Tag Archives: shape shifting

Seraphina

Hartman, Rachel. Seraphina (2012). Random House. 467 Pages

Seraphina by Rachel HartmanFrom the Author’s Website

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

First Lines

I remember being born.

In fact, I remember a time before that. There was no light, but there was music: joints creaking, blood rushing, the heart’s staccato lullaby, a rich symphony of indigestion. Sound enfolded me, and I was safe.

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Red Glove

Black, Holly. White Cat (2011).  325 Pages. Margaret K. McElderry. $17.99

The Curse Workers | Book Two

Please be aware that because this is the second book in a series, there may be spoilers for the first book, White Cat. Proceed with caution.

Also included in this post, my opinion on “Lila Zacharov in 13 Pieces,” which was a teaser to bridge the gap between White Cat and Red Glove. (I loved it.)

From Goodreads

Curses and cons. Magic and the mob. In Cassel Sharpe’s world, they go together. Cassel always thought he was an ordinary guy, until he realized his memories were being manipulated by his brothers. Now he knows the truth—he’s the most powerful curse worker around. A touch of his hand can transform anything—or anyone—into something else.

That was how Lila, the girl he loved, became a white cat. Cassel was tricked into thinking he killed her, when actually he tried to save her. Now that she’s human again, he should be overjoyed. Trouble is, Lila’s been cursed to love him, a little gift from his emotion worker mom. And if Lila’s love is as phony as Cassel’s made-up memories, then he can’t believe anything she says or does.

When Cassel’s oldest brother is murdered, the Feds recruit Cassel to help make sense of the only clue—crime-scene images of a woman in red gloves. But the mob is after Cassel too—they know how valuable he could be to them. Cassel is going to have to stay one step ahead of both sides just to survive. But where can he turn when he can’t trust anyone—least of all, himself?

Love is a curse and the con is the only answer in a game too dangerous to lose.

First Lines

I don’t know whether it’s day or night when the girl gets up to leave. Her minnow silver dress swishes against the tops of her thighs like Christmas tinsel as she opens the hotel door.

I struggle to remember her name.

“So you’ll tell your father at the consulate about me?” Her lipstick is smeared across her cheek. I should tell her to fix it, but my self-loathing is so great that I hate her along with myself.

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Filed under Book Review, Contemporary Romance, Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense, Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

Seduced by the Wolf

Spear, Terry. Seduced by the Wolf (2010). 416 Pages*. Sourcebooks Casablanca. $7.99*

Heart of the Wolf: Book Five**

From Goodreads

Cassie Roux is a wolf biologist who has studied real wolves for years, trying to prove to the world they’re not the evil predators so many people believe them to be. A red lupus garou, who lost her pack and was raised by real wolves, she has dedicated her life to their preservation. Now for the first time, she discovers a female wolf, her mate dead, and the pups and the mother in real danger, and Cassie does everything she can think of to protect them. Until she runs into one stubborn alpha pack leader—werewolf kind—who has other plans for her.

Leidolf Wildhaven is a red lupus garou pack leader of Portland, Oregon and has more troubles than he ever thought possible what with running a pack, a ranch and other businesses, dealing with a couple of cantankerous new lupus garous, and a myriad of other problems when a little red wolf of the lupus garou variety is spotted in his territory. She’d be perfect as his mate, if she agreed. Only the headstrong woman has other priorities, saving real wolves from extinction, when he’s more worried about his own kind’s extinction and winning her heart.

First Lines

Except for a couple of cars parked outside the town hall, the lot was empty, and it appeared the wolf biologist speaking here tonight wouldn’t have much of an audience to lecture to.

The Oregon air surrounding him felt damp and cool, not like the drier, much sunnier weather Leidolf Wildhaven had left behind in Colorado. He kept telling himself he’d get used to it.

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Warped

Guibord, Maurissa. Warped (2011). 352 Pages. Delacorte Books. $10.39

From Goodreads

Tessa doesn’t believe in magic. Or Fate. But there’s something weird about the dusty unicorn tapestry she discovers in a box of old books. She finds the creature woven within it compelling and frightening. After the tapestry comes into her possession, Tessa experiences dreams of the past and scenes from a brutal hunt that she herself participated in. When she accidentally pulls a thread from the tapestry, Tessa releases a terrible centuries old secret. She also meets William de Chaucy, an irresistible 16th-century nobleman. His fate is as inextricably tied to the tapestry as Tessa’s own. Together, they must correct the wrongs of the past. But then the Fates step in, making a tangled mess of Tessa’s life. Now everyone she loves will be destroyed unless Tessa does their bidding and defeats a cruel and crafty ancient enemy.

First Lines

Cheever’s Fine Auction House was packed on a stormy spring afternoon. The auctioneer’s voice carried over the patter of rain drumming on the high, dark-beamed roof of the former dairy barn. “Number ninety-four. Last lot,” he announced to the crowd.

“Thank God,” said Tessa Brody under her breath. She’d been sitting there so long, she’d probably have an impression of the chair slats engraved on her rear end. Auction butt. Not good.

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A Tale of Two Castles

Levine, Gail Carson. A Tale of Two Castles (2011).336 Pages. Harper Collins. $16.99*

This review is pre-release: It comes out May 10, 2011

Ella Enchanted was one of my favorite childhood books. My mom gave it to me for Christmas in 1998– she’s big on writing dates in books which are gifts– and I’ve read it so many times that a few pages are loose, the spine is falling to pieces, and it’s stained all over. I’ve got an abiding love for Gail Carson Levine, in part because of Ella Enchanted, and in part because she’s got a knack for writing magical stories which children are guaranteed to love.

Synopsis

Twelve year-old Elodie has just set out on her first adventure, and her first step toward adulthood. It is time for her to head to Two Castles and become an apprentice, though she cannot afford a short apprenticeship, so she must commit to the 10-year “free” term. Despite her parent’s wishes– that she apprentice to a weaver, Elodie seeks out an apprenticeship with the Two Castles mansioners.

Things don’t go according to plan, and Elodie soon finds herself working for the dragon Meenore and brushing up on her skills of “deduction, induction, and common sense.” But something is wrong in Two Castles, and Elodie’s job will not be as easy as it first seemed.

First Lines

Mother wiped her eyes on her sleeve and held me tight. I wept onto her shoulder. She released me while I went on weeping. A tear slipped into the strait through a crack in the wooden dock. Salt water to salt water, a drop of me in the brine that would separate me from home.

Father’s eyes were red. He pulled me into a hug, too. Albin stood to the side a few feet and blew his nose with a honk. He could blow his nose a dozen ways. A hong was the saddest.

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Tortall and Other Lands (Anthology)

Pierce, Tamora. Tortall and Other Lands (2011). 369 Pages. Random House. $18.99

Tortall and Other Lands CoverI pre-ordered this book as soon as I heard it was being written. Then, the day I got it, I tore through it. Way too much fun to read this particular anthology. It was made even more bittersweet by the fact that it had a teaser for Mastiff in the back.

For Pierce fans, there are a few old, familiar characters. You might remember Aly and Nawat (Trickster’s Choice & Trickster’s Queen) and Daine & Numair (Wild Magic, Wolf Speaker, etc.)*. There are cameos of characters who you might not remember at first, because they weren’t huge, but they were cool.

So, onto brief summaries and story-specific comments. I’ll try to keep them spoiler-free.

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Petty Magic

DeAngelis, Camille. Petty Magic: Being the Memoirs and Confessions of Miss Evelyn Harbinger, Temptress and Troublemaker (2010). 320 Pages. Crown Publishers. $24.00

From the Cover:

Evelyn Harbinger sees nothing wrong with a one-night stand. At 149 years old, Eve may look like she bakes oatmeal cookies in the afternoon and dozes in her rocking chair in the evening, but once the gray hair and wrinkles are traded for jet-black tresses and porcelain skin, she can still turn heads as the beautiful girl she once was. Can’t fault a girl for having a little fun, can you?

This is all fine and well until Eve meets Justin, who reminds her so much of a former lover that one night is no longer enough. Eve’s coven has always turned a blind eye to her nighttime mischief, but this time they think she’s gone too far– and they certainly don’t hesitate to tell her so. Dodging the warnings of family and friends, Eve must also defend her sister, Helena, when another beldame accuses Helena of killing her own husband sixty years previously.

As the evidence against Helena begins to pile up, Eve distracts herself by spending more and more nights– and days– romancing Justin as her former self. There are so many peculiar ways in which Justin is like Jonah, her partner behind enemy lines in World War II and the one true love of her life. Experts in espionage, Jonah and Eve advanced the Allied cause at great personal sacrifice. Now Eve suspects that her Jonah has returned to her, and despite the disapproval of her coven and the knowledge that love with a mortal man can only end in sorrow, she can’t give him up. But can she prove it’s really him?

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Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

McBride, Lish. Hold Me Closer, Necromancer (2010). 343 Pages. Henry Holt & Co. $16.99

I told myself I’d pick a schedule and stick to it for the new year; M/W/F was starting to look pretty good, and then I got absorbed in playing The Sims 3 and I forgot to review any of the mountain of library books that are sitting on my desk, or any of the books I have read from my shiny new Kindle. Whoops. So we’ll be settling into a schedule soon, but for now we’ll continue with “updating when I’ve read something and have had time to write about it.”

And, for today, that something I’ve read is Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, which sounded like the sort of book which would be romantic– the whole “hold me” bit– but wasn’t. I was ok with that, though, because I enjoyed the adventure.

Synopsis

Samhain “Sam” LaCroix has had a fairly lame life until now. He’s a college dropout working at a fast food place, mostly getting by, and sometimes wishing he’d stayed in school*.

Things get interesting for Sam when a game of Potato Hockey damages the wrong car, and he catches the attention of Douglas Montgomery, a powerful necromancer with an agenda. As it turns out, Sam is a necromancer, and Douglas doesn’t play nice with the competition.

Now, Sam has to figure out how to use his necromancy, how to save Brooke, and eventually, how to save himself before Douglas kills them all.

First Lines

I stood in front of today’s schedule still holding my skateboard, still drenched from the ride over, and still desperately wishing that I hadn’t dropped out of college. But wishing wouldn’t erase Sam from the counter slot and rewrite it under the grill slot. No matter what, my job kind of sucks, but on the grill it sucks less. On the grill, you don’t have to handle customers.

Thoughts

As I mentioned, I was expecting something a little more romantic– I love YA romance– but wasn’t disappointed by what I got. Sam is an awesome narrator who adds the charm and sarcasm which separates this story from most. The fact that Sam is an outsider to the supernatural community he discovers means that we learn about it with him. It’s also great to see his friends; they’re fiercely loyal and protective, and it helps make Sam more likable.

Surrounding Sam is an entertaining supporting cast. We’ve got Ramon, his best friend and coworker. Brooke, the adorable heartbreaker-in-training, Frank, the kid whose spirit they’d like to break, Brid the hottie werewolf, and then peripheral family members. Opposing Sam are Douglas and his minions; all dangerous types who would do a lot of harm if they could.

Aside from the bit towards the end where Sam is really fairly helpless in a cage, most of the story features him being fairly proactive about his fate. He doesn’t descend into hopelessness, and remains determined throughout. (The lack of whining was nice, I must say.)

This book is clearly setting up for a series; there are several things left just open enough to make it clear that it was at least hoped for**.

Overall, I found myself fairly impressed by Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, and I was glad I’d picked it up. (And saved myself enough time that I didn’t have to put it down until I was done.) It’s pretty good for a debut novel, and manages to be a paranormal-YA without becoming anonymous within the genre(s). I’d give it a solid 4.5/5– it was nearly perfect, and I really, really liked it.

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* This could have quickly took on a PSA tone, but it didn’t, thank goodness. (In part because Sam’s a good narrator.)

** The fact that it came out in hardcover rather than going straight to paperback says that they expected it to do well and they’re likely to let it turn into a series.  (I’ll read it, if it continues.)

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This is the first book of the Local Library 2011 challenge.

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Rose Daughter

McKinley, Robin. Rose Daughter (1998). 287 Pages. Ace. $6.99

Robin McKinley is known for her fairytale retellings; Beauty and Rose Daughter both retell Beauty & the Beast, while Spindle’s End retells Sleeping Beauty, and Deerskin retells Donkey Skin, which is a lesser known tale, I believe. All of her books exist in worlds steeped in magic, full of amazing things, which is part of why they (and the characters who inhabit them) are so very interesting.

It’s always hard to know what to say about fairytale retellings; everyone knows the basic story, the beginning, and the end. Beauty is taken from her family, and eventually she falls in love with the Beast. It’s that middle part, the part that can vary, the way they get from A to B that really makes the story unique.

Rose Daughter is about Beauty, Jeweltongue, and Lionheart, three sisters who were not very close while they lived in the city– there were too many other things to do. Each girl comes into her own when they move out to Longchance– and Rose Cottage. Jeweltongue learns to sew, and make beautiful clothing, Lionheart disguises herself as a boy and tends to horses, and Beauty gardens. When their father gets a message saying that one of his long lost ships has arrived, he departs, and it is upon his return that he encounters the Beast.

Beauty’s time at the castle is special, and a bit unique. Every day when she wakes up, there are more animals, moving back in thanks to her. There is a mystery– revolving around cheese, though it is not a silly mystery as that statement makes it sound– and some danger. The Beast has hidden depths, and ultimately, Beauty must make a very important choice which changes the course of their life together.

First Lines:

Her earliest memory was of waking up from the dram. It was also her only clear memory of her mother. Her mother was beautiful, dashing, the toast of the town. Her youngest daughter remembered the blur of activity, friends and hangers-on, soothsayers, and staff, the bad-tempered pet dragon on a leash– bad tempered on account of the ocarunda leaves in his food … — the constant glamour and motion which was her mother and her mother’s world.

Thoughts

Rose Daughter may be another Beauty & the Beast retelling, but it is very different from Beauty, this story’s predecessor.

Beauty is, in fact, a beautiful girl, whose talents are mostly of the quiet variety; she is good with plants, roses will grow for her, and she seems to radiate calm and peace, helping her entire family stay together through the worst of it all. Her sisters are flashier, and more vibrant; Jeweltongue is known for her wit and cleverness, Lionheart for her temper and bravery (though each discover more traits which lead to greater happiness), but without Beauty, they would have been lost. Even Beauty’s father discovers a quieter sort of happiness, and his own talent.

The time Beauty spends at the castle is interesting; she is overwhelmed by the silence of the place, and tries to understand (at least a little) the magic which keeps the place running. Her relationship with the Beast is complicated from the start, which somehow makes it easier to accept her feelings for him; she sees early on that there is some humanity in him. Even more interesting is the idea that the Beast is not a Beast because of an enchantress’s curse, but rather because of something else.

Most of the book is very good; we get a lot about Beauty and her family, which makes them feel real. We get less about the Beast, but we still get a fair amount of his story. We lack a lot about the residents of Longchance, which is mostly ok, because the story isn’t about them, but they do play a major role in plot development. There is a difference in chronology between the Beast’s castle and the mundane world, and it is never questioned or explained, just allowed to be. There are a few more things which could have strengthened the story, but it is not bad because they are lacking.

Despite its flaws, it is a good book with a solid story, and is well worth reading. (It also stands up to multiple reads, which is important, as I am known to re-read favorites.) It gets a 4/5.

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Book of a Thousand Days

Hale, Shannon. Book of a Thousand Days (2007). 304 Pages. Bloomsbury. $17.95

The Synopsis:

Unlucky Dashti was hopeful when she learned that she would be lady’s maid to the beautiful Lady Saren. Unfortunately for Dashti, her first day of work resulted in her imprisonment in a tower with Lady Saren– they will be there for seven years, or until Saren agrees to marry Lord Khasar. As a contrast to the dark, cruel Lord Khasar, there is Khan Tegus– a man Saren has pledged herself to.

Dashti is resourceful and practical, and has every intention of getting them out of the tower alive, which would be easier if Lady Saren would help. Neither girl has any idea of what awaits them at the end of their time in the tower, and as their food dwindles, they begin to wonder if they will even last that long.

First Lines:

Day 1

My lady and I are being shut up in a tower for seven years.

Lady Saren is sitting on the floor, staring at the wall, and hasn’t moved even to scratch for an hour or more. Poor thing. It’s a shame I don’t have fresh yak dung or anything strong-smelling to scare the misery out of her.

Thoughts:

Based off of Grimm’s “Maid Maleen,” and set in a Mongolia-esque country, Book of a Thousand Days is Dashti’s story, told in journal form. Dashti is a survivor, and against all odds, she has the determination and character to persevere, which is what makes her interesting. Coupled with that determination, however, is a sense of worthlessness; Dashti honestly feels that she has no value beyond her role as Saren’s servant, and it makes her frustrating, at times.

The world is interesting, Dashti’s voice unique, the entire concept brilliantly executed. Saren can be more than a little frustrating at times, as can Dashti’s self-deprecation, when it is clear that she is worth much more than she knows.

Book of a Thousand Days scores a 4.5/5, because it’s brilliant, but the girls could be frustrating.

I really loved this book, however, and it made me want to pick up Tanith Lee’s Claidi books again.

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