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So, this is a bit of a departure from what I normally review, but there's been such a craze for adult coloring books lately I was happy for a chance to check it out. When I saw The Time Garden available on Blogging for Books I jumped to request it.

I have always found coloring to be a really relaxing activity. When I was a kid my nana used to have a stack of coloring books and a huge basket of crayons next to her couch. I remember flipping through the books, past her neatly colored-within-the-lines pages to whichever blank page took my fancy, and half coloring it before getting bored and moving to another page. She never seemed to mind that her grand kids messed up her coloring books. I wonder what she would have thought of intricate adult-geared books like this one...

The first thing that I noticed about this book was that it wasn't just coloring pages, it came with a story. The opening pages tell a story of a girl whose father brings home a strange clock. That night when the clock strikes midnight, the girl sees a tiny red-haired fairy winding the clock. The little fairy, startled by the girl, runs from her and ends up leading the girl on a magical adventure through many exotic worlds on the following pages.

The whimsical worlds the girl travels through really do spark the imagination and are very inviting. They're not only fun to look at, but the detail of the drawings leaves a lot of choices for colorers--these are not pictures where you want to stick with traditional colors for things.

Many of the pictures are spread across two pages making for stunning visuals (though also making it difficult to color into the spine).  One of my favorite spreads was of a giant owl flying through the night sky with a house on his back.

I've been using colored pencils in The Time Garden, and they have worked well as long as I keep my sharpener around for the many intricately small sections. The paper is thick enough that markers would probably also work, though I haven't tested that (yet). Traditional crayons are definitely a bad choice.

It's worth noting that though the word "garden" is in the title, the book is not set in a garden and only a few of the pages have garden-ish scenes. So don't choose this one if you're looking primarily for flowers and vines and trees.

All in all this book has been a joy to color so far, and I look forward to many hours filling in the details and bringing the adventurous heroine's magical journey to life.

*I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

This was perfect plane reading
for my trip from the UK to the US.
I first heard about The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle at the Young Adult Literature Convention where there was a booth dedicated to it. The booth's "secrets box" caught my eye, but I still wouldn’t have ended up reading it if my husband hadn’t been persuaded by a fellow author to buy it. He in turn told me to read it because “it gets really gothic at the end.”

The Accident Season is told in first person from the point of view of Cara, a girl whose family seems cursed to suffer from an unnatural amount of physical accidents every October. Each year—led by her mother—Cara, her older sister Alice, and her ex-stepbrother Sam (it’s complicated) hunker down and expect the worst. They do everything they can to minimize the opportunities for accidents to overtake them, yet every October they seem unable to avoid tragedy. This year, Cara begins to notice a strange pattern in her life; every single one of her photographs seem to feature the same childhood friend, but nobody can remember that friend being around or even details about the girl such as what class she was in or what her last name was. As Cara investigates, along with Sam and her best friend Bea, the elusive friend becomes more mysterious and ghostlike. Meanwhile as October draws to a close and the accidents seem to increase, Alice seems to be wrapped up in problems of her own. The layers of secrets around Cara are growing, and she finds it harder and harder to discern reality. Gradually the web of secrets, fears, and lies begins to unravel until all is made clear.

The Accident Season is a novel not only about secrets, but about denial and the processing of truth through fiction. Cara is only able to acknowledge the truth she already knows through her gradually increasing visions of a fantasy where she, Alice, Sam and Bea are each represented by a “changeling.” As Cara begins to realize who the threats are in her life, she sees visions of the changelings facing those enemies, and through that finds power to take action herself. She finds that her ghosts can only be put to rest if she is brave enough to face them.

Fowley-Doyle, I think, leaves it a bit ambiguous just how much of the story is supernatural. But I really like that in a story. I always lean toward it being completely constructed—not because I don’t like the idea of fantasy being real, but because I find it so much more compelling to think about the human mind’s ability to find weird ways to cope with reality. It reminded me a bit of Jonathan Stroud’s The Leap as there is some ambiguity as to whether there is actually a fantastical element to the things that happened, or whether the main character is imagining the fantasy in order to cope with a traumatic reality.

 As per my husband's recommendation, the book does have some satisfyingly gothic elements wound throughout its modern-day setting. Parts of the atmosphere reminded me of Doll Bones by Holly Black, but for an older audience. I really enjoyed reading this book and though the action lags a bit toward the middle, the ending resolution is very good.

I first heard about The Lie Tree only last month at the Young Adult Literature Convention. Frances Hardinge was speaking on a panel and, along with the other panelists, gave a brief intro of herself and her latest book. She described it as a Victorian gothic novel about a tree that lives off people's lies.Whisper a lie to the tree and the more people who believe that lie, the more the tree will flourish. The tree produces a fruit for each lie, and whoever eats that fruit will learn a secret.
That was enough to hook me...that and Hardinge's fabulous hat.
So, I bought the book there and asked her to sign it. She drew me a goose. I'm still not sure why, but who says no to the offer of a goose drawing?

I thoroughly enjoyed every page of The Lie Tree. The book opens with an already gothic atmosphere--a dark and stormy day, on a boat, where people are keeping secrets.
Faith has always idolized her father, the naturalist Reverend Erasmus Sunderly, despite his steady chilliness toward her and his preferred treatment of her younger brother. With a quick mind and interest in science, Faith hopes one day to follow in her father's line of work. Unfortunately she is ahead of her time and finds herself trapped by the sexist views of the day that women are meant to be pretty, meek, and simple--not scientists.
When she finds out her father has been keeping dangerous, even life-threatening, secrets, it's up to Faith to try to save his reputation--but in the process she finds herself following in his dark footsteps.

The Lie Tree is beautifully atmospheric with vivid characters whose struggles I found very real. I found myself getting outraged along with Faith at the suffocating unfairness of the day's views of women. Hardinge does a fantastic job of creating a strong female who is able to use both her sharp intellect and society's negative perception of women's intellects to her advantage.

I also loved the mix of the real world setting and the addition of a fantastical magic tree that is never quite explained.

If I had one negative thing to say about the book it was that although the novel had several strong themes, the benightedness of men of the time and the unfair perception of women was a bit heavy handed. I don't think it was misrepresented, but it featured again and again, and I did find myself feeling the same theme could have been conveyed as strongly with a bit less restating.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes magical realism, gothic settings, and strong female characters. And, when I'm done with the stack of books I'm working through, I will look into more of Hardinge's books.

I bought The Iron Trial last month at the Young Adult Literature Convention where, to my delight, I was able to get it signed by the lovely Cassandra Clare. I was person number 252 of what I think was about 450 people waiting for signings--it turns out she's incredibly popular, and for good reason. Though her published work began with the Mortal Instruments series Clare actually had a fan base built up long before that with her fanfiction writing. Most notably The Very Secret Diaries of the Fellowship of the Rings and the Draco Trilogy (book-length Harry Potter fanfic which she has asked no longer be shared online...though some people might still have copies saved somewhere offline...maybe).
Holly Black also has been writing prolifically and I've loved her writing since reading her first book, Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale. Finding out these two ladies were going to collaborate on a series made me very happy. (Also, Black is from New Jersey, the best state, so yay.)

The Iron Trial is the first in what is to be a series of five books. The story follows Callum--a young boy with a limp and an affinity for magic--who is called to be tested in the Iron Trial. The Trial is a test for potential mages and whoever passes will enter the Magisterium (a magic school) for formal mage training. There's just one problem. Callum's father was a mage and is dead set against magic after losing Callum's mother in a mage war years earlier. Callum has been brought up to believe that magic is dangerous and mages are heartless, using the students at the Magisterium for their own selfish purposes. Despite trying his best to fail the trial, as his father advised, Callum finds himself apprenticed to a mage and whisked off to the Magisterium against his will. Once there Call finds himself torn between his father's teaching and his own experience with magic while also discovering that his father might be keeping a dark secret about Callum.

Yay for meeting Cassandra Clare!
This book was very fun to read. Both Clare and Black have great senses of humor and that really shone through in the writing. The characters were interesting and accessible, and continue to develop throughout the book. Call is a protagonist you can really root for--pretty normal, but still with some issues. Bullied about his limp, he's not terribly popular at school and causes trouble--mostly by accident. Unlike many fantasy protagonists, he actually has a good relationship with his dad at the beginning of the book. The plot moves quickly and was engaging enough to keep me turning the pages. This was one of those books I ended up finishing at around 1am because I didn't want to stop to go to bed.

Black and Clare have said that one of their goals in writing this series was to turn common fantasy tropes on their head, and The Iron Trial certainly did make me consider whether or not one should try to avoid tropes or jump in and change them.
A few chapters in, I couldn't help but notice how very Harry Potterish the plot was turning out to be. As a baby Call is the lone survivor of a magical massacre, is left permanently marked by the enemy (his injured leg), finds himself at a school of magic where everything is new and exciting, makes friends with a guy and a girl his age, and gradually finds out more about his own past as the story progresses.

These parallels weren't an accident. Black and Clare couldn't possibly have written this and *not* noticed they were more or less following the plot of Harry Potter. Writers often try to reclaim tropes that have come to be associated with one specific book--after all, J.K. Rowling wasn't the first to come up with the idea of an orphan discovering he was "the chosen one," so it's not fair to give negative marks to any future authors who use that trope. However, it is certainly true that if future authors are going to use it, they must find a way to make it different enough that it doesn't seem like they're copying. In The Iron Trial Clare and Black weren't trying to reclaim the Harry Potter plot so much as start out with a plot readers might expect, and then turn it around into something unexpected. They were reforming readers' expectations of the "chosen one" fantasy trope.

In my opinion, they have been only somewhat successful here. Since the plot followed Harry Potter for much of the book, the first two-thirds or so were fairly predictable. Although there were a couple twists at the end, the prologue had made one of them quite easy to foresee. I appreciate what Clare and Black are doing here, but even with the twists, there wasn't enough of a departure from Harry Potter for the plot to feel original. I realize this is the first of a five book series, so there is plenty of time to take this in a vastly different direction, but in this single first book the plot leans more toward a homage than a reclamation.

Luckily for Black and Clare, they really are fantastic writers, so even with a predictable plot there was plenty else that was unique and I didn't want to put the book down. In the end, tropes or no, The Iron Trial is great fun to read and I do look forward to the next Magisterium book.

The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris
The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris is a retelling of Norse mythology from the perspective of the trickster god, Loki. Now, I have to admit, my knowledge of Norse mythology is not very deep and is mostly limited to what I learned in American Gods and from the Thor movies. Because of that, many of the stories in this book, and some of the characters, were completely new to me. The book begins with an account of the creation of the worlds and the rise of gods and giants, as told by Loki, and then goes on to detail Loki's various exploits and his rollercoaster fame/infamy among the gods. Ending, of course, with the inevitability of Ragnarok.

I found myself a bit torn about liking or not liking this book. The book's "gospel" format allows it to do away with certain things necessary to most good books--most notably character development and a constant story thread. The lack of these were a bit of a downside because I found the book didn't quite capture my attention consistently. Since each tale was being told after the fact, the feeling of being involved in the action and wondering how each tale might end was missing. While I was reading it, I was interested, but the moment I put the book down I had no real pull to pick it back up again and continue reading. Harris tried to mitigate this by having Loki frequently hint at more to come or to mention that things weren't as good as they seemed, but I didn't find this motivating.

There was little development of any character besides Loki, and while that was likely intentional (he is the star of the book after all) it left me not caring much about any of the characters. Harris did do a good job of fleshing out Loki's character and really giving him a recognizable voice. I usually am drawn to mischievous characters anyway, so Loki's irreverent way of speaking and casual plotting were fun to read. At the same time, Loki's constant references to "yours truly" and "your humble narrator" as well as his pet phrase "so shoot me" really did begin to get on my nerves. I wonder if this wasn't Harris's intention all along as Loki isn't really meant to be completely likable. However, while his casual way of speaking added an irreverent humor to the book, the occasional anachronistic references ("as welcome as a turd in a hot tub") were distracting.

Most interesting to me was that the book contained a half formed idea that Loki initially was not so much a troublemaker but rather just clever and full of energy.. He initially used his wits to the gods' advantage, but slowly the gods refusal to accept him as one of their own drove him towards tricking the gods themselves and eventually becoming one of the driving forces of Ragnarok. I would really have liked to see a more developed plot there rather than sticking to occasional hints in that direction among the tales.

Even without knowing the tales, I got the feeling that this book didn't add a lot to them other than Loki's voice. However, for those unfamiliar with Norse mythology, The Gospel of Loki could be a fun way to learn some of the classic tales without needing to delve into the Prose Edda.

This past weekend I had the fun experience of being able to attend the Young Adult Literature Convention in London. Organized by Book Trust, a reading charity, the convention featured booths selling (and giving away!) books, author panels, author signings, workshops, and opportunities to meet and interact with literary agents. I went for all three days with my husband who, being an author, is also very interested in these things and is the reason I heard about the convention in the first place. We really had a blast. I managed to get through it with restraint and only got four new books (two of them I had signed, woohoo!), but also a free t-shirt, a few tote bags, TONS of book sample chapters, badges, a key chain, and a lots of free candy.

Here are my impressions in pictures.

The reading corner - a lovely place to sit and rest from ALL THE THINGS
From the reading corner
More book stalls!
The Gollancz and Atom stands
Book swap!
Meeting Cassandra Clare
LOTS of free sample chapters
Penguin Platform booth
Wearing sunglasses for Finding Audrey

Agent author talk with Molly Ker Hawn (Bent Agency)
and Kat Ellis (author of Blackfin Sky)
The Sir Terry and Me panel, talking about how the great Sir Terry Pratchett inspired each of them in different ways.
Derek Landy, Patrick Ness, Frances Hardinge, and Imogen Russell Williams
Lilies in the Terry Pratchett corner
After-party cupcakes!
The best goose anyone has ever drawn me

I love pirate books. So when I got this book from my husband for Valentine's Day I was quite excited to read it. I knew it wasn't *exactly* a pirate book, but was hoping it would have a bit of pirate-like adventure and a lot of Daniel Handler's fantastic sense of humor. Unfortunately, it really didn't have either.

I realize that books written as Daniel Handler are not meant to be for the same audience as when he writes as Lemony Snicket, however, even taking that into consideration I really disliked this book and every character in it.

We Are Pirates is really two parallel stories. One is about Gwen, a teenager who wants to be in control of her own life; the other is about her father, a radio producer whose career has stagnated. Although the stories overlap, they don't really show any cohesive intertwining. One could easily cut out either story without the other changing at all. I think this disconnectedness doesn't help the book.

The plot of Gwen's story is that she decides, along with Errol, an old man who has Alzheimer's and a love of pirate stories, to run away from home, commandeer a ship and sail out into San Francisco Bay. To prove her dedication to her new pirate cause, she plans to attack other ships and take their supplies. She pulls a few other people into her plot and carries it out in a surprisingly bloody fashion, starting with the violent murder of two people.

Phil's story is basically circling around how much his career has stagnated, how he continues to screw up everything, and his very cringe-worthy relationship with his secretary--who he might want to sleep with.

There is a very strongly developed theme of powerlessness throughout the book. All the main characters (in fact, the secondary characters as well) are powerless in different ways--Gwen because she is a teenager and has no independence from her parents, Errol because he has lost his memory and cannot take care of himself, Phil because he doesn't understand why his career has gone downhill, and thus cannot fix it. Each character tries to take control of his or her situation in different  ways, but ultimately they screw things up even more. Of all the aspects of this book, this is the one I appreciate; it was well fleshed out and each person's struggle felt very real.

However, there was still no redemption or hope. I think if Handler had taken a different direction and actually had given the characters some success, or at least a moment of realization that there might be a different way to take control, it would have had some redeeming value. Stories do not have to have happy endings, but they should at least have some redeeming value to them. We Are Pirates was depressing throughout and ended on an even lower note. Gwen and her accomplices get away with murder, theft, and destruction (for which the most vulnerable of their group is blamed) and then life goes back to its mediocre hopelessness.

Beyond plot, I also have complaints about the writing itself. The narrator throughout the book is extremely unclear. There is some severe head hopping that is very disorienting to the reader. Sometimes this can be used as a technique to jar the reader into paying closer attention or to involve the reader in the chaos of a scene, but in this case it was merely annoying and made the story more difficult to follow. Another tactic that felt very gimmicky was that many times throughout the book the narrator refers to the story as if it were in the distant past, using phrases such as,"during this era of American history," and "at the time this story takes place." Yet, at the beginning of the book it seems the story is being told only a few weeks after the events happened.

While We Are Pirates wouldn't put me off reading Handler books in the future, I absolutely wouldn't recommend spending time reading this one unless you like selfish characters whose lives are on a downward spiral.

Yesterday, one of the world's greatest authors left this realm. His wit was only matched by his ability to delve deeply into the human soul and examine, laud, or poke fun at what he found there.
Rest in peace you wonderful man.

What better time, then, to bring out a few of my absolute favorite quotes?

Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.
 - A Hat Full of Sky

Mister Teatime had a truly brilliant mind, but it was brilliant like a fractured mirror, all marvelous facets and rainbows but, ultimately, also something that was broken.
- Hogfather

In Ghat they believe in vampire watermelons, although folklore is silent about what they believe about vampire watermelons. Possibly they suck back.
- Carpe Jugulum

Time could bifurcate, like a pair of trousers. You could end up in the wrong leg, living a life that was actually happening in the other leg, talking to people who weren't in your leg, walking into walls that weren't there anymore. Life could be horrible in the wrong trouser of time.
 - Guards! Guards!

Give a man a fire and he's warm for a day, but set fire to him and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 - Jingo

‘Twas beauty killed the beast,” said the Dean, who liked to say things like that.
“No it wasn’t,” said the Chair. “It was splatting into the ground like that.
 - Moving Pictures

 - Death, Hogfather

Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it.
 - Reaper Man

People who are rather more than six feet tall and nearly as broad across the shoulders often have uneventful journeys. People jump out at them from behind rocks then say things like, "Oh. Sorry. I thought you were someone else.
 - Guards! Guards!

“If you trust in yourself. . .and believe in your dreams. . .and follow your star. . . you'll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren't so lazy.”
 - The Wee Free Men

“All right," said Susan. "I'm not stupid. You're saying humans need... fantasies to make life bearable."


"Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—"


"So we can believe the big ones?"


"They're not the same at all!"


"Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what's the point—"

 - Hogfather is finally dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away... 

Near Enemy is the second book in the Spademan series by Adam Sternbergh and was published earlier this year. I reviewed his first book, Shovel Ready, last year and enjoyed it despite it not being my usual genre. So, when I saw the second one available on Blogging for Books, I was happy to request it.

This plot follows close on the heels of the first book. A year has passed, but not much has happened and little explanation is needed to catch the reader up to the present. Spademan once again is the storyteller, relaying the plot in his minimalist narrative style.
The setting is still post-dirty-bomb New York City which is falling into ever deeper corruption and chaos. Wealthy residents lie shuttered away in high-rises and spend their days plugged in to an artificial reality called the Limnosphere while other try to earn enough to buy a few hours here and there to escape the harsh reality.

During a job where Spademan is hired to kill a lowlife "bed-hopper" named Lesser (who also happens to be a genius programmer), Spademan learns that Lesser might have discovered a valuable, and deadly, secret about the Limn. He decides not to kill him until he learns more, but soon Lesser disappears. Spademan is coerced into tracking him down by a member of the police who seems to have his own agenda and doesn't balk at using threats and force to get his way.
The story follows Spademan's search for Lesser and the gradual revelations that follow about the limn, the city's leadership, and even the group behind the bombing of the city.

Sternbergh has done a fabulous job crafting Spademan's character--his dry humor and pseudo-poetic observations of the crumbling world around him lend a definite depth to his anti-hero character.

The world, though again, not perfectly fleshed out (does anyone really believe the NYC would be given up for dead by the rest of the world?), was still very vivid and easy to visualize. I imagine the world looking very much like the one in the Fallout PC games (which I wish someone would make into a movie)--drab, run down, with occasional patches of normality the further you get from the cities.

Near Enemy was more expertly written than Shovel Ready in subtle but noticeable ways. The pacing of the plot was very well done--particularly the transitions between action scenes. The symbolism, though not subtle (to match the book's unsubtle narrator), was still clever.

I do wish there was a more satisfying ending to this book. While some parts of the plot are resolved in the end, much more is hinted at. Of course, it's part of a series, but in my opinion Sternbergh did a better job in Shovel Ready of bringing the book's main plot to an end while still leaving it clear that there is more to come.

All in all I really enjoyed reading this book and look forward to the next.

For more info and to buy the book, visit the Random House website.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

I love pirate stories (as I’ve mentioned before). That is the main reason I added On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers to my reading list. I knew nothing about him, and nothing about the book other than that it was a tale of pirates, magic, and the fountain of youth. Oh, and that it was the inspiration for the Pirates of the Caribbean movie titled, unsurprisingly, On Stranger Tides. Now that I’ve read it, I can’t really see too much resemblance between the two.

As a somewhat unrelated note, I just learned that Daniel Handler has come out with a book on pirates just this week. Though it doesn't seem like a traditional pirate book (it's set in the present day, for one thing) We Are Pirates is already on my to-read list. I am also going to see Daniel Handler, along with Neil Gaiman, in just a couple weeks at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and I suspect the new book is part of the reason that a sword fight is on the schedule. I'm happy to be living so close to Brooklyn (and thus BAM) where Neil Gaiman seems to be making a habit of appearing (and my husband and I seem to make a habit of seeing him appear).

Now on to the book.

Blackbeard (Edward Teach)
Let's face it, this isn't his scariest pose.
On Stranger Tides had pretty much everything you could want in a pirate story. Fighting, betrayal, good men turned to piracy, voodoo, obsession, zombies, love, and history's most evil pirate. No marooning happened, but I can live with that.
The book follows Jack Shandy as he is unwillingly pulled into joining a band of pirates and sucked into a world of voodoo he never knew existed. His sole purpose becomes saving Beth Hurwood from her obsessive father Benjamin Hurwood who, along with his assistant Leo Friend is on a quest for the Fountain of Youth for some inscrutable but deadly serious purpose. As the book goes on we find Blackbeard and Hurwood are in cahoots. Both men are on a path to extreme power, and both seem to be evil personified.

What I loved about this book
Powers does creepy most excellently. This book had one of the creepiest scenes I’ve read in a long time—the trip through the Florida swamps to the Fountain of Youth. Fungus-like plants line the way and, the deeper the group (led by Blackbeard's undead boatman) gets into the swamp, the more the plants begin taking on the features of dead faces. Eventually they begin whispering and spouting out evil spirits which attach themselves more or less permanently to anyone they can get close to. The scene builds with more layers of creepiness as the group endures everything from being attacked by an evil presence seen only as shadows, to reliving the memories that most shaped who they are, to nearly becoming part of the swamp as they are turned into plants themselves and begin to take root.

I also love that [spoiler alert] Hurwood carries his wife’s head in a box throughout the entire book, hoping eventually to resurrect her. So creepy. 

Powers creates a world of pirates that is closely linked to magic. While voodoo and piracy aren't a new pairing, I really did feel that he had a different take on it as he made vodun something that even crewmembers can casually use. The parallel of magic fading from the world along with the golden age of piracy coming to an end created a nostalgic air that I really appreciated.

What I didn't like about this book:
The scenes were a bit heavy handed at times, such as the Oedipis complex of Hurwood’s sometime sidekick Leo Friend. It was hinted at first, but then Powers really piled it on and I felt a little insulted as the reader. However, the book doesn’t pretend to be high literature and it’s not too difficult to move past that the occasional heavy handedness. 

Bartholomew Roberts' flag
This is one of my favorites because of how petty it is
He *really* hates Barbadians and Martiniquians
I missed good (and consistent) character development in this book. Shandy, despite being our protagonist, was not terribly easy to identify with and I am not really sure I even like him. His motivations for his actions were very one-dimensional and his personality seemed to change several times throughout the book. Beth also was a rather weak character, limply moved along by the plot and only once showing any initiative or personality of her own when she tried to recruit a pirate to help her escape. 
Despite opening the book with him, I felt Hurwood's backstory and motivation was the least developed of the main characters (excluding Beth). I would have loved to learn more about him as his quest was the one that moved the plot along. It seemed there could have been a whole book on his backstory (I would read that book).

I can easily get past my first two points since the plot moves the story along very well and keeps things interesting, however the main negative point that stuck out to me was that "Book Three" seemed as if it were written at a completely different time than the rest of the book. Maybe Powers wrote it first, or maybe he put the novel down for a long time before writing the last part ... I have no idea, but it felt very disjointed. The style was different, perspective shifted, and even some people’s personalities seemed to change. Strange details were included that were unnecessary as well; for example, including Israel Hands, while perhaps a nod to history, was a weird digression and didn’t fit the character of Blackbeard that had been built up in the rest of the book.

All in all I did actually quite enjoy this book and *would* recommend it, despite some cheesiness and strange character development choices. It's not high literature, but it is great fun.

...And unmoor'd souls may drift on stranger tides
Than those men know of, and be overthrown
By winds that would not even stir a hair...

Happy 2015 to everyone! The holidays gave me a much-needed chance to sit down and finally finish reading this book. It's another one I received from Blogging for Books, though, unlike the last one, this is a bit more within the genres I generally enjoy.

I was intrigued by the description on the website which included a mention of Elizabeth Báthory. For those who have never heard of "The Blood Countess" she is said to have brutally tortured and killed hundreds of girls for her own inscrutable reasons (most likely because she was a complete nutter) in the late 1500s / early 1600s. She's one of history's most famous and most bloodthirsty female serial killers. I find her rather fascinating in a morbid way and was excited to see how the author, Rebecca Alexander, would weave her history into this novel.

The narrative switches back and forth between first-person narration in 1585 by Edward Kelly, assistant to Dr. John Dee, and a third-person narrative following the activities of Professor Felix Guichard and Jackdaw Hammond in 2013.

Both sets of people are finding their lives intertwined in somewhat magical activities that extend the "living" existence of the dead. Kelly and Dee are commissioned by the king of Poland to save his dying niece Elizabeth Bathory by whatever means they can, while hundreds of years later Guichard is aiding in the investigation of mysterious deaths of young girls, and Jackdaw is herself a formerly dead person now trying to save the life of another dying girl.

I really liked the idea behind this book. Showing how Bathory became a monster/murderer and linking it to present day events lent intrigue and depth to the story. However, the narratives didn't always mesh well. I would have liked to see a stronger link between them throughout rather than just passing mentions of John Dee and the final Bathory link solidifying at the end. The issue was that the narratives were basically two separate stories. It might have been a stronger novel if, as the present-day characters discovered things about Bathory or about the history of revenants, that Kelly's narrative revealed them at the same time.

Unfortunately, though I found the book interesting, it had what I feel are numerous flaws which detracted from my overall enjoyment of the book. The character development was rather flat and the romance was heavy-handed. A lot of interesting material was hinted at in both narratives but wasn't explored--making it feel like the plot was under-developed. And lastly, a half-cooked attempt to explain how supernatural events are possible was thrown in near the end which really should have been left out. I don't feel that readers need to be walked through how supernatural things are possible--that's the point of them being supernatural.
Ultimately, I felt the novel fell short of what it could have been.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

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