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A Review of Jackaby

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“Miss Rook, I am not an occultist,” Jackaby said. “I have a gift that allows me to see truth where others see the illusion–and there are many illusions. All the world’s a stage, as they say, and I seem to have the only seat in the house with a view behind the curtain.”

Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary–including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane–deny.

Doctor Who meets Sherlock in William Ritter’s debut novel, which features a detective of the paranormal as seen through the eyes of his adventurous and intelligent assistant in a tale brimming with cheeky humor and a dose of the macabre.

Rating: 4/5 Stars
Quick Reasons: a paranormal version of Sherlock; intriguing and harrowing story; a plot that makes you question everything; an awesome balance of humor

I have to be honest: I started this book DAYS ago, and didn’t read it nearly as fast as I should have. I’ve been suffering from a pretty huge book hangover (having just finished The Wrath and the Dawn, by Renee Ahdieh) and I couldn’t find the motivation to really appreciate this book—which is a shame, because this book was pretty awesome once I got into the right frame of mind!

A LOT is going on in this book—beginning with the characters. Set in the late 1800s, this novel breaks ALL the rules in regards to characters and their motivations—and pokes fun at it all, in the process. There were several times Miss Rook, our main lead, was warned that seeking work with “that type of man” wasn’t fit for a woman such as her; she often responded with snarky, snide comments and a HUGE dose of sarcasm to boot. I had a TON of fun giggling at the characters’ reactions and antics; they are all so fitting of a book like this. It keeps you half off-kilter, and loving it.

The snark and sass played huge roles throughout the entire novel, and more than once I found myself snorting or laughing out loud at the turn of phrases and humorous banter; much like the humor found in the likes of Dr. Who or Jurrasic Park, I couldn’t stop the snickering—which wasn’t always good, as I read part of this in public while at work. Oops.

The characters are endearing and heart-wrenching; Jackaby is, as described, fairly obtuse to the “normal” world, instead seeing the world of his trade. Side characters like Douglas brought wit and wisdom with them. There are also many “moral” moments, where the wisdom of the author’s words leaks through the banter and strikes home in readers’ hearts.

Overall, I immensely enjoyed this read, and will be picking up book two when it comes out. William Ritter has made me reconsider my ban on “books about or with detectives”…and I thank him immensely for it.

via the darkest minds tend to hide behind the most unlikely faces • Posts Tagged ‘book reviews’.

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A Review of Zodiac, by Romina Russell

A Review of Zodiac, by Romina Russell
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

At the dawn of time, there were 13 Houses in the Zodiac Galaxy. Now only 12 remain….

Rhoma Grace is a 16-year-old student from House Cancer with an unusual way of reading the stars. While her classmates use measurements to make accurate astrological predictions, Rho can’t solve for ‘x’ to save her life—so instead, she looks up at the night sky and makes up stories.

When a violent blast strikes the moons of Cancer, sending its ocean planet off-kilter and killing thousands of citizens—including its beloved Guardian—Rho is more surprised than anyone when she is named the House’s new leader. But, a true Cancerian who loves her home fiercely and will protect her people no matter what, Rho accepts.

Then, when more Houses fall victim to freak weather catastrophes, Rho starts seeing a pattern in the stars. She suspects Ophiuchus—the exiled 13th Guardian of Zodiac legend—has returned to exact his revenge across the Galaxy. Now Rho—along with Hysan Dax, a young envoy from House Libra, and Mathias, her guide and a member of her Royal Guard—must travel through the Zodiac to warn the other Guardians.

But who will believe anything this young novice says? Whom can Rho trust in a universe defined by differences? And how can she convince twelve worlds to unite as one Zodiac?

Okay, let me just start by saying: The cover is GORGEOUS! I saw it on a recent trip to a nearby Barnes and Noble. I picked it up. I stared at the cover. I put it back down and walked away. Five minutes later, I picked it up again and read the inside cover before putting it back and walking away. Before I left, I picked it up at least two more times…and finally decided not to put it back down. Right now, I’m glad I did.

Right away, I knew this book would interest me. While I’m not necessarily one to condone things like astrology and horoscopes, I am interested in the different signs and the different ways people born under those signs react to the world, to trouble, and to others. This book takes those ideas–personality traits, instincts, whatever you want to call them–and brings them more fully to life (mainly, by separating and segregating each sign to it’s own “house,” sort of like the worlds of Divergent or Harry Potter.)

That being said, I was intrigued by the story and the characters that Romina Russell introduces us to. The love triangle seemed a bit…cliche, and the writing in places is more TELLING than SHOWING, which I had a hard time getting around. But the plot is solid, and I’m not a scientist, so I wasn’t bogged down by “inconsistencies” or “unrealistic science,” which made reading this easier, I think.

While I’d have preferred , perhaps, moments where Rho pulled out of her own angst-ridden, confused, hurting self-scope and shown us more of the world around her (the moments where she focuses on other people, other houses, other worlds–even the moments where true wisdom shines through her deep grief–were some of the best written), I feel over all the writing is solid and the story/characters are unique enough to call to lovers of science fiction and speculative fiction alike.

This is a story worth taking the time to read thoroughly and enjoy; the characters will grip, the story will twist, and the ending will quite possibly tear you apart…and leave you desperate for more.

Highly recommend this read from a promising (and fairly new) author!

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Flavor of the Day (or, Currently Reading):

IMG_20150311_094356(isn’t this cover GORGEOUS?!)

Flavor of the Day: Zodiac, by Romina Russell

At the dawn of time, there were 13 Houses in the Zodiac Galaxy. Now only 12 remain….

Rhoma Grace is a 16-year-old student from House Cancer with an unusual way of reading the stars. While her classmates use measurements to make accurate astrological predictions, Rho can’t solve for ‘x’ to save her life—so instead, she looks up at the night sky and makes up stories.

When a violent blast strikes the moons of Cancer, sending its ocean planet off-kilter and killing thousands of citizens—including its beloved Guardian—Rho is more surprised than anyone when she is named the House’s new leader. But, a true Cancerian who loves her home fiercely and will protect her people no matter what, Rho accepts.

Then, when more Houses fall victim to freak weather catastrophes, Rho starts seeing a pattern in the stars. She suspects Ophiuchus—the exiled 13th Guardian of Zodiac legend—has returned to exact his revenge across the Galaxy. Now Rho—along with Hysan Dax, a young envoy from House Libra, and Mathias, her guide and a member of her Royal Guard—must travel through the Zodiac to warn the other Guardians.

But who will believe anything this young novice says? Whom can Rho trust in a universe defined by differences? And how can she convince twelve worlds to unite as one Zodiac?

Embark on a dazzling journey with ZODIAC, the first novel in an epic sci-fi-meets-high-fantasy series set in a galaxy inspired by the astrological signs.

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A Review of Volition, by Lily Paradis

A Review of Volition, by Lily Paradis

Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

While not my usual type of read, Volition by Lily Paradis (author of Ignite) spoke to me.  I ordered it after discovering via tumblr that it was on sale on Amazon.com.  Right away, I was drawn in by Paradis’ charming prose and unique, almost vicious character descriptions.  The voice of Tate, the narrator, lured me in pretty quick–from the start, she was such an engaging, intimidating character, I found myself needing to know where the story (where Tate) was leading me.

The journey was not an easy one.  There is something disarming–and highly endearing–about such a headstrong, angry narrator.  When we first meet Tate McKenna, she’s drunk.  In first class.  On her way to New York and the promise of a new, heartbreak-free world.  All we know for sure is she’s running; from her past, from her family, from a number of unnamed but tragic losses.  When the man across the aisle cozies up to her before touch-down, we watch (almost helplessly) as Tate makes the first of many new decisions.  It’s the first of many steps that will ultimately change her, though she doesn’t realize it.

“New Tate,” as she calls herself, is not in New York to meet men.  She’s there to take her life back; to get back on her feet.  She’s there to find herself, away from the past.  To pick herself up and stand on her own in such a cold, ruthless world seems daunting.  Along with lifelong friends Colin and Catherine, Tate finds herself drawn into a new world…and to Hayden Rockefeller, the mystery man from the plane.  He will show her what it means to open herself up to someone else; to be comfortable with loving and being loved in a way that doesn’t leave her broken like the past did.  What she finds in Hayden is a home she never imagined…but can she let the ghost who has haunted her for so long, the one that’s suddenly reappeared demanding more, go?

This novel tugged at me in ways that others do not/can not.  Tate’s relationship with Jesse is outlined in flash backs and wayward thoughts; we learn, through these snippets, it is volatile, poisonous, and addictive.  Drawing from what seems to be personal experience, Paradis shows readers how hard it is to let go of someone who both hurts and mystifies you, someone you both hate and love.  It’s an obsession.  The kind that destroys, leaving nothing in its wake.  It can never work or be “good.”  Oil and water don’t mix; hearts are a forest of kindling, love is an accelerant, and fate struck a match just to watch it all burn.

C.S. Lewis said:

“In your life you meet people. Some you never think about again. Some, you wonder what happened to them. There are some that you wonder if they ever think about you. And then there are some that you wish you never have to think about again. But you do.”

(source here)

This novel explores, with deep commentary and heart-wrenching scenes, the ways these different people may affect us through time.  There’s Casper, the boy Tate begins dating in high school; he acts as a form of selfish or childish love.  He is one who, had things turned out differently, might have become the first or second.  There are Colin and Catherine; the friends.  Obviously, they remain close to Tate throughout the story, but I’d like to think, if they grew apart, they’d at least keep in touch: the occasional, “I wonder how they’re doing now” if nothing else.  There’s Hayden, who acts as Tate’s “true” (I say this because I don’t necessarily believe in true or everlasting love; people change, emotions alter, things don’t stay the same).  And then there’s Jesse.  The last one.  The one I think we all have had, in some capacity or another; the one who got away.  I feel Volition takes these different forms of love and turns them on their heads, almost.  In most romances or love stories, the girl ends up with her soul mate; but Paradis makes a valid point:  there really isn’t only ONE soul mate allotted a person in their lives.  There are many.  The problem is, sometimes they aren’t the kind we think we need or deserve.  Sometimes, we just don’t see them.

While I enjoyed this book overall, I’m not sure Paradis made a good choice in switching out at the end.  Through the whole novel, we see the world from Tate’s eyes.  We don’t get to see how Casper feels or what he thinks of her; we don’t get to understand any of the characters except through Tate’s perceptions.  So the switch at the end, to suddenly detailing the main characters’ internal thoughts, does almost nothing for the book.  I understand why she did it; she felt readers needed or deserved to know Jesse’s motivations.  I don’t know that I agree with this.  While it enables readers to see “fate” working in mysterious ways (take Tate’s mom meeting Hayden’s in the park, for instance, before Tate is born) I don’t feel it adds anything to the actual story.  I don’t think we need to know Jesse in that way.  Real life isn’t like books, movies, or the SIMs; we often DON’T know people’s motivations unless they explicitly tell us.  It’s obvious Jesse may never tell Tate the real reason he put so much strained distance between them.  I feel like the ending of this loses something, I guess.

I really enjoyed stepping out of my reading box for this book, though, and highly recommend it to those who like true-to-life/romance stories, such as those from Rebecca Donovan, Jodi Picoult, and Nicholas Sparks.  This book will keep you on the edge of your seat…and maybe teach you something about yourself in the process.  I know it did me.

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Read Between the Lines

Hey guys, I’m Beth!  I’m a retail worker by day, a dedicated (ahem, addicted) reader by night.  I have been posting reviews and bookish things on tumblr for a few months now; I decided to put this WordPress account (which I admit I forgot I had) to use.  I answer to pretty much everything; acceptable names include: Elizabeth, Beth, Bethy, and hey you!  I refuse to answer to: Lizard Breath, darlin’, princess or queen, so don’t even try it.

Here, you’ll find book reviews, book recommendations, and any other bookish ramblings/shenanigans I see fit to post.  I look forward to sharing my obsession with you all–please, enjoy your stay!