Saturday, June 23, 2018

Review: The Suffering by Rin Chupeco (L)

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Tark knows what it is to be powerless. But Okiku changed that. A restless spirit who ended life as a victim and started death as an avenger, she's groomed Tark to destroy the wicked. But when darkness pulls them deep into Aokigahara, known as Japan's suicide forest, Okiku's justice becomes blurred, and Tark is the one who will pay the price... (from the online description)

Review: Picking up about a year after The Girl From the Well, this is written from Tark’s point of view. We follow him as he settles into a life with Okiku as his ghost-companion. He is her “doll” and she is compelled to stay with him – or risk losing him to another spirit. As they work to balance their life together, Tark received word that one of the women who helped him in the previous book has gone missing. Feeling a debt, Tark embarks on a mission to save her.
But she is lost in the forest known for its darkness and death. Something old, something evil, lures people there and feeds on their suffering. To save his friend, Tark must travel into the heart of darkness. There, he will encounter not only that which might take his life, but Okiku’s existence as well.
With more action then the previous novel, this feels very much like a classic horror movie, but without the cheesy jump-scares. Seeped in Japanese lore and mystical magical arts, we learned a bit about Japanese ghost stories and what might make them come to life.
Complex characters, fast-paced action, and lots of creepy atmosphere creates a fun read, particularly for a dark and stormy night. Worth reading if you are looking for something a bit different than your regular YA. 

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-4926-2983-2
Year Published: 2015
Date Finished: 6-16-2018
Pages: 313

Friday, June 22, 2018

Review: The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco (L)

Synopsis: I am where dead children go. Okiku is a lonely soul. She has wandered the world for centuries, freeing the spirits of the murdered-dead. Once a victim herself, she now takes the lives of killers with the vengeance they're due. But releasing innocent ghosts from their ethereal tethers does not bring Okiku peace. Still she drifts on. Such is her existence, until she meets Tark. Evil writhes beneath the moody teen's skin, trapped by a series of intricate tattoos. While his neighbors fear him, Okiku knows the boy is not a monster. Tark needs to be freed from the malevolence that clings to him. There's just one problem: if the demon dies, so does its host. (from the online description)

Review: A ghost story, a horror tale, told from the viewpoint of the deadly spirit. Rising from her grave, fixated on vengeance Okiku has traveled the globe to deal a swift and bloody justice to those who have wronged people like her. She is the thing that gurgles in the shadows and springs from the dark.
But over the centuries, something has changed in Okiku. She isn’t the same mindless entity as others like her. She has a conscious, of sorts.
And when she meets Tark, she sees not only him, but the much darker spirit trapped inside him. With her help, and that of Tark’s mother, they will see that spirit banished from our world before it can lay a trail of blood and death.
This story is a creepy and haunting, but not in a cheesy way. No jump-scares here. Instead, it’s like watching The Grudge or Dark Water, but through the eyes of the dead.
Fantastically done, with excellent inclusion of Japanese mythology and culture. If you like creepy (but not gory) tales infused with non-Western tones, this is the book for you!  

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-4022-9218-7
Year Published: 2014
Date Finished: 6-14-2018
Pages: 265

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Review: The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan (The Wheel of Time, Book 4)

Synopsis: The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow. The seals of Shayol Ghul are weak now, and the Dark One reaches out. The Shadow is rising to cover humankind.
In Tar Valon, Min sees portents of hideous doom. Will the White Tower itself be broken?
In the Two Rivers, the Whitecloaks ride in pursuit of a man with golden eyes, and in pursuit of the Dragon Reborn.
In Cantorin, among the Sea Folk, High Lady Suroth plans the return of the Seanchan armies to the mainland.
In the Stone of Tear, the Lord Dragon considers his next move. It will be something no one expects, not the Black Ajah, not Tairen nobles, not Aes Sedai, not Egwene or Elayne or Nynaeve.
Against the Shadow rising stands the Dragon Reborn...  (from the online description)

Review: In the fourth installment of Jordan’s The Wheel of Time, we fine Rand still in Tear. After his triumph and his fulfillment of the prophecy by take the Stone of Tear, Rand must decide what to do next. Rumor reaches him that his home of Two Rivers is under oppression by the Whitecloaks – but going there might place all in jeopardy.  The Forsaken are looking for him and The White Tower has dubious motives. Danger and Death are at every turn. Rand, for all his youth, decides to forge his own path and does so with strength beyond his years.
With his notable and customary talent, Jordan sweeps the reader along a fast-paced journey. From Tar Valon to Tanchico, from the Two Rivers to the Aiel Wastes, we follow each of the main characters as they plunge into danger, fight against the growing darkness, and discover new friends and enemies. Jordan’s ability to weave new characters into the narrative, bring old ones back, and keep the reader invested is a testament to his talent.
An excellent continuation of the series and worth reading. 

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-812-51373-8
Year Published: 1993
Date Finished: 6-12-2018
Pages: 1006

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Review: My Face to the Wind: The Diary of Sarah Jane Price, A Prairie Teacher (1881) by Jim Murphy (The Dear America Series)

Synopsis: Following her father's death from a disease that swept through her Nebraska town in 1881, teenage Sarah Jane must find work to support herself and records in her diary her experiences as a young school teacher. (from the online description)

Review: Written in the form of a diary, we follow Sarah Jane Price as she struggles to live after the sudden death of her father. Left alone in a small prairie town, Sarah Jane wonders about her future and what she will do to survive.
Despite her fear, she convinces the town to let her take over her father’s position at teaching. Although they lack belief in her ability because of age, they agree – but make it hard for her, providing her with almost no supplies and much less salary than they paid her father.
Both Sarah Jane and her story are fiction, but they are based on many small towns and small town teachers. There is an authenticity to the story – the struggles of the small town, the people, the hardship, the weather. With complex secondary characters, fast plot, and good action, this was an excellent read. I would recommend for school-age kids, particularly as part of educational program about the early settlers. 

Bookmarks: 3.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-590-43810-7
Year Published: 2001
Date Finished: 6-9-2018
Pages: 178

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (The All Souls Trilogy, Book 1)

Synopsis: Deborah Harkness’s sparkling debut, A Discovery of Witches, has brought her into the spotlight and galvanized fans around the world. In this tale of passion and obsession, Diana Bishop, a young scholar and a descendant of witches, discovers a long-lost and enchanted alchemical manuscript, Ashmole 782, deep in Oxford's Bodleian Library. Its reappearance summons a fantastical underworld, which she navigates with her leading man, vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont. (from the online description)

Review: My disappointment in this book comes as much from the book itself as my expectations.
This was recommended to me as an Urban Fantasy about a witch and a vampire who team up to protect a magical book. Sounds good, right?
I did not realize it centered on the romance between the two characters and not the mystery of the magical book. In fact, I would label this a paranormal romance and not an urban fantasy.
So much of the book was taken up by the two main characters talking (or in her case, sleeping and/or crying). It seemed to take too many of these conversations to move the story forward. The characters constantly talked about how it was forbidden for them to spend time together, but then constantly did with no consequences other than a few harsh words from their respective people groups. Brief spots of action (always followed by pages and pages of talking) helped a little, but the action often centered on the hero rescuing the heroine, and giving them more chances to talk (ugh!)
I’m also never a fan of insta-love. How are you willing to jeopardize the stability of the world, risk war among the supernatural groups, and endanger your families for someone you meet three weeks ago? Really? Shallow and unrealistic, to me. I was never able to connect with the main characters because of this, which made it difficult to finish the book.
The only redeeming quality was the history and lore and libraries – I loved reading about library built over centuries, the history of alchemy, etc. More of that and less lovey-dovey shit and the book would have been ten times better.
If you enjoy slow-paced paranormal romance, this is the book for you. But if you are looking for more adventure and fights and action – not so much. 

Bookmarks: 3 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-14-311968-5
Year Published: 2011
Date Finished: 6-10-2018
Pages: 577

Monday, June 18, 2018

Review: Emperor of Thorns by Mark Lawrence (The Broken Empire, Book 3)

Synopsis: King Jorg Ancrath is twenty now—and king of seven nations. His goal—revenge against his father—has not yet been realized, and the demons that haunt him have only grown stronger. Yet no matter how tortured his path, he intends to take the next step in his upward climb.
Jorg would be emperor. It is a position not to be gained by the sword but rather by vote. And never in living memory has anyone secured a majority of the vote, leaving the Broken Empire long without a leader. Jorg plans to change that. He’s uncovered the lost technology of the land, and he won’t hesitate to use it.
But he soon finds an adversary standing in his way, a necromancer unlike any he has ever faced—a figure hated and feared even more than himself: the Dead King. (from the online description)

Review: The last in the Broken Empire trilogy, we’ve followed Jorg down a dark and bloody path. Here, we see the end.
Jorg has never hidden his ambition or his desire to rule over all. In this book, he sets out to use all his cunning and ruthlessness to achieve it. But the Dead King – the Dead King is coming.
As with the previous, we see the split time – following Jorg via the present and the past. Lawrence uses a deft hand, taking the reader from the past to the present, interweaving the stories.
The ending – no spoilers – but many people didn’t like it. However, I found it perfect for the story. It ended the journey in the only way it could, with redemption. This story, ultimately, was about redemption, about taking the sorry and death and suffering of the past and making it matter.
This is a fantastic series, worth reading. It is bloody and dark, to be sure, but that is what makes it the story that it is.

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-425-25654-1
Year Published: 2013
Date Finished: 6-7-2018
Pages: 399

Review: Black Magick. Volume II by Greg Rucka (ill. by Nicole Scott)

Synopsis: The trap around Rowan Black continues to close, with the Hammer closing in on one side and the Ascension now in motion on the other. But the ultimate wound may not be wielded by magick, but instead delivered via the heart.(from the online description)

Notes: Collects Issues #6-11

Review: The second volume in the dark and exciting Black Magick comic by Greg Rucka.This volume starts with Rowan as a child. We learn of her past and its connection to her current actions – and those of her enemies. Rucka takes us more in the world were witches and demons live, into how the magic works, and what makes Rowan special. Rowan is forced to confront her fears – and when her desires are exposed, she needs to make a choice about protecting those she loves. Fast-paced plot, creepy villains, and complex characters build a story that kept me enthralled.The art is perfectly suited to the story. Mostly done in black and white, with splash of red which brings the darker tones of the story to life.My only complaint is that during one scene, a character spoke German and no translation was offered. I had to look it up using Google Translate with was a bit tedious.I’m eager for more of this story! I sincerely hope more is planned, as this ends with all parties in peril!

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-5343-0483-3
Year Published: 2018
Date Finished: 6-6-2018
Pages: 81