royston's worldliness compared to Hal's relative naiveté--causes problems. Rook and Thom snipe at each other from day one, but they're undeniably drawn to one another as well. There's also a wealth of secondary characters (the Dragon Corps alone consists of fifteen members) with personalities and traits of their own.

I have a deep and abiding adoration for this book. It's the first of a really fun four-book series, but Havemercy stands on its own just fine. I will say that I wish it had more women in it (something more or less remedied in later installments), but other than that, it's a genuine delight. I highly recommend this one.
mildmaythecat: (Default)
It's apparently Fairytale Retelling Thursday over in emanga's corner, and now we go from Cinderella to Snow White:

Fairest by Gail Carson Levine.

One-Sentence Review If You're Pressed For Time (Or Just Lazy): In a country where beauty is prized, Aza is considered hideous; her land is also one of singers, however, and her gorgeous voice (as well as her ability to "throw" it) makes her friends and enemies in high places--including the stunning new queen, Ivi, owner of a mysterious magic mirror.

Why It's Awesome: This book showcases pretty much everything Levine does so well. The worldbuilding is fascinating, even more so when you realize it's set in the same world (but a different country) as her more famous book Ella Enchanted. Ayortha is a pretty interesting place where people wave instead of clap and have a song for virtually everything; in fact, they sing half of what they say. There are folk songs and local games and customs galore, details that make the place seem very real.

Being a Disney geek and a fan of fairytales in general, my favorite thing to do when reading books like this is to try finding hints and references to the original story in the retelling. Fairest has plenty of those, from the obvious to the surprisingly subtle. As mentioned, it's also set in the same universe as Ella Enchanted, so there are a few references to that to keep the old fans happy--the main character is actually Areida's adoptive sister.

Which brings me to Aza, our heroine. While not a go-getter in the same way as Ella of Frell, Aza is still an interesting protagonist. She suffers from low self-esteem due to her unusual appearance, which has branded her as ugly her entire life. It's gratifying to watch her morph from meek and softspoken to more assertive and strong as the plot moves forward. You can't help but cheer her on.

And then there's Queen Ivi, ostensibly the main antagonist of the book. Get any image of Disney's wicked queen out of your head now; pretty much the only trait they share is vanity. Ivi is beautiful, makes an impression when she marries an Ayorthian king twice her age, and seemingly has no clue or inclination to care when it comes to local customs. Turns out her self-esteem is just as bad as that of Aza, whose lovely voice she covets. There are also two questions that keep you thinking throughout, one being the mystery of the magic mirror, and the other being the question of Aza's true parentage. Oh, and there are gnomes with a language that probably made the author's spellcheck cry tears of blood.

Okay, Fine, Here's The Downside: Remember what I said about Ayorthians singing half of what they say? Maybe half is an exaggeration, but there is still a lot of singing. This can be annoying at times ("JUST SPEAK LIKE A NORMAL HUMAN BEING") or unintentionally funny ("Why is she putting vibrato into this dramatic monologue?"). Also Prince Ijori kind of annoys me, but princes never get good characterization in these things, so whatever.

And Now For Something Completely Different:
No One Does It Better (You Me At Six)
what do I do when I am so in love with you? I forgot what I wanted to say
mildmaythecat: (Default)
Would you like a kickass, more realistic continuation of the original Cinderella story? Of course you would:

Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix.

One-Sentence Review If You're Pressed For Time (Or Just Lazy): Ella's fairytale ending--becoming a princess and marrying the man of her dreams--turns out to be a nightmare; princess training is tedious and Prince Charming is more like Prince Boring, so she decides to make the second big escape of her life.

Why It's Awesome: I have a friend who loathes Cinderella. She hates that the so-called heroine is a spineless wuss willing to marry a guy she danced with for five minutes. If you are like my friend, you will find this book especially satisfying. This Ella (as she prefers to be known) does not take anyone's crap, least of all that of her stepmother, and her decision to marry the prince has real consequences.

While Cinderella is supposed to be a teenager, nobody ever thinks of her that way (kinda like Snow White being 14, but don't get me started on that)--except for Ms. Haddix. Ella is at heart cynical, rebellious and a lover of books like her father. She is swept off her feet by her first love but smart enough to realize when she's made a mistake, and strong enough to do something about it. It's perversely enjoyable to watch her slowly realize that infatuation-at-first-sight doesn't last, and that her royal fiance is a vapid boy without a thought in his head. Also fun is watching Ella's character growth, as her (adorkable) young tutor Jed educates her about social issues and she finds herself wanting to do something that really matters.

Of course, a princess breaking the news that she doesn't want to marry her prince isn't going to go over well--in the words of Cinderella II, it "simply isn't done." The prince and those behind him take it about as well as you'd expect; that is, Ella wakes up in a dungeon. From there it's a race against time to find a way out of prison before the wedding day. Even if she does manage to escape her cell, getting out of the prince's reach for good is going to be difficult when guards are stationed throughout the kingdom and everybody knows her name.

One fun little aspect of the book is the way the Cinderella fairytale itself is handled. Turns out her Fairy Godmother, helpful animal friends and even her famous moniker have less to do with the story than you'd think. (Ella's reaction to these medieval bits of celebrity gossip is priceless.) I found the origin of the glass slippers fascinating, myself.

Okay, Fine, Here's The Downside: None that I can think of (although admittedly this is another one I haven't read in awhile), except that the newer, "fresher" cover makes it look and sound like...I don't even know, it's just bad. Don't be fooled. Give this one a chance.

And Now For Something Completely Different:
Lilac Wine (Jeff Buckley)
I feel unsteady, where's my love? listen to me, I cannot see clearly...
mildmaythecat: (Default)
We're 1/20th of the way through with this one! *throws single solitary grain of confetti*

Kiss My Book by Jamie Michaels.

One-Sentence Review If You're Pressed For Time (Or Just Lazy): Ruby Crane's life as a newly famous author--while still in high school--comes crashing down when she is accused of plagiarism on national TV; she runs off to her aunt's small-town home to hide from the fallout.

Why It's Awesome: It's pretty hard not to relate to Ruby, especially when most of us on Livejournal seem to be writers or at least enjoy books. Ruby is a huge bookworm, and all she's ever dreamed of is getting a book published. She achieves this a short time before the book begins, so there are a few lovely chapters where we can live vicariously through her and enjoy her newfound fame.

Of course, she's accused of plagiarizing the novel and everything falls apart. Ruby runs away to live with her...eccentric aunt in the middle of nowhere, avoiding her new infamy. She cuts her hair in the bathroom, ditches the celebrity makeover, changes her name and decides not to go near another book--or a pen. Small-town living bores her at first, but she begins to see the perks with the help of a few new friends (and awesome characters).

Aunt Fin is glorious; I can't describe her in one sentence. She runs the Curious Cup, a coffee shop/bakery/museum/curio shop, and claims that the coffee is so good because she brews the water under the full moon. She reads Tarot cards and does psychic readings and wears kimonos and turbans and oh, she's just so much fun. Then there's Rabbit, who's small but bold (and possibly a black belt) and decides to befriend Ruby's alias Georgie whether she likes it or not. And then Jacob, whose style Ruby describes makes him look like "a Buddhist punk"; underneath the mohawk and piercings, though, is a goofball and genuine sweetheart.

This book makes me all kinds of happy, because Ruby really is likable and relatable, particularly for us book-y, geeky writer types. Even the minor characters have distinct personalities. The oddities of Aunt Fin and her shop and the town in general are really fun to read about. And of course, Ruby ultimately has to figure out how to move on with her life--as well as be honest with herself about whether she plagiarized or not.

Okay, Fine, Here's The Downside: I'll admit I haven't reread this one in a while, so there might be horrible literary flaws that I never noticed. But I didn't notice any in the four times I've read the book, so there you go.

And Now For Something Completely Different:
Within Dreams (The Album Leaf)
Music doesn't need words to be gorgeous.
mildmaythecat: (Default)
If you like Supernatural, read this. If you don't (and I hadn't at the time), read it anyway:

Nightlife by Ron Thurman.

One-Sentence Review If You're Pressed For Time (Or Just Lazy): Cal is half human, half monster, and has spent most of his life running from his supernatural side of the family; he and his brother Niko are hiding out in NYC and doing bodyguard work for more civilized monsters to make ends meet when things get messy.

Why It's Awesome: My other favorite pair of emotionally codependent supernatural-hunting brothers star in this fabulous series (yes, it's a series, and again, relax--the first five novels are basically standalone). Cal is a hilarious and very likable narrator, snarky and sarcastic to a fault as well as very fond of guns and things that go boom. His big brother Niko (who is 100% human--let's just say both boys have serious mommy issues) is a freakishly smart Zen ninja badass who has trained himself and Cal relentlessly to keep them both alive. Their dynamic ranges from funny to heartwarming; they would die for each other in a heartbeat but still yank each other's chains like no one else can.

The side characters are plenty of fun. There's Robin Goodfellow, an immortal puck who has been around since the dawn of time and screwed pretty much every historical/Biblical/mythological figure you can think of (he claims to have cowritten the Kama Sutra and that tells you pretty much everything you need to know); he enjoys pissing Cal off and trying to get into Niko's pants. Promise is an elegant and well-mannered vampire, an occasional client of the boys. Boggle is a giant mud monster who eats stray joggers in Central Park, George is a serene young psychic, and Rafferty is a healer with no concept of bedside manner. The list goes on.

Moving on to the villains. You have your minor antagonists like Boggle, then bigger and creepier problems like the tentacle-covered troll living (where else?) under the Brooklyn Bridge. And then you have the Auphe, the terrifying supernatural half of Cal's lineage. They are the earth's first monsters, a story other monsters tell their children to make them behave, essentially the inventors of torture and killing. Humans have overrun what they consider their global hunting ground, but they have a plan to get it back and it hinges on Cal.

This book is an insanely quick read. The plot moves along at a fast pace, and Cal's typically caustic inner monologue always keeps things interesting. There's also a handful of well-timed "aww" moments between the brothers--in fact, one of the best facets of the book is Cal and Niko's relationship. They play off each other beautifully. And of course there are plot twists galore; some you might see coming, but some will definitely provoke a "WHAT THE FUDGEBISCUITS JUST HAPPENED" reaction.

Okay, Fine, Here's The Downside: If you're looking for deep and meaningful literature that requires tons of thought and deciphering of metaphors, don't look for it here. There's a good plot and a lot of emotion, but Nightlife won't be making English class required reading lists anytime soon. It's entertainment, and you will certainly be entertained--which I guess isn't a downside after all.

And Now For Something Completely Different:
Stripped (Shiny Toy Guns)
metropolis has nothing on this
mildmaythecat: (Default)
Definitely out of the teen books with this one:

I, Lucifer by Glen Duncan.

One-Sentence Review If You're Pressed For Time (Or Just Lazy): The Devil walks among us in the body of a suicidal failed author; when he's not regailing the reader with scandalous behind-the-scenes about Biblical figures he's enjoying the fascinating experience of being human.

Why It's Awesome: This one is definitely not for the faint of heart. We've got all the cussing, drugs, threesomes, loads of sex (with hookers, with his palm, with both sexes; Lucy is all about equal opportunity), buckets of blasphemy (no Biblical figure goes unscathed), general filth, and just about anything else you can think of. What else to expect from the Devil himself?

Lucifer is given a chance for redemption if he can last a few months in a human body without sinning too much. Naturally, Lucy's immediate reaction is "fuck that" and he proceeds to sin as spectacularly as possible. The rest of the book is split between Lucy having a blast during his attempt to make a mark on earth (a movie about his life), and long sections determined to set the Good Book straight.

When it comes to the latter sections, Lucy doesn't ask for pity or understanding--he just lays everything out. Everything is covered, from his Fall to the not-altogether-pure Eve to the temptation of Christ in the desert. He explains how Hell is organized and the different kinds of sins and even attempts to describe the all-consuming metaphysical agony of simply being a fallen angel. It certainly puts a different spin on both the Bible and the notion of sympathy for the devil.

One of the things that makes this book really work (for yours truly, anyway) is that it's written in very conversational first person. Throughout the novel Lucifer speaks as if he's simply having a chat with an impressionable student. Also fun are the extremely detailed descriptions of things that humans don't think about but which the narrator revels in, including the look of the sky and the assaulting smells of a subway station.

Okay, Fine, Here's The Downside: You will probably feel slightly filthy after reading this book, which is no big surprise. Lucy also tends to ramble on and interrupt his own stories with other trains of thought, meaning it's easy to lose track of what's going on. On a related note, his detailed descriptions can sometimes go on a bit too long.

And Now For Something Completely Different:
Earthman (Poets and Pornstars)
and i never met a madman who didn't have a cause

(To my flist--I'll stop spamming y'all now, sorry. Would you rather I put these things under a 'read more'? ^^;;)
mildmaythecat: (Default)
I'll get out of the Teen section for the next review, shaddup:

The Cry of the Icemark by Stuart Hill.

One-Sentence Review If You're Pressed For Time (Or Just Lazy): Fascinating worldbuilding and terrific characters, including a kickass female lead, make for a brilliant opening to a brilliant trilogy (don't panic--it's standalone if you prefer).

Why It's Awesome: First, meet our warrior princess protagonist Thirrin. She punches a werewolf in the nose in the first chapter and is ruling a country at war not long after. Did I mention she's thirteen? Yeah. You want a badass female main character, you've come to the right place. She needs to learn to be a ruler, a general and a diplomat at a very young age and within a very short timespan, and manages without falling into Mary-Sue territory.

Actually, you'll end up falling in love with pretty much every character. Thirrin's father is every inch the booming warrior king and keeps his kitten, Primplepuss, nearby. Oskan is a young warlock who's lived in a cave most of his life--think a less socially clueless Castiel. The Vampire King and Queen are an ancient married couple as skilled with verbal barbs as with drinking the blood of their enemies (don't let the mention of vampires scare you off; these guys are awesome, trust me). And then there are Snow Leopards and werewolves and of course other humans, all with their own motives and equally fun personalities.

The worldbuilding sucks you in as well. Thirrin's country, the titular Icemark, is a mashup of Viking-era Norway, Scotland and wherever the hell winter is coming to in Game of Thrones. Their enemy is the Polypontian Empire, an ancient Rome-esque country of soldiers and technological progress which sneaks some steampunk in there if you squint. The vampires live in their grim castles, the Snow Leopards in their palaces across the icy tundra, and the werewolves live a nomadic but primarily cave-dwelling lifestyle.

The plot moves and does so at a good pace, humor and action are both written really well, and you can really lose yourself in the world the author has created. And along with being a perfectly good novel in and of itself, COTI is the first in a pretty damn awesome trilogy (which doesn't hesitate to kill characters off, so avoid later books if you're especially attached to anyone).

Okay, Fine, Here's The Downside: Scipio Bellorum isn't really anything special as a villain. He's ice-cold and emotionless unless someone really pisses him off, killing officers who fail him without blinking. He's a military genius and prefers the finer things in life, with no apparent motive other than conquering as many places as possible. I feel like I've seen this character before, but he plays his role just fine and definitely succeeds in making you fear for the heroes, so it works out alright.

And Now For Something Completely Different:
Patience (Low Roar)
get out of my mind... (live version); (studio version)
mildmaythecat: (Default)
Kicking off with one of the most recent books I've read:

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews.

One-Sentence Review If You're Pressed For Time (Or Just Lazy): A very bizarre book that won't give you anything deep and meaningful but will make you laugh until whatever you're drinking comes out your nose.

Why It's Awesome: This book is weird. I'll probably end up saying this about a lot of the books I review, but this one is really very strange. Greg, the protagonist, is a budding filmmaker who is determined to convince his school he doesn't exist and the reader that he's a despicable person with no redeeming qualities. Of course, you'll end up liking him anyway.

The titular Earl, Greg's best friend/moviemaking partner is responsible for a good chunk of the book's awesomeness. His half of their conversations tends to consist of inventive and improperly used cussing. He was a druggie by age thirteen and he lives with a bunch of brothers just as crazy as he is.

A lot of the awesome stems from the fact that this book is basically a meta masterpiece. Greg knows what the reader expects from a book about a terminally ill high schooler and never fails to lampshade and then subvert the trope in question. In fact, he comes out and warns you in the first chapter that if you're looking for a heartwarming story, you'd better look elsewhere. And that lack of saccharine plot twists really works in the book's favor. It's refreshing, in a terrible sort of way.

Also, whole chapters are written in movie script format (a lot less annoying and more humorous than it sounds) and you will laugh through the majority of the book. Yes, the book about a girl dying of cancer. Yes, I sound like a terrible person--and so will you when you read it and realize I'm right.

Okay, Fine, Here's The Downside: Well, again--if you're looking for any answers when it comes to coping with death, coping with life or finding your place in the world, drop the book and run like hell. You'll be disappointed. Greg also tries a little too hard in spots to convince you that you're an idiot for reading the book, with the result that you occasionally want to slap your narrator in the face.

And Now For Something Completely Different:
Play It All Night Long (Warren Zevon)
sweet home alabama, play that dead band's song...
mildmaythecat: (Default)

{Take the 100 Things challenge!}

I'm going to be blogging about awesome books. Not the most creative subject, but hey, reading is what I do best and love most, so. Enjoy the inevitable spazzfests and ramblings. xD

EDIT: Okay, I'm adding music in there--each post is also gonna have a musical recommendation that probably won't have anything to do with the book. These things have nothing to do with each other, so why am I combining them? Because I am insane. Enjoy.


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October 2016



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