Review – The Descent

The Descent by Alma KatsuThe Descent is the third book in The Taker trilogy. If you haven’t read The Taker and The Reckoning yet, you need to fix that in 2014. This trilogy is certainly one of the more interesting ones to come along. There are some great characters and plot lines that keep you guessing — even after you read the ending first, like I do.

Lanore McIlvrae, Lanny as she’s known, spent years living in fear of Adair, the man who made her immortal. Their relationship, while heated and insanely passionate, is not a stable one by any means. The things these two have done to each other — both mentally and physically — are horrific, and yet, they can’t seem to escape each other. Beyond the immortal bond the two share, there’s something else that keeps them returning to each other even after all the hurt they’ve caused.

After Lanny’s current partner, Luke, dies of cancer, she begins having nightmares about her former lover, and one could say, the great love of her life, Jonathan. Believing the nightmares are more than just guilt induced dreams, Lanny goes looking for the only man she knows who can help her — Adair. She knows he possesses the power to alleviate her nightmares and find answers to her questions. Unfortunately, she’s not sure how well she’ll be received, especially coming on business concerning Jonathan. While Lanny and Adair’s relationship has changed significantly over the intervening years, Jonathan is very much a sore spot between the two. There are things in life that are constant and Jonathan is that one thing for Lanny and Adair.

When Lanny finds Adair, she finds a changed man. He’s living on a deserted island in the Mediterranean and is a much calmer person but she knows there’s still much to fear from Adair and the power he can yield. She comes to an understanding of her feelings for him but knows she must still help Jonathan if possible and that’s when things get complicated.

My dilemma — how do I tell readers about this book when it’s the third in a series and I don’t want to give anything away? Instead, I’m going to talk about a larger theme in the series — love. I’m not one for love stories, especially ones that get wrapped up all nice and neat in the end. But, I liked that love had such a large and messy role in this story, and let’s not forget the mess the mere thought of the word brought to Lanny, Adair, and Jonathan and the catastrophe that is their relationship. Don’t get me wrong, for a long time I didn’t like Adair at all. He’s cruel, hateful, and isn’t much for honor or respect. Jonathan, while Lanny can’t help but love him, isn’t exactly a loveable person either leaving a trail of heartbroken women in his path. In fact, Lanny, while she obviously loves the idea of love, gets burned so many times it would be easier for her to just walk away from everyone. Maybe her willingness to keep believing that love can work is what makes her likable after all.

It’s always difficult to come to the end of a series especially one that was so good. Alma Katsu gave her characters immortality, beat them up and teased them with death, and in the end, threw in love and let everything fall to the ground in a gigantic messy heap of humanity. At certain points, you won’t like any of the characters — who can all be crazy, manipulative, sad, and demented — but you’re rewarded with a tale that’s full of the supernatural. What’s the good news about this series coming to an end? New readers get to read from start to finish getting wrapped up in Lanny’s strange and enticing world without being left to wonder what will happen next. For me, there’s a satisfaction in finally getting the chance to see what becomes of Lanny, Adair, and Jonathan.

In addition to this blog, I also do reviews for The Book Reporter website. The above review was done for the Book Reporter which can be found here. The book was provided to me by the publisher.

The Descent

By Alma Katsu

Gallery Books

ISBN: 9781451651829

Random Things

I didn’t really have any intention of posting today, but since I was scheduling a post for tomorrow, I thought I’d at least let you know what I’m reading.

The Book of Apex: Volume 4 edited by Lynne M. Thomas

Black Bottle by Anthony Huso

Both are insanely good and I’m having trouble sticking with one and keep going back and forth which means reading is taking forever, but it’s so enjoyable.

Tell me, what are you reading today?

The Book of Apex Volume 4

Black Bottle

Thoughts on The Love Artist

The Love Artist by Jane AlisonThe Love Artist by Jane Alison was assigned for an online class I took in the fall of 2013 called Plagues, Witches, and War. The first few weeks of class were spent reading articles and chosen chapters so I was excited to get to the books that were going to be discussed as part of dialogue sessions with the authors. However, I was slightly apprehensive about this book. While I like antiquity, I don’t always like reading about antiquity. Something gets lost in translation for me and I somehow end up being disappointed, so I went in a bit skeptical about whether or not I would enjoy a story about the Roman poet, Ovid.

When I’m wrong, I’m wrong.

I fell in love with this story. It was a bit slow for me to get into. Obviously, I needed to let a few thoughts go before I was able to get lost in it. Once lost, I was sold — even about the magical realism that doesn’t always work but works so very well in the context of this story. I prefer when magical realism is subtle and rolled into believable traits and actions of the characters and that’s what happened.

Basic premise. Ovid, a Roman poet, travels to the Black Sea, and while there, he meets a woman. He becomes obsessed — almost possessed by his obsession — and feeling so inspired by her and their relationship that he brings her back to Rome with him. Xenia, a woman like no other, with no need or want to become a woman of Rome, practices her arts as if she never left her isolated island home. A witch? Maybe. A healer? Also. But what she is a mystery and she remains that way, especially to Ovid who in the thralls of his latest work, becomes even more entangled in a web he can’t get out of.

The Love Artist is not a fast moving story. As a reader, you spend a strange amount of time navigating Ovid’s ego which grows only larger with thoughts of immortality,  knowing he’ll be read far into a future he can’t imagine. The love part of the story isn’t love either. Is there admiration? Some. Is there manipulation? A whole lot, actually. There’s jealousy and raw emotion. Deceit. While the action is very little, it’s not what moves the story. The emotions of the characters push it forward to a conclusion.

One of the interesting things about this book being part of the class was having the opportunity to hear the author talk about the book and her inspiration. What seemed to interest her most was the fact that there is no record of why Ovid was banished from Rome by Augustus. She makes an attempt at filling in the details with this story and her interpretation as to why it might have happened. It’s an interesting thought for a story catalyst. I, personally, liked that she didn’t go so far as to fill in the blanks about why he was banished. I liked that sense of mystery surrounding the ending. It fit so well with the mystery that was Xenia, the mystery that was the future, and the mystery that was their life together.

So, final my thought is this: while I wasn’t initially sold on the story, I was sold by the end and the by the way Alison wove a mystery around a historical figure.

The Love Artist by Jane Alison

Picador

ISBN: 9781429962193

Books I will be reading

In 2013, I read The Last Page by Anthony Huso which came highly recommended by Elizabeth at Darkcargo. She said it was one of her favorites and I now know why. It’s so good that it’s really hard to describe so you should just go read it. It’ll be easier on everyone that way.

So, as it turns out, Huso wrote a sequel to The Last Page, which I have — Black Bottle. I’m hesitating with this one. You know when you read a book and you love it so hard that all you want to do is read the next book in the series and jump back into the world but you can’t because you’re afraid that it might not meet your high expectations and you’re all what do I do!?

I’ll now take one for the team and read this and let you know what happens.

The Book of Apex: Volume 4 of Apex Magazine. Here’s more.  Don’t you want it too?! You do. I’ll be reading and posting about this in February. Get excited. I’m reading this now and it’s amazing.

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. This book has been on my shelf since the day it came out, the same day I ran to my favorite neighborhood bookstore and bought a copy that I’m pretty sure I hugged all the way home. I started the book and gave up on it. I was sad but another person revealed to me that she too quit, not being in the right state of mind for it. She had something with that statement; I shrugged off guilt and put it back on the shelf. It’s now time.

I read Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall way back. I finished it; I didn’t love it. Everyone seemed to though. So what do I do? I buy the sequel, Bring Up the Bodies, because not liking the first is the perfect reason to buy the second. I’m going to read this one. I won’t promise to like this one  but I’m going to read this one. I’m beginning to sound like I’m torturing myself but I’m not. I love all thing Anne Boylen and I’m promised heads rolling. Hello, the title — Bring Up the Bodies.

I’m taking another online course starting in February and this time the focus is fantasy and science fiction. The class on historical fiction was great, you’ll be getting some reviews on those books soon too, and I’m looking forward to this one. I’ve already read several of the books listed on the syllabus but that doesn’t mean I can’t re-read a few. Come on Dracula and Frankenstein, bring on Wells, Bradbury, and LeGuin!

There will be more…

My Best Reads of 2013

Each year, I dread the coming of December 31st. No, it’s not the ending of another year, or the fact that I’m one year older. It’s the simple act of picking favorites! I have many, too many. So, as I’ve done before, I’m picking my favorites by month. It makes the list long but it’s the only way. This only way I tell you!

Let’s get this underway, shall we.

January

The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss: I love, love, love this series. If you haven’t read Rothfuss yet, you need to fix that in 2014.

Hellboy: Wake the Devil by Mike Mignola: I seriously love Hellboy. I do.

February

Faithful Place by Tana French: Honestly, anytime this woman writes anything, I’m going to read it. She’s that good.

The Shunned House by H.P. Lovecraft: My first foray into the world of Lovecraft and it was a success for me.

The House of the Vampire by George Sylvester Viereck: I went on an old school kick with vampires and loved it.

March

Lords of the North by Bernard Cornwell: I’m enjoying the series and need to pick it back up again in 2014 because a new book is coming out and I need to catch up. I’m too far behind for my liking.

Clockwork Phoenix 4 edited by Mike Allen: An amazing collection of speculative, fantasy, and science fiction by some master storytellers. I know I’ll be picking these stories up again and again.

April

Palisades Park by Alan Brennert: What feels like a simple tale of everyday life is really a fantastic story full of the dreams that make life wonderful. Every part of this story feels very close to home thanks to some incredible characters.

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker: Mythical creatures trying to fit into 1880s New York City become of a reflection of the immigrants around them.

The Shadow of the Sun by Barbara Friend Ish: If you want new fantasy, this is the book for you. There’s a sequel coming and I can’t wait for it!

May

Advent by James Treadwell: I wasn’t so sure about this book but then I got to the end and immediately wanted more. I’ll be looking for the sequel next year.

Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht: Oh. My. God. Seriously. It’s brutal and amazing. I want more and will be getting it.

The Black Country: A Novel of Scotland’s Murder Squad by Alex Grecian: A cup of tea, this book, and a dark stormy night. All you need.

June

Circle of Shadows by Imogen Robertson: A suspense filled historical mystery, and when you throw in a complicated relationship and some murder, you have a great story.

Fire and Hemlock by Dianna Wynne Jones: Why did I wait so long to read this!?

The Last Page by Anthony Huso: I have the second book and am holding off reading it. This book was so amazing that I’m afraid I set my expectations to high. I’ll soon see.

July

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman: Wow. Mr. Gaiman is the master. Every time I pick up one of his books I’m amazed by his ability; he weaves words like no other.

Kindred by Octavia Butler: Another why did I wait so long book. Amazing.

August

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon: I’m putting this on the list because it was a good first novel and I want more the crazy world she created. I think she’s going to grow with the second book.

A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin: I held off because I didn’t love the forth book as much as I wanted to but this one made up for all the wrongs of the last one.

Sabriel by Garth Nix: So, so good.

September

The Black Fire Concerto by Mike Allen: I admired the collection he put together in Clockwork Phoenix 4 and I was curious about his personal writing. He tells one dark, twisted, and amazingly satisfying story. I’m looking forward to his second book.

Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen: I didn’t think it was possible to be a bigger fan but Mrs. Poe did it for me. Lynn Cullen tells one entertaining and slightly dark story that is amazing to the last page.

October

This House is Haunted by John Boyne: All the creepy!

Four Summoner’s Tales by Kelley Armstrong, Christopher Golden, David Liss, and Jonathan Maberry: I didn’t get a chance to talk about this one at all this year but these tales were dark, depressing, and perfect reads for October.

The Love Artist by Jane Alison: I read this for a class on historical fiction and it was everything I expected and more.

November

The Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks: I’ve read a few of her books now and she’s one I’d recommend to people wanting interesting historical fiction.

The Forsaken Inn by Anna Katherine Green: An old school mystery worth a look.

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch: The third book in the Gentleman Bastards series and it was so worth the wait. If you aren’t familiar with the series, start with The Lies of Locke Lamora and you’ll soon find out why Lynch fans are so loyal.

Fever by Mary Beth Keane: A fictional characterization of the woman who became known as Typhoid Mary. A sad story in many ways but I never felt sorry for the characters who were so feisty you wanted to see them fight to the bitter end.

December

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo: A story of the afterlife told from the perspective of a not yet dead young woman faced with heartbreaking decisions. A truly fabulous story.

Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield: A long awaited book after The Thirteenth Tale which I absolutely loved. This was also a satisfying read.

Vampires Don’t Sparkle edited Michael West: The Little Red Reviewer reviewed this one and I immediately bought it and read it. It’s so marvelous and if you want your vampires to be, well, real vampires, this is for you. It’s a great collection.

The Descent by Alma Katsu: I’m cheating with this one a bit because I probably won’t finish it by the end of the year but I’ve been looking forward to the final book in this series for a long time. It officially comes out in January and if you’ve read the first two books, you’ll want to read this one too.

That’s all for 2013. Read anything good you want to share? I have a whole calendar to fill for 2014.

Reading on the train

I’ve been traveling a lot lately and yesterday was no different. I decide that to make my life easier, I’d take the train to a meeting in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, a winter storm made east coast travel difficult so I spent the afternoon waiting in line but ultimately got on the coveted train. It was crowded but I found an open seat, right next to a person who was reading a very big book. It was a pleasant ride to Philadelphia, snow and all.

Defying all logic, I decided to see if I could hop an early train home instead of spending the night, as a rational person would. Obviously, I enjoy unpleasant travel situations. Once more, I found a seat next to a reader. He was reading on a tablet, but hey, he was reading.

You may notice a pattern — yes, I actively search for people reading when looking for a seat on the train. I find they make better company. No offense to anyone but I’m not one for small talk in tight spaces.

On the final leg of the trip from Baltimore to DC, the conductor in my car smiled at me and said, “You see a lot of people reading, but not real books anymore. It’s all those fancy ebooks now.”

I smiled back and said, “I have a soft spot for the paper kind.”

“Nothing beats the feel of a real book in your hands,” she said.

We nodded and smiled. She was so right.

My book of choice was Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield. I’m enjoying it. It’s very different from The Thirteenth Tale, which I loved, but I’m remembering what a great storyteller she is with this one.

I’m also slowly making my way through Doctor Who: The Essential Guide which was a great birthday gift.

Now that my class is over, I’m planning to start dwindling the TBR and writing some reviews. Yes, I have lots to write about.

Travel, again…

Actually, I’m quite happy about this trip as it’s a vacation! I’m sad to be missing this week’s Republic of Thieves Read Along (Little Red Reviewer is hosting this week, so go visit on Monday) but I’m already looking forward to the catch up session and the fact that I get to read two sections for the next highly anticipated discussion. Cross country plane ride, I am ready for you!

I know it’s been quiet here, but I promise once I finish the class I’m taking, there will be discussion. I will bore you with all I now know. No, I really won’t I promise.

Anyway, read on!

20130912_130429

The Republic of Thieves Read Along – 3

The Republic of ThievesThe third week, and knee deep in trouble. I love this series. 🙂

Lynn’s Book Blog is hosting this week’s questions.

The election competition.  Sabetha isn’t wasting any time throwing pranks at Locke and Jean.  Mostly it seemed fairly harmless, or at least not overly serious, until they were kidnapped and put onto a ship and taken out to sea.  What did you make of Sabetha’s latest plan? And what did you think about the way she executed it?

Well, give her credit, she thought ahead. The liquor license is sort of funny but annoying since they have to spend money to buy everyone off but, given time, I think Locke and Jean would have done something like that too. That kidnapping though wasn’t something one throws together in a few hours time. I think she should get extra credit here; she’s very good at the little details. But, it seems too easy to just get them out of the way; she seems too competitive for that kind of thing, so I’m slightly disappointed in her. Or, she’s actually that scared of what Locke and Jean can, and will, come up with. Or, she just wanted to see if they could get out of this mess and it was just to buy her more time.

During the escape overboard and Jean’s rather subtle nose dive into the water – I was curious about the lights Locke saw deep in the water when he was performing his rescue – Locke thought they looked different once he was under the waves which I suppose they would but he also had the feeling that he was being watched?  Do you think this relates back to the Eldren or some other presence?

I immediately went to the bondsmage when I read this but the Eldren make more sense. I really, really want to know how they fit in and the backstory there. The fires were both cool and creepy. I’m not convinced these are plain old fires, cuz, also, fire underwater doesn’t just happen. Maybe the ritual Patience performed has left him with some lingering side effects and he can now see things like this. Someone, tell me more!

Given that Locke hadn’t seen Sabetha for five years how did you think their first meeting together went (well, it wasn’t strictly speaking their first meeting of course – were you surprised that Jean and Locke hadn’t figured out that the woman pickpocket was Sabetha?) and also what did you make of Jean and Sabetha’s reaction to each other?

Ugh. My first thought when he bumped into the woman, “”No, no, check your pockets. Something just happened and why are you being so lazy!” No one just bumps into Locke unless he wants it to happen and while he wasn’t paying attention, he should have known something was up. Jean was late to this party too. I want to give them a break since they are playing catch up but this was too easy for Sabetha, which I’m sure is all the more reason for her to do it.

During the actual face to face meeting, I think Jean was right to be skeptical, and Locke should have been too, but he’s too caught up in the idea of her. Jean, oh Jean. He put up a good front but I think he knew Locke was too far gone for any logical arguing so he gave in. I think he’s hurting too much and doesn’t want to see them together anyway. Locke, well, he was just a dumbass; he falls for her so easily and she knew he’d do it all over again.

So, the gang have arrived in Espara and already the plans have gone wrong through no fault of their own!  Jail for a year plus lose a hand for slapping a noble?? What do you think of the justice system in Espara and how does this bode for the gang?

Slightly harsh to lose a hand over a fight, but you play by their rules when in their city. I did like the thinking, and collaboration, between Locke and Sabetha on getting Moncraine out of prison. Of course, if the two of them could find a way to work like this all the time, just think of what they could accomplish. I think Chains may have to help out in the end, or maybe Locke and Sabetha can work together long enough to keep everyone in one piece and out of jail for the time they’re there.

The acting company are finally coming together and we’re watching the gang as they try to read, act and grab the best parts – are you all ‘happy face’ with the whole theatre scenes or, sad face!  Also, I can’t help feeling like this whole storyline is a step out of character for the gang.  Any ideas of how it will play out??

I don’t see the point of this story line. I think I’m all sad face and I don’t know why. It just doesn’t fit for me. I get the training, and Chains wanted all of them out of his hair for a bit, and the need to get themselves out of trouble on their own is going to be a needed lesson for them, but a play? It doesn’t do much for me. I do love that’s where the title comes from though! I have faith this will all make sense in the end.

We are also being introduced to a number of new characters, particularly Moncraine and Boulidazi.  What are your first impressions of these two and the other new characters in the Company and any particular likes or dislikes so far?

Moncraine is interesting but he can get annoying fast and I see that being a source of tension. I’m also predicting he’s going to try and get in Sabetha’s pants and that’s when Locke is going to go all crazy. The boy got upset when someone else would be kissing her on stage!

Boulidazi, I’m not sure what to think of him yet. He’s obviously going to be trouble and I think he knows more than he’s letting on.

The rooftop scene and the apology.  How did it all go so wrong?  And how will Locke get out of this latest fix with Boulidazi?

Ok, give the boy a slight break — he tried. If he would only stop talking, his life would be so much easier. And, they all need to learn how to talk less because this is going to go to hell all so fast now. I’m starting to think Chains has a rather sinister reason for sending them there.